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In this exercise I'm going to show you how to selectively increase the contrast of an Alpha channel using a technique known as Overlay Painting. So you grab the Brush tool, you set it to the Overlay blend mode and then you paint with black to make the darks darker inside of an image or you paint with white in order to make the lights lighter. And I'll show you how that works in this exercise. I've saved my progress as Better channel.psd, found inside the 26_masking folder. One of things I recommend you do, as you develop your mask, is save multiple iterations of your Alpha channel, because after all you don't have any layers inside of an Alpha channel.
You're working flat and you want to be able to come back to previous versions of the Alpha channel in case something goes wrong which it often times does. Sometimes you make missteps just as you do in the larger world of Photoshop and therefore it's great to be able to come back to an earlier step in the process. So I'm going to grab this channel, subtract 235 (dodged) and I'm going to make a copy of it by dragging it and dropping in on the little page icon there. I'll go ahead and name this guy hair mask, because after all right now I'm just trying to mask the hair inside of the image.
I'm not worried about the arms or the dress, they're a total mess at this point. Now notice that I have keyboard shortcuts along the right side of the Channels panel and assuming default settings or that you've been following along with me throughout this series, then Ctrl+2 or Cmd+2 is going to take you to the full-color composite and then Ctrl+3 or Cmd+3 through 5 are going to take you through the color bearing channels, the Red, Green, and Blue channels. Assuming we're working in an RGB image then Ctrl+6 or Cmd+6 is going to take you to the first Alpha channel. Well, notice by now I've completely run out of keyboard shortcuts.
If I want to take advantage of the keyboard shortcuts so that I can bounce back and forth between an Alpha channel and the full color image for example, then just go and drag your channel up the list and I'm going to drag hair mask to this position, to the first Alpha channel position, so that it gets a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+6 or Cmd+6. Now it's time to begin painting and we want to really take it easy inside this image. Actually, there's not too much painting that we want to do, because we've got some fragile details that we could wipe out pretty easily. But I do want to show you how it works.
So I'm going to select the Brush tool which I can get by pressing the B key and then I'll right-click inside the image window just to confirm the Size and Hardness values. I definitely want the Hardness to be 0% just as when I was dodging in the last couple of exercises. It's very important so that we maintain soft transitions. The Size value can be whatever you want it to be. I'm going to go ahead and raise it to let's say 400% for this image and then I'll press the Enter key a couple of times in order to hide that panel. That would be the Return key on the Mac.
Now then, I could just start painting inside the image. That would be a mistake quite obviously, because in my case the foreground color is black and I'm just painting a big black blob in the center of the image. So that's no good. So I'll press Ctrl+Z, Cmd+Z on the Mac and I'm going to switch the blend mode from Normal to Overlay. Once again it allows me to darken the darkest stuff with black and lighten the lightest stuff with white. So I'll go ahead and choose Overlay. Now if I paint inside the image you see that the highlights are protected and just the shadow detail changes. But with one big brush stroke I've wiped out a lot of hair.
So I want to take it little easy. I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo that modification. I'll reduce the Opacity value to 50% by pressing the 5 key and I'm just going to click in a few selective regions here. I'll click right there, maybe right there. I'm not dragging at all. Notice that I'm just clicking in order to darken up some details. The last thing I want to do is make any of the transitions too sharp because I want the hairs to die gradually as they drift away from the model's head. So I'm just clicking here and there in order to add some darkness to a few regions inside the image and that's probably good enough.
I probably don't want to go any farther than that. Now if you wanted to brighten some of the hairs, you could by pressing the X key to make white your foreground color and then you can paint inside the image. But I'm not sure I would do that, I mean you could paint a little inside the hair like so in order to make those holes in back of the hair a little smaller and that might work pretty well for you but that's about it. That's all I would do. A little more clean is in order however. So I'm going to press the X key again to switch to black, so my foreground color is black. I'm going to press the 0 key to raise the Opacity value to 100% there and then I'm just going to paint in the corners.
So not on the hair. I'm avoiding the hair like crazy at this point. I'm just painting in the corners of the image in order to sync those corners to black, because they all need to be blackened up a little bit and I might paint up in this region as well just a brush stroke like so. But again taking care not to paint on the hair. Next, I'm going to grab my Lasso tool by pressing the L key and I'm going to Alt+Click like so. I'm going to Alt+Click from the left side of the image, this would be an Option+Click on the Mac, and thanks to the fact that I have the Alt or Option key down, I'm drawing polygonal outline and I'll just click at a few spots like this.
So notice that I am clicking up into the arm and neck region a little bit and then I'm clicking around the base of the image. So notice I'm zoomed out far enough so that I can see a little bit of that dark gray paste board and then I'll release my mouse button in order to select this region. So I invite you to do the same thing if you're working along with me. My foreground color is black, so I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete on a Mac to fill that region with black. That's good enough for now. We could try to select into the face region to distinguish it from those holes in the hair that are right next door, but we're better off doing that by masking the flesh regions.
In fact, in the very next exercise we're going to exaggerate the contrast between the flesh tones and the background colors to make the flesh easier to select.
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