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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 at this point I can imagine a few of you saying wait a second, while these techniques are very interesting and the final product is quite beautiful indeed. You just got through permanently modifying the pixels inside of the layer, inside both the previous exercise and the one before it, we brushed inside of the layer using the paintbrush tool set to the color mode and in each case whether we were working with an image inside of a layer mask or an image that has been transparency masked we have permanently changed those pixels for good or for ill.
And in fact if you were to open this version of the image which is the one that I have been working on, it's called oceanic angel.psd. And if you were to turn off the Rosalie layer abd turn on the model layer, she looks pretty good, right. But go ahead and Shift+click on the layer mask here in order to turn it off for a second. Then let's go ahead and zoom in on this portion of the image, and you can see that I have made some interesting decisions here; I will go ahead and call them. I have kind of painted outs1ide into this area because it looked like I was doing a good job but now that I turned off the layer mask; I did a pretty ratty job. And it ends up looking good if I turn the layer mask back on, it ends up looking all right and if I turn the layer mask it looks terrible once again.
Then if I zoom in on this portion of the hair, you can see that it contains different colors than the hair above it, its more highly saturated than these hair up here which might make you think, oh I think, I can do better than that. Let me take a re-approach and of course you are going to increasingly, potentially destroy those pixels. At least you might potentially increasingly destroy the detail, the original detail inside of this photograph. So there must be a better way to work and of course there it is, we could do a completely non-destructive approach if you like and let's go ahead and do that, just for the sake of everybody's edification here. I am going to go ahead and turn off all these layers, let's turn on the color invert layer so that we can see the orange version of the water for the sake of comparison. Of course the background layer is also on, it's just that underwater image by photographer Tammy Paluso, and I am going to go ahead and click on the Color Invert layer to make it active. Let's switch back over to the restored version of the image called My name is Rosalie.tif, of course, from photographer Klaas Lingbeek-van Kranen And I am going to go ahead and once again go to the Channels palette, load the mass channels the selection by Ctrl+Clicking on it or Command+Clicking on it on the Mac. Switch back over to the Layers palette, lets go ahead and covert this background to an independent layer, call it model once again.
Add a layer mask by clicking on the layer mask icon down here at the bottom of the Layers palette and go over here to the Layers palette menu, choose Duplicate Layer. Let's go ahead and put the layer inside of the image called Oceanic Angel.psd and Photoshop will automatically go ahead and call this layer model instead of model copy. Click OK, doesn't look like anything happened, that's why we need to switch over to that oceanic angel.psd image and that now has the new and original.
Actually let's just go ahead and name it, original so that we know that this layer is unharmed. All right, now what we need to do is create a new layer and I am going to do that by pressing Ctrl+Shift+End or Command+Shift+End on the Mac and lets call this fringing or something along those lines since we are getting rid of the color fringing and lets say use previous layer to create clipping mask. So that whatever we do, whatever painting we make is clipped by this original layer right here. And let's go ahead and change the Mode upfront to Color and that will do it. That's all we need to do, then click OK in order to accept that result.
Now we need to paint inside of the layer but we are not going to paint using the Color Mode this time, this may not make a lot of sense upfront but what we are going to do is we are going to switch to the Normal Mode. So Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac and that's because the blend mode that's assigned to the tool, to the Brush tool here affects how the paint inside of this layer interacts with itself. So any paint that's already on the layer how it reacts with more paint on that same layer whereas the blend mode assigned inside the Layers palette ends up affecting how the layer interacts with other layers in the stack.
Having gone ahead and set the brush mode to normal, lets Alt+click or Option+click inside the hair in order to load some color and notice even though we are doing normal painting and I am painting outside the lines and all that stuff, I am only re-coloring the hair, I am not just putting big globs of colors all over the place. I have made one mistake, I went ahead and painted with an Opacity of 50%, I don't recommend you do that. Let's go ahead and undo that brush stroke, I am going to increase the Opacity to a 100% once again because if we want to affect the relationship between this fringing layer and the color below it, we want to change the Opacity here inside the Layers palette. Now paint once again and you will get a nice healthy re-coloring of that hair. We can work on the shoulders as well if you like, I am going to go ahead and bypass the shoulders at this point, just so that we can focus our attention to what we are doing here.
I am going to switch back to the marquee tool by pressing the M key and then I am going to press Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac in order to switch the layer to the normal mode and you can see there is that dollop of paint that I assigned to that layer. In fact it really looks like this, if I unclip the layer by Alt+clicking or Option+ clicking on this horizontal line right there, you can see that this is what the paint really looks like. So it's this big glob of paint that's being clipped, so I will go ahead and undo that last modification by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z on the Mac. And its colored in the place, it's blended into the hair in the background which I accomplish by undoing that step as well by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z again.
But what I really want to do right, is make her look like she is underwater so I am going to turn off this color invert layer and I am going to return to my brush tool by pressing the B key and I am going to Alt+click on the water or Option+click in order to lift blue and I am going to Shift+Tab away my palettes. And I am just going to start painting here, actually I will increase the size of my brush cursor and I will start painting and notice that I am adding too much blue toward this point and I can click around if I want to, click on top of her hand, I kind of missed that last time. And of course she is too blue but I can now go ahead and change the Opacity of that layer if I want to. I would go back to the marquee tool by pressing the M key or clicking on it of course and then I could press the 5 key to reduce the Opacity to 50% or I could press the 3 key to reduce the Opacity of that layer to 30% or I could press the 7 key to reduce the Opacity to 70%. You could get the idea, I have an infinite level of flexibility and control available to me and I can even go in and make further modifications if I want to paint into different areas that I missed the other time around or I could use the eraser tool to erase into that level. So this is a much better way to go.
I am going to go ahead and actually press 5, 5, two fives in a row in order to reduce the Opacity of that layer to 50% and I am going to go ahead and press the F key a couple of times and tab away my palettes and there is the final version of this project approached in the most flexible manner possible which is to say by creating a layer with a layer mask and then setting up the brush that contains the coloring elements, the brush strokes that is to say set to the color blend mode. And the result is as editable as it is pretty. Actually you know what, I think I will touch up this detail right there, nice.
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