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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're going to refine our mask as well as our compositing to achieve a more convincing glass effect. I've saved my progress as Jagged layer mask.psd found inside the 09_layer_masks folder, and you may recall if you Alt+ Click or Option+Click on that layer mask thumbnail, so that we can view the layer mask independently, we have some very jagged transitions at work. All right, let's go ahead and bring the RGB image back by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking on the layer Mask thumbnail again, make sure the layer mask is selected and then go up to the Select menu and choose the Refine Mask command or press Ctrl+Alt+R or Command+Option+R on the Mac.
Now notice that my View option is currently set to Black & White, so that I can keep an eye on that layer mask, I'm going to crank the Smooth value up to 10 pixels for this effect and that does a great job of smoothing off those edges. I also experimented, by the way, with the Radius value. I went ahead and took it up to 10 pixels let's say, and that does a pretty decent job of tracing those drops of water along the edges of the glass, but we also get some gaps along the outline of the glass, which means that the outside edges would disappear which is not something we want at all. So in that case, let's go ahead and take the Radius value down to something like 2 pixels and we end up getting these strange transitions, they're kind of lumps where these nice rounded bubbles ought to be.
So it turned out to be not what I'm looking for. Anyway, I'm going to crank that Radius value all the way down to 0 pixels. Works great for fragile details like care, but all we need gently rounding contours. The Radius value doesn't necessarily work out so well. Now I want to see what my composite image looks like here and so I'm going to turn on Show Original for a moment just so we can see those jagged edges, and then I'll turn Show Original back off and the only reason I did that was to make sure that none of the values are active and now I'll press the X key to turn off the View option, so that we're seeing the fully layered composition.
I need to shift that edge inward and I'm going to do so by reducing the Shift Edge value to its absolute negative, which is -100% and that went ahead and turn the View option back on, so I need to turn the Show Original option on and off, and then I'll press the X key again and we can see that we've lost those highlights along the edges which are not actually part of the glassware. All right, let's go ahead and zoom out so that we can make sure that everything looks pretty darn good, and if I scroll the image around you can see that there are some tiny little problems here and there, but my biggest issue is this line that comes out from the right side of the right-hand glass.
I can take care of that problem manually however, so I'll just go ahead and click OK in order to accept these settings. So again I set this Smooth value to 10, I left Feather and Contrast alone and I took the Shift Edge value down to -100. All right, go ahead and click OK, and now scoot the image over a little bit. You need to have the Rectangular Marquee tool selected just as I do and I want you to drag from about here. Notice that I'm outside the stem, but I'm even with the point at which the stem connects with the glass and now I'm going to drag upward until I extend the height of the marquee beyond the top edge of the glass right here, so I'm cutting straight through it.
Now I want you to make sure your background color is black, if it's not press the D key to establish the default masking colors. Make sure the layer Mask thumbnail is still active and then go up to the Edit menu and choose the Free Transform command or press Ctrl+T on the PC or Command+T on the Mac, and I'm going to go ahead and zoom in here, so I can see exactly what I'm doing. I'll drag this right-hand side handle inward like so, just a little bit to the left to tuck that edge into place, and then I'll press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to apply that modification and press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the mask.
Now notice I didn't leave any gap over here in the right-hand area and that's because the background color is black, so that gap got filled in with black inside of the layer mask. I also didn't create any problems whatsoever along the edge of my transformation and that's because for one thing I made sure that the height of my rectangle was taller than the edge of the glass, and for another thing I was working with a rectangle, so rectangular selections are great for applying transformations, because you don't end up with any weirdness along those absolutely vertical and horizontal edges.
All right, now let's play with the compositing a little bit, I'm going to zoom back out and it seems to me at this point we're just ending up with opaque glasses, especially if I turn the multiply layer back on. In fact, the glasses are more opaque than they ever were, because we're multiplying in the darkest details and screening in the lightest details. Why don't we go ahead and reduce the Opacity of the screen layer which is currently called glasses to 50% by pressing the 5 key and that's better, but I think we could increase the impact a little bit.
So press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on a Mac in order to create a new copy of that layer and let's call this new layer, screen 50% because that's what it is, then click OK to accept that change. Drop-down to the glasses layer and let's change its Blend mode from Normal to the most subtle of the Contrast modes which is Soft Light and we end up with this effect here which is not half bad. Also rename this layer soft light, so I remember what purpose it serves. All right, now I would say that's a pretty darn good effect, the problem is that the glasses appears if they contain some sort of misty gas right at the top of them.
A gas that doesn't flow over the edges, that's no good. We need to clear out the top of those glasses and I'm going to show you how to do so by assigning a layer Mask to a group in the very next exercise.
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