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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, I'm going to show you a few different ways to take a selected image and move it into a new background. Now, I'm assuming that you've got a selected shark sitting right there in front of you, but if not I've gone ahead and saved out my selection as an alpha channel called shark mask inside this file called Masked shark.tif. Now one way to move the shark would be to go up to the Edit menu and choose the Copy command or press Ctrl+C, Command+ C on the Mac, and then you would switch over to your background image which in my case is called Clouds and grass.psd, and then you would go back to the Edit menu and choose the Paste command or press Ctrl+V or Command+V on the Mac.
Now, the good news is Photoshop just added a new layer to the Layers panel here, which means I can hide the layer if I want to, I can turn it back on, I can change its opacity and so forth. I can even move it around if I want to by Ctrl+dragging or Command+dragging on the Mac. However, the problem is that I've lost those background pixels, so if I turn off the background image you can see that everything outside the shark has been permanently deleted which is going to give me far fewer options for modifying these edges later on down the line.
So when it comes time to refine the edges to make the shark look good against this new background, our options are going to be very limited indeed, so this is not the right way to work. I'm going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of that layer. I'll turn the background back on, here is the better approach. I'm going to go ahead and switch back to my shark image and what you want to do is assign the selection to the image as a mask. And you do that by double-clicking on the background item, there inside the Layers panel, that allows me to convert the background to a new layer, I'm going to call that layer Shark and click OK.
And then dropdown to the Add layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel and click on it, and that converts the selection to a mask. Notice however if I Shift+click on the layer Mask to turn it off temporarily, I've still got my entire image ready and waiting. Alright I'm going to Shift+click on that layer Mask to turn it back on. Now at this point one of your options for moving the shark is to drag and drop it, let me show you what that looks like. I'll go up to the Arrange Documents icon up here in the Applications bar, and I'm going to click on this second two up icon so I can see both of my images at the same time, and I'm going to press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac for both of my images in order center them, and then I'll move back to the shark image, here is what you do.
You press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and notice, by the way, that my image and its mask are linked together, so they'll travel together as well. You press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, and you go and drag the shark from one window into the other window and then drop it into place. Now if you work that way then you'll just go ahead and drop the shark any of the place inside the new image. But I want a little more control than that, I want to make sure that the shark arrives absolutely registered in the place. So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+ Z on the Mac to undo that drag and drop, and I'll do it again with a slight variation.
So I'm back in the shark window, I press the Ctrl key and the Command key on the Mac, drag the shark into the new image window and before I release I'll press and hold the Shift key, so keep that Shift key down then release the mouse button, then you can release those keys and you register the shark at exactly this location in its new home. Alright that's great, that's exactly the effect we want, by the way but I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+ Z on the Mac because I want to show you yet another way to work. I'm going to go ahead and switch back to the shark image, and I'll go up to the Arrange Documents icon and choose this first item Consolidate All, which, by the way, if you loaded DekeKeys you can get to by pressing Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+A on the Mac, and the reason I'm doing this is because generally when you're working at least on the PC, you're seeing just one image at a time and your open images are identified by these title tabs.
And if you find yourself working that away here is another option that's available to you. Go ahead and press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, and drag that shark of course. Drag him up into the title tab of the other image, then when Photoshop switches you to that image, move your cursor back down; don't drop on the title tab. You want to move your cursor back down into the image window and then in our case press the Shift key because we want to register the image and drop the shark into place, so that's another way to work as well.
And then finally I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac because I want to undo that change too, so I can show you one more option. I'm going to switch back to the shark image and here's the final way of working, and it's actually my favorite these days. Which is to just right-click inside the image window and choose the Duplicate layer command and then change the Destination Document from the current image to the other one that we have open which is Clouds and grass.psd and then click OK, and Photoshop goes ahead and moves that shark layer along with its layer mask into the new background.
And you can see that's the case if you switch over to the other image. And the shark, by the way, is exactly registered into place this way, it's in the exact same location in this new file as it was in the other one. The reason the image is jumping on screen is because when I performed that drag and drop to the title tab it ended up scrolling slightly. So I'll go ahead and re-center my view by pressing Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac and then switch over to the other image and you can see, he is in exactly the same location. And so now you know the various different ways, Copy and Paste, drag and drop as well as finally Duplicate layer to move an image from one background into another inside Photoshop.
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