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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."
If you know a thing or two about Photoshop, you might question the wisdom of using a displacement map in order to create a wave, in order to wave a flag here. Because after all, Photoshop ships with a perfectly serviceable Wave Filter. If you go up to the Filter menu and choose the Distort command and then choose Wave, you will open up this Wave factory essentially, and you can go nuts with like just sending all kinds of wave patterns like a 183 independent wave patterns through an image if you want to. If you just want your traditional, sort of rolling wave, then you want to knock that Number of Generators value down to 1.
You also have control by the way over whether it's a rolling wave or a zigzag wave which we would get with triangle. Anyway, I am going to leave it set to Sine, so that we have a sine wave. Like in mathematics, remember your sine wave and your cosine waves and all that just, maybe not but it's a rolling wave in any case. I am going to go ahead and link then the Maximum Wavelength value, and I could increase the minimum value as well if I wanted less random variation inside of my wave pattern. I can also control the Scale. I could say, I don't want to have any horizontal waving going on, so I will take that value down as low as it goes anyway to 1%, so that we are focusing on the vertical wave.
Here is the thing to bear in mind about the Wave filter though, it is a random function. So you are randomly varying the wave inside of these minimum and maximum parameters that you set up. And if you want to tryout a different random wave pattern, you click on the Randomize button, and each time you are going to get something different; sometimes something big, sometimes something very small and so on. You may come up with something after click Randomize a handful of times; you may come up with something that you like better than what we achieved using the Displacement Map, which is fine. But the Displacement Map is a more careful solution, it's more deliberate solution. You are specifically designing a Displacement Map that you want to use and then of course you are changing the scale values with the Displace filter. So you have ultimate control over the process, and you can do much more than wave an image as well as we will see.
All right, I am going to go ahead and click OK. Notice that we have got these Undefined Areas options once again; we can either Wrap the flag Around, or Repeat the Edge Pixels. I am just going to Repeat the Edge Pixels. We could avoid these weird little pixel stretch marks that are going on here, you can see it in the upper left-hand corner of the flag, you can avoid that of course by expanding the canvas size just like we saw in the previous couple of exercises. All right, this time around, we are going to get away from waving and we are going to use a Displacement Map to create a water reflection, the water distortion, and we are going to do that using these two images. First we have got Moon.jpg here. We are going to take the moon and we are going to reflect it into this image, Fake Water.psd and both of these images are found inside the 18_displace_maps folder.
We are actually going to use this Fake Water pattern here in order to distort the moon, the moon reflection as you will see. So make sure that you have both of those images open. Go back to the moon, and we are going to start in this exercise, we are going to expand the canvas and we are going to reflect the moon into the water without any distortion and then in the next exercise, we will apply the distortion in the form of a Displacement Map. All right, so here it goes. Inside of this image, I want you to bring up the Layers palette, and we are going to press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac in order to copy the moon to the new layer. And I am going to call this layer Reflection, and then I am going to click OK to accept that new layer. Now we are going to create a new layer, and I want to create it below the Reflection layer.
So we will go ahead and Ctrl+Alt+Click remember that trick, or Command+Option+Click on the little Page icon in order to create a new layer that we are going to name underneath the Reflection layer, so we will call this one water, and then click OK. Right now it's empty, so we will go up to the Image menu, choose Apply Image and I will go ahead and grab the Fake Water image, they are both the same size, both of these images have the same pixel dimensions. And we will go ahead and set the blend mode to Normal, and we are right, ready to go. That's all it's going to take. Go ahead and click OK.
So we have the water sandwiched between two moons, at this point. Now let's go ahead and expand the canvas size. I am going to zoom out a little bit here. I am going to hit Ctrl+Alt+C or Command+Option+C on the Mac to invoke the Canvas Size command. And I am going to set the chicklet at one of these top three squares of this little tic tac toe board right there. Turn On the Relative check box, increase the height to a 100 but not pixels, we want it to be a 100%, so the image is going to grow by a 100%. It's going to be a 100% taller, so it will be of course 200% of its current height, and I will click OK to expand that Canvas.
All right, now let's grab that Water layer, it should still be selected. And I want you to Ctrl+Drag the Water layer all the way down to the bottom of the image so that it snaps into place with any luck. Now I found that this particular version of Photoshop that I am working in is a little buggy where snapping to the bottom of the document window is concerned. So I have got to zoom into a 100%, so tedious, and make sure that I don't see any sliver of white down there. I just drag it into place. I also press the Shift key by the way, so that we are constraining the angle of the drag to exactly a vertical.
All right, now I am going to zoom back out to the 25% zoom ratio, so I can see what the heck I am doing. Now let's grab the Reflection layer right here, and I am going to press Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac to enter the Free Transform mode. I am going to grab this transformation origin dude right there, this little target. And drag it down to the bottom so it snaps into place. It really does snap into place, at the bottom handle, the handle along the bottom of the image. Then I am going to right click and I am going to choose Flip Vertical, and that's going to exactly flip the moon into the proper location. Isn't that a beautiful thing, then I will press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to accept that flip. And it looks like we have got a little seam there. That's just a function of the 25% zoom ratio. If you zoom in, you should see no seam at all. You should see just continuous moon action as we have here.
All right, so that's a good thing. Let's zoom back out so that we can take everything in. You will just have to excuse that line that's not really there. That kind of stuff happens when you are working with layers at reduced zoom ratios. And let's go ahead and change the blend mode to Soft Light by pressing Shift+Alt+S or Shift+Option+S on the Mac. Then one more thing that I want to do. I am going to go ahead and zoom in here once again to about 50%. I don't like the fact that the water just all of a sudden starts. I want to create more of a soft transition. So I am going to switch to the Water layer here, and I am going to go ahead and add a layer mask, and I will go down to the bottom of the palette, and click on the Add layer mask icon.
Now I am going to go ahead and grab my Gradient tool right there. Make sure that I have got the Foreground and Background Gradient selected which I do. Make sure that my foreground color is Black, and my Background color is White. And then I will go ahead and drag from right about the horizon line for the water of course down a little bit. Not too far, just a little bit down, so that we are just softening that transition ever so slightly. Now I have revealed an area of white in my background. I didn't really mean to do that. So let's go down to the Background layer right here. Problem is that there is white below the moon, what I want to be doing is exposing black of course.
So I am going to go grab my Magic Wand tool from the toolbox, you may have to select it from the Fly-out menu there. Set your Tolerance value to 0, Anti-alias off, Contiguous should be On actually, Sample All Layers should definitely be off. And then just click in this region right there, and that will select of the white area, all those pixels that are totally white and press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that selection with Black. Nice, all right so pretty easy right there, if you feel like you over-softened the sea which is possibly the case, actually let's go ahead and keep that for a second. I will press Ctrl+Z or Command +Z on the Mac to keep that selection outline, so I can see exactly where the horizon is, and I will grab my Gradient tool. I will go back to the Water layer and I will drag again, just a slight drag, maybe something a little smaller, actually even slighter than that, something really tiny like this, works out pretty nicely.
All right good. Now we are ready to go, people. We don't have a distortion of course. We do have a reflected moon. It is properly reflected because it did a Flip Vertical. But we need some distortion action. The moon wouldn't just be sitting there like flat on the waves, in the fashion that we are seeing in here. So we are going to use the original fake water image, this guy right here were going to employ it as a Displacement Map and ripple that moon a little bit, so that it matches the water in the very next exercise.
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