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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 has come the time to try to reestablish the details that can't be reestablished. It's like; we are trying to build a dinosaur. They find various pieces of a dinosaur, those archaeologists do, and we are so told, I have never gone on a dig on or anything; and they find, like 50% of the dinosaur and then they have to make up the other 50%, figure out how it might have been; or they find, a better case scenario, 98% then they just have to make up--just give it a hip replacement, that's all. Now in our case, we have just got to give this guy a hip replacement; only it's up in his head. It's actually at the top of the hair. So we just have to, basically, do a little bit of-- Here is another analogy, a little bit of detective work in order to figure out what this should have been.
All right, so I am working inside of this image called Dodged & burned.tif, that you can open up as well, if you like, found inside the 14_Calculations folder. I want you to go ahead and make sure that Dodge and burn is active, that is, the final channel inside the Channels palette is active. Now I am going to need to be able to switch back and forth between the RGB composite and the mask, that we are working on. And because we are working on the tenth channel, it doesn't have the keyboard shortcut, so let's not have it be the tenth channel, anymore. Let's go ahead and drag it up the stack, and I am going to drag it all the way to the top of the alpha channels here, so that it becomes the fourth channel inside the image. So we can switch back and forth between it and the RGB image by alternately pressing Ctrl+4 for the mask and Ctrl+Tilde for the RGB composite; that would be Command+4 and Command+Tilde on the Mac.
All right, let's go ahead and zoom in. Before we really---Well, let's actually take a look at what's going on inside the RGB image, inside of this region of the image. So I have zoomed in to the top of the image. I am going to press Ctrl+Tilde to switch to the RGB composite. So basically, the hairline seems to go, kind of, like this. See what I am tracing right there? That's the implied hairline, I think. Then when I switch to Ctrl+4 for the mask, that means that this region right here--I will go ahead and grab my Lasso tool. This region right here, is actually outside of the hair.
This hair, we couldn't even see, it actually only shows up in the Blue channel. Notice if I switch to the Blue channel by pressing Ctrl+3 or Command+3 on the Mac, we can see this very, very fragile hair. It doesn't show up in the Green channel, doesn't show up in the Red channel, doesn't show up in the RGB composite; you really can't see it. Although, actually if you look for it, you can imagine, it's there anyway. You can hallucinate the hair into the image but you know what? Why not give it a shot? Why not try to preserve that hair? That's what I figure but we are going to need to eventually maintain the curvature of the hairline here.
All right, so Ctrl+4 or Command+4 for the Dodge and burn channel that we are working on here. Once again, we don't need to duplicate it because we are not really doing any harm to this area. It's beyond harm, is basically what, kind of, I am saying to you. I am going to de -select my image by pressing Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac. Actually, I am going to switch to a different selected region, I am going to select this region, like so, in order to provide a boundary for my next modification, so I don't mess anything up. I am going to switch to the Dodge tool by clicking on it or pressing the O key. I am going to start by painting along this hair to see, if I can restore it a little bit but not too far because it's not a big, thick, meaty hair. It's a very distant, fragile hair, that's barely there at all. It's just, kind of, inform the image, we don't want to call attention to it.
Then I am going to press the O key in order to switch to the Burn tool here and I am going to burn away some of these details. Notice that I am burning under this hot dog of a hair here. I am burning over to this side and burning up toward the top as well. I am might go ahead and increase my brush size by pressing the Right Bracket key a couple of times and painting in this area as well. So notice that, what I am really doing--I am not concerned about this area here that I am painting into. I just want to keep this smile of the hair in place, to some extent. Again, I am not all that interested in seeing it big, and thick, and mighty.
In fact, I am going to lower the Exposure value to 20%, I am just going to paint over the hair lull, that's nice. I may paint on its tip again too. I want it to be really distant, just barely there at all. All right, so that took care of that hair, I think. Now what about the other stuff that's going on here. Well, I will press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to de-select that region. Let's paint away this hair that shouldn't be here. I will raise the Exposure value to let's say, 40% by pressing the 4 key in order to paint that stuff away.
Now I will also paint this area away too but we do want to keep that little knee of the hair, that's, sort of, bent leg of a hair there. I may be paint this in a little bit as well. Okay, now we are going to have to actually paint with the Brush tool, people. So get ready for that. You are going to have to make some manual modifications here, you are going to have to invent detail. In other words, it's time to be an artist but you only have to be an artist for this little distance up here, so it's not all that hard. Go ahead and grab your Brush tool. I want you to change the Mode to Normal by pressing Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac, raise the Opacity value to 100% by pressing the 0 key. Bring up your Brushes palette, either by clicking on to that little icon or pressing the F5 key, and turn on the Noise option.
See this little preview, watch what happens when I turn on Noise. It gets noisy, it gets choppy, and that means it's going to match the noise inside of the image. All right, let's go ahead and hide that palette by pressing F5, in my case. Anyway, that's what I did. Now let's go ahead and check our stuff here. I am going to press Ctrl+Tilde to see where it is we are painting. We are repainting right along here, okay; that's Command+Tilde on the Mac. All right, let's go back to the alpha Channel by pressing Ctrl+4 or Command+4 on the Mac and I am going to make sure my foreground color is white, as it is now when I press the X key. Now I am going to paint, like so, and I am painting up in to this region here. I am Shift+ Clicking in order to draw straight lines inside of the image and then I am dragging down like this. All right, actually I might make cursor a little smaller, so I can do this number here.
Then we want to do the same thing, except the inverse. We want to paint with black, of course, and I am going to do that by pressing the X key and then painting in, like so. Now once we start getting close to the hair, you are going to have to reduce the size of your brush, a little bit, like so, by pressing, of course, Left Bracket key in between brush strokes; you can't do it on the fly. Then I might go ahead and zoom in on this area. Now this is a toughie and here is what I am going to do. I am going to paint along the hair, like this. So I am painting into the guy's head because I really can't paint a triangle of blackness, which is what I want. Then I am going to switch to the Full Screen mode, so I can bring this down and I am going to paint, like this, up above the hair.
Are you following me? So it looks like a very strange hair at this point. That's okay, I am going to paint over here as well, just a little bit. This hair is still a little bit over emphasized but that's okay, we will work with it; we will make it work Then actually, I am going to back step those last couple of operations because I think the hair is getting too skinny in this region and it's remaining too thick in this region, there we go. All right, now I am going to press the X key, once again, so that I paint with white. I am going to zoom out a little, so that I have a bit of perspective on this guy's head. Notice it's got a weird divot in it. Let's press Ctrl+Tilde or Command+Tilde on the Mac, so I can say okay, it needs to go like that. Needs to do that, you do this back and forth with your hand, you get that muscle maneuver figured out, this is for real and that's going to inform how you paint in this next gesture, okay. So just go back and forth here, I am not painting, I am just having my hand memorize the gesture for a moment.
Then I will press Ctrl+4 or Command+4 on the Mac in order to switch back to the channel. Let's increase the size of the brush here, a little bit, and I will restore that brush stroke, that I didn't work with being. So let's go ahead and zoom in again. I didn't like what I came up with. I am going to paint with a smaller brush, is basically what I am saying. So I will paint like this because I just didn't like the degree of noise that I was getting. All right, this actually could work for us. We have got some strange noise, sort of, modifications going on here, that is, transitions going on inside of the image but it's nothing that I don't think, we can't work with. In other words, we are going to make it work with the final composition. Actually, that looks pretty good. We don't want it to be too smooth.
Now I am going to press the X key to switch back to black, I am going to enlarge my brush a little, and I am going to paint, like so, in this area in order to get rid of it. There we go. All right, so we have got this little hair up here, we have got this nice hair right there, and I think things look pretty good. If we were to press the Tilde key, we would be able to see the hair and the mask at the same time, and decide if it matched pretty darn well, which I think it does. Now if you think you can make it match a little better, press the X key in order to paint with white and then try painting inside of that mask, just a little more to raise the hairline, that might actually work pretty well for us.
Then I am going to press the Tilde key again in order to turn off the RGB view, so that we are just focusing in on the channel. I think, I like that better, I think that's going to work. All right, that's good. So far so good, I think people. In the next exercise, now that we have taken care of the hair and we have reestablished the hair, we have invented hair out of nothing toward the top of the scalp, we are going to get rid of his face. In the next exercise, the exercise after that, we are going to begin compositing this guy into a new background, stick with me.
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