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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'll modify our mask so that it matches this forward boot as closely as possible. I've saved my progress as Complementary overlay.psd and I have the boot channel selected down here at the bottom of the Channels panel. I'm viewing the RGB image at the same time. I'm going to go ahead and zoom into this image. So I can take it in that much more closely. Now we're going to switchover to the Brush tool, which you can get by clicking on it or pressing the B key. Now just to make sure that you and I are on exactly the same page, go up to the Options bar, right-click on that brush over there in the far left side and choose Reset tool.
Then I want you to right-click inside the image window, and I found that a Size value of 17 pixels served us well for the work we are about to do, and then you want the Hardness value to be 100%. Next, go ahead and press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac a couple of times in order to hide that panel. And the easiest way to deal with this right side of the boot, which, by the way, is a man-made object, so it's very likely to have precise, often times straight, other times smooth arching sides, which means that we can take advantage of the following trick.
As opposed to just brushing in your modifications like so, which even if you work with a drawing tablet, can be a fairly haphazard proposition. My preferred way of working is to click and Shift+Click and notice that when you click and then Shift+Click you connect the click points with a straight brushstroke. All right! Now it's a little difficult to see exactly where the boot ends and the background begins, because everything is so dark down here in the lower right region of the image. So tell you what, why don't we go ahead and boost the brightness by adding an adjustment layer? So I'm going to switch back to the RGB image, click on the Layers panel.
Notice, by the way, that we're still seeing the mask, so we can make decisions inside of our layered composition based on the appearance of that cyan overlay. So with the background layer selected, I want you to press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click on that black/white icon, and let's go ahead and choose the Levels command, and I want to name this layer let's say brightener and then click OK to bring up the Adjustments panel. I'm going to go ahead and collapse the Color panel, so that I have a little more room to work, because my Layers panel down here is getting kind of squished. All right! Now let's go ahead and make a couple of fairly absurd edits.
I'm going to change the white point value to 200. We're just going to clip an awful lot of highlights inside the overall image, and then I'm going to take the gamma value up to 1.5, which is going to boost the heck out of the midtones. Now this is a terrible edit where I am trying to correct the colors in the composition, but it's a great temporary edit for gauging the quality of the mask. So I'll go ahead and collapse that Adjustments panel by double-clicking to the right of the word Masks, and then I'll switch back to the Channels panel and click on the boot channel once again to make it active.
Right now, that we can see what's going on here on the right side of this boot, we can go ahead and make some more authoritative changes. So I'm going to click at this point, Shift+ Click down here toward the bottom of the boot. I notice that I'm not getting in quite tight enough. So I'll click here, Shift+Click at this location and let's try Shift+Clicking right about there. That looks pretty good to me. By the way, if you end up getting a sharp corner, for example, I'll go ahead and click here, Shift+Click here; it looks like I've cut into the boot a little bit at that location. So I'll press Ctrl+Z or Ccommand+Z on the Mac to undo that modification.
I'll click here and Shift+Click here instead, then click and Shift+Click and continue to do so. What you can do if you end up getting a sharp corner? Is you can go ahead and click and Shift+Click it away. So if you notice something that's not smooth enough, just go ahead and click and Shift+Click right along that corner to cut it short. All right, now I'm going to paint away the tip of shoe like so, and I'm really painting into the shoe as you can see, possibly a little bit too much, but let me show you why? I'm going to increase the size of my cursor by pressing the right bracket key ] and I'll do so a couple of times.
So my cursor has 25 pixel diameter as indicated by that number 25 over there on the left side of the Options bar. Then I'll press the X key to switch my foreground color to white and I'll click on the toe of the shoe in order to reveal it and I'll reduce the size of my cursor by pressing left bracket key [ and I'll click in that toe again to see if I can bring a little bit more of it back.] then click and Shift+Click like so, in order to better represent that toe. So I'm just doing as much finessing as I feel like I need to, in order to get this area right. All right! This is looking pretty good.
I'm going to go ahead and click and Shift+Click here as well. That was a little bit too much, so I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. Click here, let's say, and Shift +Click there. That looks good. Click here, Shift+Click there, in order to cut away some of that obvious corner. Click at this location and then Shift+ Click there, and I'll go ahead and scroll up a little bit by spacebar+ Dragging, Shift+Click again. So notice you can Shift+ Click multiple times in a row. The other thing to note about the work that I'm doing here is that I'm doing it with a hard brush. So if I right-click again to bring out that pop-up panel, you'll see that the Hardness value is set to 100% and by now you've noticed that doesn't mean that you get a jagged brush, that just means you get a nice sharp brush as you paint inside the image.
And when you're painting this way, that is exactly the way you want to work, unless you've got a soft blurry edge, then you don't want to work with a soft blurry brush. So in other words, you want to match the brush to the job at hand and usually when you're painting with the Normal mode and 100% Opacity, you want a nice sharp brush to work with, so you can make some, once again, authoritative and ultimately credible modifications. All right! I'm going to press the X key in order to switch my foreground color to white and click and Shift+Click along this edge and that takes care of most of the bottom of this boot.
So things are looking pretty darn good. We do have this obvious area that needs to be brushed away over here on the right-hand side, but I urge you not to do that yet, and then we have some work to do along the ankle of the boot, and I'll demonstrate how to make those edits in the next exercise.
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