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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.
I've gone ahead and saved out those last two versions of the image. So we now have Grayscale bird.psd and Single-channel grayscale.jpg. Now the reason I went with the native PSD format for the grayscale image is because I needed to retain those layers as well as that mask. So the great thing about native PSD is it allows you to save just about everything you can do inside Photoshop and I say just about, because there is no saving history. However, with the Single-channel grayscale image, I have just one Channel, there are no masks and I have a single Background.
So I might as well invoke the JPEG compression, because that ends up delivering a smaller file for you. And speaking of file size it's important to note that just as with layers channels take up space on disk. So bare in mind each channel is another grayscale variation on the image. If you start with three channels in the case of an RGB image and go down one Grayscale channel, why then the new file is going to take-up at most a third of the size of the old one not counting the masks and not counting the layers? All right, I'm going to switch back to my full-color composition.
In this exercise, I'm going to show you a better way to mix a grayscale image and you may find over time that mixing these grayscale variations helps you get the mask that you're looking for. Alright I'm going to switch back to the Layers panel and I'll click on that swatches layer to make it active, and then I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac click the Black White icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose that command that Photoshop is advising us to use in the previous exercise which is Black & White.
By virtue of the fact, that I have the Alt or Option key down that brings up the New layer dialog box and, by the way, if you loaded Deke keys I've given you a shortcut for creating a black and white Adjustment layer on the fly and that's Ctrl+Shift+B or Command+Shift+B on the Mac. I'm going to call this layer custom B&W and then click OK. Now many of you maybe familiar with this adjustment. It allows you to go ahead and make sure own custom black and white variation by dialing in specific amounts of red, yellow, green, and so forth.
And I'm going to dial in the following values 40 for Reds is fine. I'm going to change Yellow to 100, which is going to brighten up the crest of the bird there. I'm going to increase the greens value to 70 which brightens up the bill and some of the areas around the eye. I'm going to take the Cyans value up as well. Watch the eye as I increase that Cyans value ever so slightly from 60 up to 80, you can see that area brighten. So you have this amazing amount of selective control where this command is concerned. I'll take the Blues value down to 10, and I'll take the Magentas value down to 50 and the reason I'm coming up with this mix is that it very nearly matches that automatic blend that Photoshop created for me.
So I'll go ahead and switch to Grayscale bird.psd this is the auto blend as I was telling you roughly 40% red with 50 % green and 10% blue, and this is the custom blend that I just put together. So very similar and what that does for me is it gives me a place to start. I can now say okay, that's what Photoshop did, what might I do to make this image look better? I'll start by taking the Reds value up to 70 which brightens up the reds and oranges in the bill then I'll take the Yellows value down to 80 which because ahead and softens the lighting on the crest and also take the Greens value down just a little bit.
Now I'm going to take the Cyans value up a lot. I'm going to take it up to and I want you to watch that area round the eye, because it brightens considerably this time around. Then I'll take that Blues value and increase it as well, I'm going to take it up to 70 and that brightens the background nicely. Now the good news is we really haven't lost any highlights. So in other words, we don't have any clip details and yet we get a very different mix from what Photoshop came up with either where the grayscale blend is concerned or that single green channel.
And so not only do we have what I consider to be a better black and white mix, but once again this is a completely new look at the image. One that we might find useful for purposes of creating a mask. All right, I'm going to go ahead and collapse the Adjustments panel by double-clicking to the right of the Masks tab, and then I'll switch over to the Channels panel, because I want you to see two things. First of all, all of our channels are still there. This is still technically an RGB image. However, every one of the channels red, green, and blue are now absolutely identical to each other.
Now they are just temporarily that way, because we're working with an Adjustment layer. If I wanted to bring back those channel variations, then I would just click on RGB again switch back to the Layers panel turn off that custom B&W layer switch back to the Channels panel and now you can see that my original Red, Green, and Blue channels are restored. So by virtue of the fact that I employed that black and white adjustment layer I have what amounts to a fourth channel for my image one that could come in very handy when it comes time to mask the image.
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