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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're going to take this very cool foreground image, and when I say cool I mean it has a cool color scheme going on with lot of Blues and cool Greens and Violets and so on. We're going to attempt to make it match this very warm background so that she appears to be right at home inside of her new environment. We're going to be trying to pull this off using the Match Color command, the Hue/Saturation command and Levels, all working together. So I am working inside of an image called Cool meets Warm.psd. That's found inside of the 10_advanced_blend folder. If you want to catch on up with me, you can open this document as well. Make sure that the top layer is selected, and for what it's worth, the name of this layer is young lady, as you can see here.
Make sure that she is selected and that the full color version of the image, not the mask, is active. So I just go ahead and click on that thumbnail, if you will, just to make sure. Now I am going to Shift+Tab away my palette so I have a little more room to work. I am also going to switch to the Full Screen mode. So that I can move her off to the side while I bring up my whopping big dialog boxes here. The first command that we're going to apply is this one right there, Image > Adjustments > Match Color, a very powerful command that is totally organized in the most bizarre fashion possible. But it's a very good command actually; at least what it does is good. I do have some issues with it though, as you'll see, ever so shortly. So go ahead and choose Match Color.
Basically the big issue I have with this command or is two, really. One is, that the whole darn things organize upside down. The most important options are down here at the bottom and then you've got to work your way up. Secondly, everything is turned off, by default. The default settings are do nothing, do nothing, do nothing as we'll see. The very first thing you have to do is change the Source. By default, it set to None. You can't do anything inside this dialog box with Source set to None. So go ahead and switch it from None to the name of the active image, the one that you are working in, which might be Background blur if you've been working right along with me. Or if you just opened this image, its Cool meets warm.psd. So I am going to go ahead and choose that one. Even still, Photoshop doesn't do anything.
It decides in its infinite wisdom here, that it should take the young lady layer, that we're working on right now, and match it to the young lady layer, which is matching the image to itself, which isn't going to do us any good. Obviously, that's not going to result in any kind of change. So we need to change Layer Option from young lady to Background. As soon as we choose this option, bingo; We start to get results. You can see that the Match Color command is a heck of a job of matching the colors in the foreground image to the colors in the background image at this point, almost too good of a job, I would say. That's where this Fade value, right here, comes into play. By default, Fade is set to zero, meaning that we are seeing the Match Color command at full volume, essentially.
If we want to turn it down so that we don't have any color matching going on, we would set Fade down to a 100%. Anything in between, sort of mixes the original version of the image with the Match Color version. I am going to go ahead and air on the side of the original colors a little bit by changing the Fade value to 60%, as we are seeing here. And yet we are still getting a heck of a lot of color matching going on. So she looks quite transformed. Go ahead and click OK in order to accept these values. We don't need to worry about Luminance, Color Intensity or any of the others. This is just fine. So go ahead and click OK. That's step number one.
Step number two is, we need to address the coolness of the lighting that's applied to our eyes right there and to her dress as well. I think her dress just looks too magenta for this new background. So I am going to deselect the image, and this time I am going to use the Hue/Saturation command, which allows us to adjust specific hue ranges at a time. So I am going to go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and choose this guy right there, Hue/Saturation or you can press the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+U on the PC, Command+U on the Mac. It brings up the Hue/Saturation dialog box.
Now when Edit is set to Master, you are going to end up adjusting all of the colors at a time. And we don't want to do that. So go ahead and reset that Hue value, in my case, back to zero. Instead, we want to adjust one color range independently of the other color ranges. As long as you don't have this set to Master, you can select anything you want. In other words, you could either say, gosh! I think those colors inside of her eyes are currently Cyans, or you could say, God, I don't know what they are, I'll just choose Reds. It doesn't matter, because notice even if I say Reds, which is obviously not right. If I then move my Eyedropper into the image like so and I click, then Photoshop is going to say, that wasn't Reds, that's something else. In this case, it decided that it was Greens. Then if I Shift+Drag inside of the eyes a little bit and I'll Shift+Drag inside of this eye as well or Shift+Click, and we are basically lifting colors just as we would lift colors inside the Color Range dialog box.
Then Photoshop is going to update on the fly. It may decide ultimately that you are working with Cyans or it may like it is for me just stubbornly say, no you are working with Greens. You can adjust that as well. If you look down here on the color bar, you'll see that it has selected this big range of colors going from yellow right here. So look at the straight bars, all the way from yellow wrapping around through cyans and back to roughly cobalt, let's say. The triangles represents the fuzziness, the soft drop-off of the color to ensure that we don't have jagged edges. Well, let's say I want to take the Greens out of the equation, because I don't know what it's doing, telling me it's Greens. I don't want to change a bunch of Yellows and Greens inside of this image. So I just go ahead and drag this light gray area right there over to the right hand side and I'll go ahead and release.
Notice as soon as I start getting into the cyan region, it now reflects that change and it says, okay, you're working with Cyans, fine. Now then, in order to get rid of the color inside of the eyes, I am going to reduce the Saturation value down to -100 and that is going to make the Whites of the eyes neutral. So I am just trying to change the Whites of the eyes, I don't want to change th irises, I don't want to change this fleshy portion of the eyes either. Next, let's change her dress. I am going to go ahead and select a different Edit range, just to establish that we want to work with a different range. You can work with as many as six different ranges inside the image. Notice there are my Cyans, what were formally called Cyans inside the image are now called Cyans 2, but we're not doing anything with that bank of colors.
This time, I am just going to switch to Magentas because I know it is Magentas. Go ahead and switch to that option and then I'll click inside the dress just to establish that it's a base color and I'll Shift+Drag a little bit through the dress in order to grab some other colors as well. Now I am going to increase the Hue value to 35 so I am rotating the Hue 35 degrees around the big color wheel. You can see here, I am going to go and zoom in on the dress. You can see that I am really changing too many colors in the dress, because not only am I changing the Magenta areas, but I am also changing these reds inside of the dress to more of like flesh tones and I don't want that, because for one thing they start to look like holes in the dress. Also, they just look out of keeping with the rest of the image.
So let's go ahead and drag back on this gray area right there, this light gray area in order to move the colors back over, so that we're constraining this range of colors that we're changing. Ultimately, you'll start to see those sort of orange areas drop out of the dress. I might go ahead and expand the dress this direction a little bit as well, just to make sure that we have more then enough color selected. This looks great to me. So I am going to go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and just so we can see what we were able to accomplish here, it's pretty subtle, but this is before, watch the eyes and the dress if you can, even though they're on opposite sides of the image. This is before, so you can see that the eyes look pretty darn blue than whites of the eyes do, and the dress looks like a very hot magenta color.
This is after, the dress now is more of a toned down rose color and the eyes are neutral. Let's zoom out again. One more thing that we need to do. We need to increase the contrast of this image, because it's too low contrast, especially for the foreground shot here. So I am going to go up to the Image menu. I am going to choose Adjustments and I am going to choose the Levels command. Or of course, I could press Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac as we have so many times before. Notice that we don't have a heck of a lot of very hot highlights inside of this image, so the Histogram falls off early on the right hand side. It begins late over here on the left hand side. So our shadows could stand a little darkening as well. So I am going to take that black point up to 5, like so, and you can see that really makes for some richer shadows inside of the image.
I am going to take the white point down to 235 in order to increase the highlights. And just for good measure I am going to raise that gamma value by selecting the value and pressing the Up Arrow key four times in order to increase that value to 1.04 and then I am going to click OK. That is the final version of the image that is the modified version of the colors inside of the image. Just to give you a sense of how far we've come, this is the before version, a very cool version of this young women. This is the after version where she much better matches her environment, I think.
She has still got some problems where the edges are concerned, because she has a ton of light edges tracing around her hair and her shoulders and so on. We are going to start to address those problems using blending, of course, in the next exercise.
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