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The elusive alpha channel remains one of the most misunderstood yet powerful tools in Photoshop. Alpha channels are collections of luminance data that control the transparency of an image, and they inform just about every aspect of Photoshop. As he builds transitional blended layers, fashions a depth map, makes edge adjustments, and takes on extreme channel mixing, Omni Award-winning expert Deke McClelland teaches Photoshop users that where there's a will, there's a way. Photoshop CS3 Channels and Masks: Advanced Techniques covers mapping texture on an image, turning flesh into stone, using vector masks, working with all different channels, creating a rustic edge effect, and much more. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Channels and Masks from the Exercise Files tab."
In this exercise we are going to mask the text. We are going to add some text elements to this magazine cover, and we are going to mask the text using the edge of this glass right here. Now it turns out that the text inside of this composition has been rasterized, because the fonts on your system and the fonts on my system are different, that's invariably a big problem. But I want to stress, the techniques I am about to show you were just as well with live editable text as they do with text that's been converted to pixels.
So I am working inside of an image called Glass composition.psd found inside the 11 layer masks folder. If you want to open it up and catch on up with me here. I am going to go ahead and turn on the two layers towards the top of the Layers palette, lead story and text elements. And text elements includes a ton of stuff and actually you can see here. We are going to be masking the lead story, because the lead story is the portion of the text that cuts into the glass, and I just want to slightly mask away that text. Basically here is the rule, when you are working with text and you are trying to mask it away, you can mask big huge chunks of text as long as the word is very, very recognizable. For example, if I had a lot of subscribers, a couple of million subscribers to my magazine MEWS, and everybody knew the magazine was a household name, then I could get away with murder, in terms of masking the word MEWS. But where this headline is concerned, people don't know what it says.
They're not coming to the magazine already prepared for this message here. So I need to be very careful about my masking. I don't want to interrupt the legibility of the type. So I am just going to mask the edges, very, very slightly away, and that will be enough to sort of convey a wink and a nod to the viewer that we are covering up the edges ever so slightly using the glass here, without of course, interfering with the legibility they'll still be able to read that text 100%. So here's what we are going to do. We need to once again select this glass edge using the Color Range command; once again the Color Range command is seen in the composite image, so we need to give the command to the glass by itself. So I am going to click on the glass shadows layer right here, and I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+J or Cmd+Option+J on the Mac in order to jump in. Let's call this layer Dummy, because it's just going to be a dummy layer from which we can generate a selection outline.
Change the mode to Normal, make sure that the Opacity is 100%, so this is an opaque layer, and then click OK. Now I am going to send this layer to the top of the stack. I could just drag it up to the top of the stack, or again, if you want a keyboard shortcut, it's Ctrl+ Shift+], Cmd+Shift+] on the Mac will pop that guy to the top of the stack, just so as you know, as I say, you can just go ahead and drag it up there too if you want. Then go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command once again, and you're probably going to see a selection outline that looks a lot like the last one you created. When we were masking the glass in the previous exercise, and that's because our foreground color is presumably still the same, and our Fuzziness value is still the same and so on. This time though we are going to be creating different selections. Now I am going to go ahead and zoom in on my image by pressing Ctrl+Spacebar. The problem is, by pressing Ctrl+Spacebar on a PC, or Cmd+Spacebar on the Mac, the problem is the Spacebar is a little bit of a sticky wicked, where the PC is concerned. The Spacebar likes to go ahead and select the Active button, which is just a numskull concept. I mean, really, who wants to select a button with the Spacebar? Nobody, is the answer.
All right, so I've got to click basically, but what I am trying to tell you is, here on the PC I have got to click inside of a numerical value in order to make it active so that the OK button isn't secretly active, and then I can press Ctrl+Spacebar, and zoom in here. That would be Cmd+Spacebar without incident on the Mac incidentally. So I have zoomed in on this edge, and now I am going to click right here on this dark edge, sort of in this dark blue region right there on the underside of the glass, and I am going to Shift+ Click farther up to glass, in order to add another color along this edge. So right about there is where I want you to Shift+Click. So click there, Shift+ Click there, and then I am going to go ahead and reduce the Fuzziness value to about 115, and I am going to turn on Invert, because we want this edge right here to mask away the text. So this edge needs to be black, as it is inside of the Preview.
And just to confirm things you could change the Selection Preview option to Grayscale, so that you can see what that edge looks like right there. Now go ahead and click OK in order to generate that selection outline. We are done with the dummy layer, we just needed it in order to generate the selection in the first place. So you could throw it away if you wanted to. I suggest you just go ahead and turn it off, because you might want to come back to it later, not inside of this project, I am not going to ask you to come back to it later, but I am just trying to get you into some good habits here. Next, go ahead and click on the lead story and add the layer mask to that story, or -- actually let me show you something here. Let's say we are back in the dummy layer, it's still visible and I am just kind of not really thinking,and I just go ahead and add the layer mask to the dummy layer, and then I go, oh gee whiz, I really meant to add it to the lead story layer.
No problem, layer masks are totally portable, I can just grab it and drag it and drop it onto the lead story layer, like so. You can also if you want to, you can Alt+Drag a layer mask or Option +Drag it to duplicate it to a different layer. All right, I am going to undo that change. I just wanted to move the layer mask onto the lead story layer which I did successfully. So I'll turn off the dummy layer, and we have now masked into the text, a little bit too much. You can see the text is fading away down here in the lower right-hand corner.
All right, so I am going to zoom back out here a little bit, and I am going to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask for the lead story layer in order to select it, and I am going to get rid of all this darkness down here in the lower left corner using the Elliptical Marquee tool. Because after all our glass is roughly elliptical. I really ought to rename this entire series "Why I Love the Elliptical Marquee Tool And Use It All the Time," because it really is such a swell tool. Anyway, I am going to go ahead and select the Elliptical Marquee tool and I am going to drag around my glass like so. I don't have to get it terribly accurate selection,and I don't want to get too close to the glass, I don't want to be tracing right along it, I want to leave some room out here so that we have a little bit of a soft drop-off. So select about that much if you will of the image. This looks pretty good to me. And then I want you to go to Select menu, and choose Modify and choose Feather, because we are going to go ahead and soften that selection. And I am going to enter a Radius value of about 6 pixels, maybe 9 pixels, let's say 9 pixels, and I am going to click OK in order to accept that.
Then I'll press Ctrl+Shift+I, or Cmd+ Shift+I on a Mac, or I could have just gone up to the Select menu and chose the Inverse command, in order to reverse the selection, so the area outside the glass is selected. Now I am going to confirm which color is white, the foreground color is white for me, so I am going to press Alt+Backspace or Option +Delete to fill that area with white. Then I'll press Ctrl+D to de-select the glass. I'll grab my Brush tool, because if you zoom in here, you can see that there is a little bit of a gray edge along the glass, it's still left over here. So grab your Brush tool, go ahead and set the mode to Overlay by pressing Shift+Alt+O, or Shift+Option+O on the Mac and keeping the brush outside of the glass, go ahead and drag along it, like so. But don't drag over the blacks, drag over the white areas like that, and that's it.
Now we can leave the layer mask by Alt+ Clicking or Option+Clicking on the layer mask thumbnail here inside the Layers palette once again, and now you can see that the text is just slightly masked by that glass, isn't that wonderful? I am going to switch back to my standard Marquee tool. I am going to zoom in once again, because I just love zooming in and out all the time. I just want to show you how we can now move the text independently of the mask if we want to. So I'll click on the text here inside of the Layers palette, so I am making the text active as opposed to the layer mask. Now I am going to Ctrl+Drag it. Now at this point both the text and the layer mask are linked together, so when I drag the text, the masked edge moves along with it.
That's not what I want, I want the masked edge to stay in place, because after all the glass is staying in place. So I'll go ahead and undo that movement. I'll turn off the link, so click on that chain to turn it off. Now drag the text around and you can see how it's masked on the fly, and I want to stress this, I said this before. But the fact of the matter is, if this was live text, it would work just as well. You can assign a layer mask to live text any old time inside of Photoshop. So layer masks are just as applicable to live text as everything else inside the program as Blend modes are, Opacity values are, and so on and so on.
I am going to go ahead and undo that big movement and maybe just move the text down just slightly, so we can see the top of the S there, so just a little bit of masking going on like so, I think works wonders for this composition. In the next exercise we will add the one missing element, the Gold Fish.
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