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Photoshop Masking and Compositing: Fundamentals is the introductory installment of Deke McClelland's four-part series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course shows how to make selections, refine the selections with masks, and then combine them in new ways, using layer effects, blend modes, and other techniques to create a single seamless piece of artwork. Deke introduces the Channels panel and the alpha channel, the key to masking and transparency in Photoshop; reviews the selection tools, including the Color Range tool , Quick Mask mode, and the Refine Edge command; and shows how to blend masked images so they interact naturally.
In this exercise we want to do that usual thing, where we make the foreground image look at home in this new background, and we're going to do so by applying a few smart filters. And we'll end up creating this effect here. All right I've saved my changes as model against sky.psd, found inside the 07_refine folder. Now notice, throughout this image we have this declining range of field. We have these details that are very sharp in the central portion of his face, and then the focus drops off quite quickly over here on the left-hand side.
So it doesn't make any darn sense whatsoever that the background is in sharp focus, it just wouldn't work that way. So go ahead and click in the Night Sky layer here inside the Layers panel. We want to decrease the focus using the smart filter, in case we want to go back and make edits later. So let's convert the image to a smart object by going up to the Layers panel flyout menu and choosing Convert to Smart Object, or if you loaded my DekeKey shortcuts, you can press Ctrl +, or Command+, on the Mac. The next step is to go up to the Filter menu and choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur, which if you loaded DekeKeys you can get by pressing Shift+F7.
I'm going to increase the Radius value to 6 pixels as you see here, and then click OK. Now I want to increase his clarity and his sharpness, meaning that I need to convert this top dude layer to a smart object as well. However, it's got a layer mask, and I don't want to fold the layer mask into the smart object, because then I can't get to it later. So I'm just going to grab that layer mask thumbnail and drag it and drop it onto the Night Sky layer. That's not really where we want it, but that will keep it safe and sound.
With the dude layer selected, go up to Layers panel flyout menu and choose Convert to Smart Object once again. Then I want you to go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and choose Shadows/Highlights. And the reason I'm doing this is I want to create a kind of foe HDR effect. Notice that I've gone and expanded my panel, so if your panel is short like this, go ahead and turn on the Show More Options check box, and now here are the values I came up with. I took the Shadows Amount value down to 10, and then I tabbed my way to the Radius value and took it up to 100 pixels.
Next, I tab down to the Highlights Amount value, took it up to 50, tab my way down to the Radius value and once again took it up to 100. I tabbed down to Midtone Contrast and took it up to 50. Now that ends up creating this hyper-saturated effect. I could take down the saturation by reducing the color correction value, but instead I'm just going to go ahead and click OK, in order to create that new smart filter. Let's get rid of these filter masks, by right-clicking on them and choosing Delete Filter Mask, in the case of both the dude layer, and this night sky layer as well.
All right, now I'm going to double- click on the slider icon, it's right next to the word Shadows/Highlights, that brings up the Blending Options dialog box, and I'm going to change mode from Normal to Luminosity, and that goes ahead and restores the original saturation values. Click OK in order to accept that modification, now that we have a smart object, I can go ahead and move the layer mask back in place. So I'll drag the layer mask thumbnail from the Night Sky layer and drop it onto the Dude layer and we now have the best of both worlds, we've got access to our smart object and our layer mask any time we like.
Click on the Smart object thumbnail to make it active, now I want to sharpen up the details, so I'm going to add one more filter, by going to the Filter menu, choosing Sharpen, and choosing Smart Sharpen, which once again if you loaded DekeKeys you have a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F6. And I'm going to zoom out a little bit here inside the in-dialog box preview, so I can better see what I'm doing. And I ended up arriving at these settings, I set Amount to 200%, I set the Radius to 2.0 pixels, Remove is set to Gaussian Blur, More Accurate is turned off, very important.
Then go ahead and click OK in order to apply those settings and then finally double-click in the sliders icon, next to Smart Sharpen to once again bring up the Blending Options dialog box and just to ensure that we're not exaggerating any color discrepancies, change mode from Normal to Luminosity. So that way we're just sharpening the detail inside the image and click OK in order to accept the result. So that's our progress so far, we've got this clearly detailed model in the foreground set against the fairly blurry background.
In the next exercise we're going to integrate the colors.
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