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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 use the Dodge and Burn tools to perform some spot contrast corrections here, and for those of you who have been following along with me all this time, you might be thinking, oh come on, do we have to? We have already done that so much by now! Well, here is the deal. It's a big part of masking. We have to do it over and over again, and of course me being me, I am going to pass along some new stuff this time around. We are going to take a different approach. We have to, for this image, because we still have some bad edges. So we are just going to have to approach differently than we have approached them before.
So you will have a few more tools in your mighty arsenal after you are done with these next couple of exercises. So here is what we are doing. We are working inside of a pick up image. If you want to open it up, it's called Merged mask combo.tif, and it's found of course inside of the 16 Tough Stuff folder. I have switched to the Iteration Merge channel down here at the bottom of the stack, and you know what I am going to do, I am going to move it up to the top alpha channel just so that I can get to it very easily by pressing Ctrl+4 or Command+4 on the Mac which I might need to do.
Now, let's go ahead and switch over to the Dodge tool here and if you have been working along with me, then your range is already set to Highlights as it should be. Exposure is set to 50% right there. I would like you to go ahead and turn on the Airbrush icon, which allows you to paint in place. So you can make changes to an image even when you keep your cursor still. So let me show you what I mean. I am going to go ahead and click and hold and notice, as I am holding, I am not brushing at this point. It's making changes. It's making incremental changes, as I drag over this area, as I hold over these areas right here.
You will see it even more if I click and hold it second time. So this is what the Airbrush allows you to do is paint while keeping your cursor in place. And really in the case of this particular channel right here, it's going to permit us to make changes more quickly. So we are going to be able to move through these adjustments at a faster pace. So I am going to go ahead. I am going to paint down the hair here, and I might take a few steps and it is going to take a lot of painting in order to get things done the way we need them to be done.
I am going to paint down here inside of this hair as well with a smaller cursor, and I will paint over this knuckle, thank golly, we didn't completely replace that knuckle with the contents of the second iteration since that would have done all kinds of damage to this finger. We wouldn't be able to save this information at all, but as it is, we are doing a pretty good job here and then I will go ahead and paint down the shoulder as well, and I am going to take multiple stabs at it. I am clicking and dragging several times, and holding upon occasion.
I will go ahead and click and drag some more down here. It is kind of tedious work I have to admit, but it's a kind of stuff that you have got to do. There just isn't anymore automated way to approach it than these tools, and actually I have to say, these tools are pretty darn good for this purpose. Now, I am going to press the O key to switch over to the Burn tool, so that I can take care of this little knuckle flare right there and notice that I change my range to Midtones, so I am going to switch it back to Shadows and press the Escape key on the PC in order to make that option no longer active. Then I will paint away the stuff on top of the knuckle and I will paint away the stuff right there on top of that dress strap.
I will make sure that I am seeing everything that needs to be dealt with. I have no idea what's going on in this selection of the hair. We are going to have to deal with that independently. Let's go up here and paint this section away. I am going to leave the flame alone actually for now. So I am not going to do any work on the flame. Now, on this side of the image, I am just going to make a couple of spot corrections here and there. I really don't want to do too much to this hair. Mostly, I am going to be dodging on this side of the image. So let's press the O key to switch back to the Dodge tool assuming that you took the Sponge tool out of the loop, and I will go ahead and click and drag and hold and do all the stuff that's necessary in order to get rid of these details right there.
I might drag up into this region of hair as well, and I want to drag this stuff away right there. Now, I figure at this point, I can safely get rid of the interior information using the Lasso tool. So let's Shift+Tab away the palette, so I can see what I am doing. Press the L key to switch over to Lasso tool, Alt+Click or Option+Click around these areas right here. I might have to go a little deep into the hair along the right side, go up beyond the top of the head, back down through this little channel beside the match and guys, I have no idea what's going on there.
So I will just go past it, and then around the knuckle of course through this slim channel around this little peninsula, and then down, and release. I think I have created a very nice selection at this point. It should work for us. Now, my background color is white. So l will press the Back Space key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to fill that area with white. Now, I will click outside of the selection in order to deselect the image. We still have a little garbage going on right there. I am not exactly sure how I am going to deal with it.
Let's go ahead and bring back the Channels palette for a moment and what we are going to do, I will actually zoom in another click even. Let's press Ctrl+Tilde or Command+ Tilde on the Mac to see the hair, and it looks like this area. I will just kind of roughly outline it with the Lasso tool. All of this area belongs inside of the hair Now, let's press Ctrl+4 or Command+4 on the Mac in order to switch back to the Iteration Merge channel right here, and it looks like we have done a pretty poor job of selecting this region of the hair. So we are going to have to take another step at it.
Unfortunately, the channels are no help to us. Ctrl+1 for the Red channel, forget about it, that is no good. Ctrl+2 for the Green channel. If I press Ctrl+H, so that we can see these edges. It's just a blur, it's just a mess. Ctrl+3 for the Blue channel, that's a little bit better. But you know, here is the problem that I have with this. It's like hairs are coming upward out of her finger. Do you see what I mean? We have got this region of hair that's kind of glowing up, and then they are coming back down and then we have got some blobby hairs over in this region. I just don't buy it. That just doesn't look right at all.
So I will tell you what we are going to do. We are going to use a different tool. We are going to actually draw our own manual selection using the Pen tool this time around pupil, and we are going to be doing that in the next exercise.
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