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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."
Now its time to blend this foreground image from photographer Chris Schmitt, along with the background image from Daniel Bruner and both of these guys are with istockphoto.com. Even though one of them is in the UK and the other is in the US. All right and here is what we are going to do. He looks great; I think the edges look superb. We are just going to try to blend those edges so they make a little more sense inside of this document. Now I don't think we are going for a realistic effect here. In other words we are not trying to convince the viewer that he was really shot against this rusty metal background. We are trying to evoke an emotional response at this point. So we are trying to create a work of art in big quotation marks here because I am not sure it's really elevated to quite that level but you get the idea.
All right we are going to make these edges match a little better. For starters let's go ahead and multiply them into its background because after all he has got dark hair so he is perfect for multiplying and we will do that by making sure he is active now. I am working inside of a catchup document, that's called Complementary images.psd found inside the 14 Calculations folder. Make sure one of your Selection tools is active and then press Shift+Alt+M or Shift+Option+M on the Mac in order to apply the Multiply mode to this Somewhat tarnish layer that's the name of it, the layer on top here. Because our hero is a little bit tarnished after so much familiarity, after so much time spent with him. He isn't really done anything heroic for example and then I am going to press the 7 key to reduce the Opacity value to 70%.
Now he looks like he is being sort of shown on to the image using an overhead projector or the like and so he has more of the cast effect associated with him, we are like - we are lighting the background. All right, now I want you to jump this layer. Go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac and we will call this layer Normal and then let's go ahead and change the Mode to Normal as well and we will change the Opacity value to a 100% and click OK and that will reestablish the Normal version of the guy.
Now we need to tuck back his edges and we are going to do that using a combination of minimize in order to move his edges backwards in order to choke them and Gaussian Blur in order to of course blur the edges and then we are going to do a little Apply Image trick and this is going to work out really nicely actually and we are going to go for some pretty major modifications here. So click on the layer mask that's associated with this Normal layer to make it active, then go up to the Filter menu, choose Other and I want you to choose this guy, Minimum and we are going to go with a very high value, 50.
So 50 pixels worth of scooting those edges back and you can see if I sort of move around inside of the mask here inside of the Preview that's inside the Minimum dialog box, we can see here is the chin for example, we can see how it moves back dramatically and so we are just cutting into his chin as if we have really clipped him in the jaw or something like that. So this doesn't look right at all. But it's going to look better in a moment. Click OK in order to accept that modification. Now let's go ahead and blur things by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Blur and choosing Gaussian Blur our good old friend and I am going to go for a value that's equal to twice, what we just applied using Minimum and this goes back to a lot of stuff that we have done so far and we are going to apply a value equal to twice the Minimum value. So we are going to take that Radius up to a 100 pixel this time around and notice that does a pretty good job of blurring those transitions back so that they don't look so radicalized. Even though we are seeing through his chin at this point and we have a lot of haloing going around his hair.
Now I click OK to accept that modification. Now then we have got two different Layer masks. There is the blob here, if I Alt+Click or Option+Click in this layer mask you can see its quite blobby and then if we go to this layer and all I had to do is click on this layer incidentally to stay inside the layer mask view, you can see that we have got the excellent hair details. Well let's go and merge those two together inside of the Normal mask right there. So go ahead and click on the Normal mask in order to make it active. Now you don't have to actually be looking at the Layer mask, but we are looking at the layer mask so I might as well leave it set that way and then go up to the Image menu and choose Apply Image because we are going to bring one channel into another channel and this works also when we are working with Layer masks, which are really temporary channels. So go ahead and choose Apply Image and we are not going to apply the RGB image on top of this Mask. Notice that's what happing by default. So we just moved a grayscale composite version of the RGB image into this layer mask and the Blending mode was set to Normal because that's the last mode I applied.
What we want instead is a) we want to work with a different layer, we don't want to be working with the Merged layer, we want to work with the Somewhat tarnished layer, which is this guy right here because we need to draw forth its layer mask. So go ahead and select that layer and then from Channel say we want the layer mask and that goes ahead and grabs that layer mask you can see it right there and then of course we want to set the blend mode to Multiply, in order to multiply it in the place like so. So we are blurring inward on those edges but we are never blurring outwards. So that's going to get rid of the haloing. Click OK in order to accept that modification.
Now Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask icon once again in order to see the RGB version of the image and you can see now that we do have a lot of blue hairs but thanks to the fact that we have this mask, I will go ahead and Shift+Click on it to turn it off for a moment and then Shift+Click again that doesn't really do us that much good. What we want to see is the original version of the image. This is the version of the image as it would appear, if it were Normal and a 100%, all right compare this to this version right there, so that we have this drifty hair going on and then of course if we add this layer in the Background set to Multiply in 70% Opacity we get this better effect right there.
So much better stuff going on, thanks to that combination of the Multiply layer of course bolstering those background hairs and then of course Normal with chocked edges, thanks to Minimize, softened edges thanks to Gaussian Blur and then thanks to Apply Edges, we made sure that we are no longer haloing outside the hair, we are clipping the hair details but we are still going inward on the chin, we can still see through that chin that's something that we still have to correct and we are going to correct it in our next and final exercise.
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