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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 next project, we're going to take this photograph of this crazy guy and we're going to paste him inside of this egg, and the net result will be this photorealistic composition. Now even though this is a kooky project there is a lot of information to be learned from these next few exercises, so definitely stick with me here. We're going to start things off by selecting this egg. Now the natural approach, because it's a smooth outline and it's obviously not any of the shapes that we've seen so far, the natural approach would be to get the Pen tool, and the Pen tool is astoundingly powerful, so powerful that I'll be devoting an entire course on this series to the pen.
However, we don't need to resort to the pen where this egg is concerned, because it's fundamentally an elliptical form. So we can start with an Elliptical Marquee and then distort it to exactly fit the contours of this shape. Once you come to recognize just how many different natural objects are fundamentally ellipses, you'll see that you get a lot more work done more quickly and with better results. So I'm starting off in this image called The egg.psd. I've gone ahead and selected the Elliptical Marquee tool and if you're working along with me, go ahead and draw a rough selection outline around that egg.
Now you're going to have the best luck where this technique is concerned. If you go ahead and select the bottom region of the egg, don't worry too much about the top, because as I say, we'll be distorting this ellipse upward. And so there is my base selection. Now I want to show you a few things before we get in the transforming the selection outline. I've shown you how if you drag inside the outline, then you'll move it to a different location. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that movement. What if you want to actually move the selected pixels? In that case, you go ahead and switch to the Move tool, which you can get by pressing the V key or clicking the top tool in the toolbox, and then go ahead and drag those selected pixels to a new location.
The problem is of course, we leave a hole in the background and that hole will automatically be colored with the background color, which in my case is white. I don't want that obviously, so I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac. If instead of cutting the selection and you can see that my Move tool shows a pair of scissors next to it. If you want to clone it instead, then you go ahead and press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and then drag that selection like so, and you end up cloning the selection, so you don't leave a hole in the background. All right, I'm going to undo that maneuver as well, because I want to show you a better way to get to the Move tool.
So let's imagine I have the Elliptical Marquee tool still selected, you can get to the Move tool when any other tool is selected, by pressing and holding the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and then dragging. Again, that leaves a hole, that's not what I want, so I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. If you want to clone the selection, then you press both the Ctrl and Alt keys, these would be the Command and Option keys on the Mac, and then you drag. All right, what we have now is known as a floating selection, in other words, it's not a fully functioning independent layer; it's just sitting there waiting to be a disaster.
For example, if I accidentally click off the egg now I affix those pixels to the background. So we're effectively working with a flat image and have to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac in order to reinstate the floater, and then you can see I can just drag it now. As long as it's floating, I can drag it to a new location as much as I want. Let's say I want to be safe however, and I want to send this selection to a new layer. Normally you would press Ctrl+J or Command+J on the Mac to jump this guy to a new layer. But the problem is that creates a copy of the objects.
So if I turn off this layer 1 which contains the egg, I can see the original egg in the background and it has now been dropped into place so that's a destructive modification. I don't want that, so I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change once again. Instead what you do, is you go up to the layer menu, choose New and then choose layer via Cut instead of layer via Copy, or you can press that keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+J, Command+Shift+J on the Mac and that goes ahead and sends the egg independently to its own layer.
Notice if I turn the layer off the background image is unharmed. All right, I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to once again undo that modification, because there's yet another way to work of course. If you want to name the layer as you create it, then you press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J, Command+Shift+Option+J on the Mac, then I'll go ahead and call this guy, the egg and click OK and that goes ahead and moves that floating selection to its own independent layer as you can see. All right, I don't want to do any of these things, so I'll Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z on the Mac as many times as it takes to reinstate that original selection without anything inside of it.
Now in exactly that same way that you can either move the selection outline or move the selected pixels, you can do the same thing where scaling and rotating and distortion is concerned. If you want to scale, rotate or distort the pixels, the selected pixels, then you go up to the Edit menu and you choose the Free Transform command, or you have that keyboard shortcut Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac. However, what we need to do is modify the selection outline independently of the image and if you want to do that, you go to the Select menu and you choose Transform Selection and that takes us into that same Free Transform mode, however, we'll modify the selection outline, instead of the selected pixels, and I'll explain exactly how that works in the next exercise.
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