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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."
In the previous exercise, we started off our color mask using a combination of the Lasso tool along with the Color Range command. In this exercise, we are going to take up where we left off and we are going to refine that color mask. Here is our progress so far. It's a file called it Early color mask.psd found inside the 12 Speciality folder. We have got a layer called yellow, it's a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer that is somewhat masked at this point rather crudely masked so far and it is modifying the colors of this original image here from photographer Bobby Osborne and you can see that the original image had a crimson blouse. We are trying to change that blouse color to yellow, without changing her skin tone, so of course and you can see that we have changed some skin tones.
I am going to go ahead and zoom in here; we have got these sort of clumsy polygonal edges going on. We need to get rid of those. So I want you to make sure that you are working on the Hue/ Saturation adjustment layer the one called yellow and I want you to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask in order to view that layer mask by itself on screen. Now let's paint away some of those edges using that tried and true technique of the Overlay Brush. So go ahead and select the Brush tool and I am going to increase the size of my cursor and I am going to switch the mode to Overlay by pressing Shift+Alt+O or Shift+Option+O on the Mac and by the way I am changing the Brush Size using the bracket keys. I have a soft brush going to and I am now going to paint in the wrong color.
All right, so I need to make sure before I start painting I need to make sure what my foreground color is, currently it's white. That's not what I want I am going to press the X key to switch it to black. Now I will paint and notice that I am doing a good job. Now I have painting away the stuff that I don't want and I will continue to paint away that garbage stuff that I am not interested in having there, paint along the face as well, but be careful don't paint away to much of that blouse up there at the top. So I will go ahead and Undo that modification and reduce the size of brush and paint a little more carefully here and then I am going to paint down this edge like so her shoulder so that we are painting that shoulder away and I am going to also work on this shoulder over here so I will paint this shoulder area away as well and I am going to leave the hair alone for now because we are going to have to deal with that independently.
Now notice that we have these little bits of fabric that are showing up these shadows. I want to paint those away too but I need to paint them with white. So I am press the X key to switch my foreground color to white and then I am gong to paint those threads of fabric away and also these edges right here. Watch the buttons, don't paint the buttons. We want those buttons to stay whatever color they were. Also leave this thing alone, I am not painting I am just showing it leave that little thing alone there because that's a gap in her blouse that we want to leave unharmed. All right, I am going to reduce the size of my cursor and paint right there and right there and right across the top of the buttons. I am trying to careful, but I do need this area back to black. So I will press the X key and paint like so in order to paint that area black. I will press X again to switch back to white. Let's see what we have left here. We have some regions inside of her tummy that need to painted away and some regions up here as well and I will paint that and I will paint here. LCD screens actually can be pretty useful for identifying masks because you can sort of move your head around and see the color variations and sometimes full on white and full on black show up a little differently at different angles on LCD screens.
Anyway I have done pretty good job, I think of painting away the stuff I don't want. I am going to go ahead and zoom out and let's check our work using the Magic Wand tool. I am going to go ahead and grab the Magic Wand tool. I want you to set the Tolerance to zero which you see at here Anti-alias off, Contiguous on, click inside of the blackness to see if we have made as much tough black as we need to make and I am going to go ahead and zoom in just the little bit here. Why don't we go ahead and press Ctrl+Shift+I or Command+Shift+I to reverse that selection and then I can see those marching ants so I know which areas as we need to paint away. So I will leave those marching ants visible right there and I am going to go grab my Brush tool and I want to be painting with black, so I will press the X key and then I will paint those areas.
So I am just basically painting over the stuff that is selected that I can see sort of selection outlines around that I know should be going away here and I will paint up here in the hair region as well upper hair regions above the shoulder and I will paint down here into the shoulder and along down here as well and now let's see if I did any good whatsoever. Let's go ahead and grab the Magic Wand tool and click out here again and it does look like I have gotten pretty tie to the edges this time. Now click inside of the blouse and see what's left over. You can see all those marching ants hanging around there. So let's press Ctrl+Shift+I or Command+Shift+I in order to reverse the selection, that way I can actually get some work done because that away I am selecting the portions of the image that I need to change.
Now I will press the B key for the Brush tool. I will press the X key to switch my foreground color back to white and this is just mundane stuff that's why I am working through it pretty quickly. Then I am going to paint inside of these areas that ought to be white and I will paint over here and I will paint over here as well. I will paint across the tummy and I will paint up the shoulder region a little bit. I don't really need to get that much tone up there in the shoulder region, because I don't want to harm hair too much. Now I will try again, click inside of the white zone again with the Magic Wand tool and I picked up a lot and I think actually this is going to work out pretty well for me. I could do some additional work if I wanted to but this is I think good enough. I will press Ctrl+ D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image.
So let's go ahead and zoom in again so that we can see things up close in personal and I will Alt+Click or Option+Click once again on the layer mask thumbnail here inside the Layer's palette in order to once again view the full color image. So we still have a little bit work that we need to do here but we got a lot done. We definitely regain some flesh tones. We don't have those weird choppy polygonal outlines anymore, but we do have some bad edges you can see that we have got a red edge along her blouse. We have got a little red action down here on her tummy but that's just away the colors happen to have mapped according to the Hue/Saturation command. So that's nothing we need to worry about.
We do need to worry a little bit about, notice this shoulder region, we have a little bit of the weird yellow edge going into her bra strap here that I want to take care of. Those little dinky issues, we are going to address in the next exercise.
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