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I've saved my progress as Masks in progress.tif found inside the 26_masking folder. And I'm chosen the TIFF file format for a very specific reason. Now I don't need to resort to the PSD format because I don't have any layers inside this image. It's flat so far. And JPEG doesn't support alpha channels. You cannot save alpha channels along with JPEG. So TIFF is your best bet because the TIFF file format does support alpha channels. And if you turn on LZW compression, which is a lossless compression scheme, so it's not going to harm your image, the TIFF file format does a great job of compressing your masks because large areas in the mask are black, large areas are white and they compress down very nicely, again with LZW.
Anyway, what we're going to do in this exercise is we're going to exaggerate the contrast of the image to make it easier to mask. Now we're not going to harm the image itself, we're going to leave the original image alone. We're going to do our work on an independent layer. And this a the technique that I came up with where this specific image is concerned and it's served me very nicely. We're going to use it first to draw out the hair detail, and then we're going to use a variation on this technique in order to draw for the skin. So I'm going to switch to the RGB image, then switch over to Layers panel like so, and I'm going to press Ctrl+Alt+ J or, Cmd+Options+J on the Mac in order to jump this layer.
And I'm going to name the new layer Dodged, and I'll click OK because we're going to be dodging the background using the Dodge tool. And the Dodge tool happens to be terrific for this purpose because you can make selective modifications just in very specific areas of the image without having to resort to a global modification like you might make with the Levels command or the Curves command or what have you. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and zoom out a click so that I take in the entire image at a time. And I'll switch over to my Dodge tool which I can get by pressing the O key as you may recall. Now I want a way bigger cursors so I'm going to increase the size of this guy to about 500.
I could right-click inside the image window so you can see I have a brush diameter of 500 pixels and my Hardness is set to 0%, that's very important. So make sure your brush is set accordingly. And then for purposes of this image, so I can get more work done more quickly, I'm going to raise the Exposure value here to a 100% just by pressing the 0 key. Notice that Protect Tones is turned on. Now this is an option, were I to be working inside of a mask, inside of an alpha channel, this option would be dimmed because it's only applicable to full color images.
And so that's why I'm working this way. I'm changing the full color image before I go into a mask, before I go into an alpha channel that is, where I'm relegated to a single channel of luminance levels and nothing more. Meaning that I can get more nuanced work done in full color once again. And then I'm going to scrub at the image like so and notice that I'm going at it with multiple brushstrokes. So I'm not just painting back and forth, I'm lifting my mouse button and then starting over again. So I'm drawing one brush stroke after another and you may find it helpful to just click around in spots like so.
I want to get that background as bright as possible without ruining the hair details. And don't worry about the skin you can paint all over her. That doesn't matter because we're going to select the skin in a separate pass. We're just interested in getting this background bright and you want it bright all the way to the corners, by the way, because that will give you a high degree of control later on when we're editing the mask. It'll give you a nice range of backgrounds so that you can get every single hair inside this image. Now you have to be careful once you start getting into the top hairs, this region right there, because it's easy to blow those guys out if you're not super careful.
I'm going to go ahead and fill in the bottom region of the image, that is the bottom right region. And so I've probably clicked about 40 times now, incidentally. You're going to be doing a lot of brush work inside of this image in order to make that background nice and bright, but this is going to result in such a better mask, you're not going to believe it. Anyway, let's go ahead and paint, paint, paint. This is, kind of, like watching paint dry, frankly, it's not very exciting stuff, but it needs to be done. I'm going to reduce the size of my cursor in order to keep these guys up at the top here.
I want to paint next to them not directly on them too much because I'll start losing that detail. The same around these hair because they are very delicate so you just want to take it easy, up here as well. So I'm trying to paint around the hairs with the smaller brush as you're seeing. I'm going to have to paint over them to some extent like so because I do need that background to get bright. Then finally, let's see here I should be able to click, click, click, click down here in the lower left corner of my image in order to give myself a big margin between the stuff I want to select and deselect here inside this image.
All right, that looks pretty darn and good to me actually. Now I'm going to switch back to the Marquee tool just by pressing the M key so I don't see that gargantuan brush. And I'll go up to the Image menu and I'll choose Calculations once again, and I'll see the last settings that I applied, that is, Subtract with an Offset of 50. Now you may look at this and go wow! All that work we just got done painting with that Dodge tool like crazy, my hand's tired. And look what's happening inside the image preview, nothing, it looks just the same as it did before. What a total waste of time, Deke, I'm not going to pay anymore attention to your training from now on.
Hut here's the thing. Our Layer is set to Background. That's the problem. What we need to do is set the Layer to either Dodged or Merged. Either ones is going to work. Let's go with Dodged though. And I'll set this guy to Dodged as well. So they both have to be set to that same option and now notice the difference. All right, I'm going to go ahead and increase the Offset value, the Subtract mode is just fine, but I want to brighten up the details inside the image. So I'm going to press Shift+Up Arrow. And notice, by the way, my Channels are still set to Blue, Invert off, Red for Source 2, Invert on.
That's very importance. I'll keep taking that Offset value up. I'm just pressing Shift+Up Arrow until it goes to it's absolute maximum at 255. And notice what we have here we have this wonderful level of detail where the hair is concerned. Yes the background is not quite black. It's a little brighter than black, but that's okay because we can darken that up very easily. What we need is all of that bright white hair detail. It looks so much better than it did before. I'm going to go ahead and click OK in order to accept that new channel.
And now let's go ahead and take a look at it here inside the Channels panel. This was the result we came up with before in the previous exercise, subtract offset 50. Now, with this guy, Alpha 1, which I'm going to rename subtract offset 255 (dodged), because I worked from the Dodged layer. This looks a heck of a lot better. So just a little bit of work clicking around there with the Dodge tool ended up doing a sensational job of paving the way for creating a base alpha channel.
In the next exercise I'll show you how to increase the contrast between the white hairs and the dark background.
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