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Photoshop CS5 for Photographers provides comprehensive Photoshop training targeting the needs of photographers. In this course, author Chris Orwig demonstrates the fundamental skills used to enhance digital photos, including managing and correcting color, sharpening, making selections and adjustments, retouching, and printing from Photoshop. In addition to teaching the techniques that enable photographers to refine and publish their photos, the course includes live-action segments that encourage thinking photographically and shooting with Photoshop’s capabilities in mind. Exercise files are included with the course.
In order to further deepen our understanding of masking, and in order to improve our masking skills, let's go ahead and take a look at a little project where we will learn a handful of things about masking and also refining our mask edge and sweetening things up a little bit. Well, here I have this portrait that I took of Timmy Curran, and Timmy is a really good musician and a pro surfer, and in those areas he's quite a celebrity. And let's say that one of his sponsors wants us to extract this image from its context. In other words, they want to remove the train tressel in the background.
They just want this photograph of Timmy on something like a pure white background, or something like that. Well, how can we go about creating something like that? Well, one of the first steps we would want to take would be in our Layers panel, we want to copy this Background layer. And a lot of times, it's a good idea to copy your Background layer, just so you have extra flexibility. This isn't essential, yet it will be helpful here for the demo. So I'll go ahead and copy the Background by pressing Command+J on a Mac, Ctrl+J on a PC, and I'll double-click the layer name and just call this one "copy." Well, next step, I want to use the Quick Select tool in order to make a selection.
I'll press the W key. That will give me the Quick Select tool. I can change my brush size by pressing the right bracket key. We want a little bit of a bigger brush. Now I'm going to go ahead and simply click and drag across him, and what we're going to need to do is to fix this up a little bit in order to make sure this selection is good. But we'll rough this out and see how we do. Again, I'm just clicking and dragging over the subject here in order to build up our selection. Now if we want to subtract from the selection, hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt key on a PC. We can subtract that area there.
Zoom in a little bit onto the hair. What we can do with the hair is we can try to bring that into this selection a little bit. It's not going to be perfect, but let's see if we can make it a little bit better in a few minutes. And again, just adding in. This case, I added in too much. Hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt key on a PC. We can subtract some of those little areas there. And again, just going back and forth, trying to get a good selection, and I think we have it. We're looking at the marching ants here, seeing if these are all in good shape.
Oh, I missed a finger on the hand there. I'll paint that in. And all that I'm doing to add this to the selection is clicking and dragging. I'm moving the image around by holding down the Spacebar key and then clicking, and that's how I can move it up or down. And again, I'm just looking to make sure I have most of the image there, and I think that will do fine. The next step is to click on the Add Layer Mask icon. Now when we do that, we're not going to see anything because we have the same exact image underneath. So we need to turn off the visibility of that underlying layer.
Okay, well so far so good. It's not perfect, but we have a decent selection. Well, let's say that we want to make this selection even better. How could we refine those edges after the fact, after we've already created the mask? Well, all that we need to do is to navigate to the Masks panel, and here we can choose Mask Edge. And the Mask Edge will open up this Refine dialog, which allows us to refine our edges. In this case, I'm going to turn on Edge Detection and increase my Radius.
You're going to see that that's going to really help out the hair over here. So I'll go ahead and increase that, and then I can increase the Contrast to bulk up the edges just a little bit, and then I can Smooth things out just a touch. I don't want it to be too soft, but I do want to improve the mask. We'll click on this icon here. Here's our before and then our after, much better masked edge. One of the things that we can do, as well, is we can use this particular tool to refine our edge in order to expand the area that we're working on.
So in this case, I'm going to go ahead and expand this area, and you can see that it removed that white in the background there that was problematic. And that really helped out a little bit. And I'm going to go ahead and do this in a couple of other areas, and this is just expanding the Edge Detection and helping me get hair that's a little bit more transparent. I'm going to Smooth it out just another pixel or so now because I think that will look nice with the hair, and here is our before and then our after. That may be hard to see. Let me zoom in on that. All right. Here we go.
Here is our before and then our after. You can see that it really sweetened that up. Let's look at this side. Again, our before over there, lots of problems, and then our after. So this Refine Mask option can really help us out by leaps and bounds. All right. Well, all that we need to do here is simply click OK in order to apply that, and now we have a new version of this image. Let's zoom out a little bit so we can see it. All right, so far so good. We have this without a background.
Now if we simply wanted to add a background color, let's say something behind this image, well there are a number of different techniques that we could use in order to do that. One simple technique will be to create a new layer and then to fill that new layer with a solid color. Well, let's do that. We'll click on the New layer icon, and I'll go ahead and name this layer "white." You can rename the layer by double-clicking in the name. We need this underneath our image here. And then we'll go to Edit and choose Fill, and then we can select White from the Contents pulldown menu.
Now that's kind of the long cut. What would be the shortcut for filling with White? Well, the shortcut would be filling with the color in our background color here, which happens to be White. So on a Mac, that's Command+Delete; on a PC, that's Ctrl+Backspace. That would then fill that background with White. And now we have successfully extracted this subject from the background, and more importantly we've learned a little bit more about masking, and how with masking we can use this Mask Edge dialog in order to make our edge selections, and our masks, even better.
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