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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, we transition from the masking half of the chapter to the compositing half. I'll show you how to paint a gradient into this nameplate layer and we'll see how Photoshop permits you to paint exactly inside the lines. I've saved my progress as Nameplate in black.psd and I want you to see a couple of opposing painting options that are available to you as you work with layers inside Photoshop. So go ahead and switch over to the Brush tool and I'm going to increase the size of my brush quite a bit actually. I'm going to take it up to about 50 pixels let's say, and then I'll press X key to switch my foreground color to white and I'll just go ahead and paint inside of the active layer which is the nameplate.
And notice, not surprisingly, Photoshop just goes ahead and paints a bunch of white into the layer. So what I've effectively done is scribbled over the layer and you can confirm that by Ctrl+Clicking or Command+ Clicking on the thumbnail for that nameplate layer there inside the Layers panel. And you can see how my latest white brushstroke and the black nameplate are now fused together. Now obviously that's not what I want, but I just want you to have a sense of what's going on by default. So I'll press Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+ Option+Z on the Mac a couple of times in order to undo that modification.
Now notice up here in the Options bar, you've got this mode option. Most of the modes are those standard blend modes that you can assign to layers from the Layers panel. And we'll be seeing exactly how those modes work in a future course. But a couple of them aren't strictly speaking modes. There's this one called Clear, for example,. And if you paint with this Clear mode which is not available from the Layers panel, then you actually erase the layer. You turn the brush into an eraser and you can see that indeed those pixels have been brushed away if I Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the thumbnail for the nameplate layer once again. All right! Just wanted you to see that, I'm going to press Ctrl+Alt+Z, Command+Option+Z couple of times in a row in order to undo that modification.
Check this one out, it's call Behind, and if you paint with Behind, you will paint behind the contents of the layer. You're still painting on the active layer; you're just painting exclusively inside of those transparent regions. But the two are fused together; perhaps it's easier to see this if I just turn the Background layer off. And we'll see that the white pixels and the black pixels coexist together on this nameplate layer. I'm going to bring up the Color panel and increase the Saturation value to 100% so I'm painting in red. You can see that now if I paint, I painted back of both the black pixels and the white pixels.
So each time you paint with Behind, you're not painting on a lower layer, you're painting behind the existing pixels inside the active layer. All right! So I'll press Ctrl+Alt+Z, Command+Option+ Z once again a couple of times in a row in order to undo those modifications. And I'm going to go ahead and change the mode option back to Normal so that we're applying standard modifications to our artwork. All right! Check this one out. If you can paint inside of just the transparency of a layer, you must be able to paint just inside the Opacity of the layer, and that's true.
But you don't access this function from the Blend mode popup menu. In fact, you don't access it anywhere up here in the options bar. You go down to the Layers panel and you turn on this first Lock option which is Lock transparent pixels. This option is the opposite of the Behind mode, which is why you can't combine them together. If you go ahead and lock the transparent pixels, and then you go back to the Blend mode popup menu, notice that both Behind and Clear are dimmed because they're no longer available. All right! Once I've locked down my transparency, I'll go ahead and paint exclusively inside the Opacity.
So in other words, you're painting inside the line which in fact is the only reason I filled that selection with black in the previous exercise. I just wanted to nail down the outlines of the nameplate so that I could come back and modify them at a later point in time. All right! So I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+ Z on the Mac in order to undo that painting. What we really want to do is add a gradient, and here is how. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+- or Command+- on the Mac in order back out a little bit. I'm going to turn that Background layer back on, but make sure that nameplate layer remains selected, also make sure that you've locked those transparent pixels.
By the way, you can change that option from the keyboard. I know a lot of people don't like keyboard shortcuts, but an awful lot of people do. And here's how it works. You press the slash key in order to unlock the layer, and then you press the Slash key again to lock the layer. And this is the Slash key that exists along with the question mark on an American keyboard. All right! With the transparency locked down, let's add the gradient; I'll click on the Gradient tool which I can also get by pressing the G key. Then I want you to click the down- pointing arrowhead up here in the options bar, click the right-pointing arrowhead, and choose Load Gradients to load a gradient that I've created for you in advance.
Go ahead and navigate your way to the 02_masks folder. If you're working on a PC, you'll see one and only one file. If you're working on a Mac, you'll see a bunch of files. In any case, go ahead and select a file that's called Wicked grad.grd and click the Load button in order to load it on up. Then go ahead and select that last swatch there in the Gradient list and you can now press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to hide that list. And then drag from the far left side of the image to the far right side. I have the Shift key down to constrain the angle of my drag to exactly horizontal and you'll fill what were formerly black pixels with this gradient fountain of color. All right! So far so good.
In the next exercise, we'll add some brush treatments and blend the nameplate with a photographic image.
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