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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 I'll show you how to convert layer effects into layers so that we can mask them. I've saved my progress to Shark with shadow.psd it's found inside the 06_color_range folder and the idea is I would like to mask this inner shadow effect that's creating these highlights here so that the highlights aren't quite this bright. Now you might figure the solution is to just dial down the opacity of that inner shadow effect. However, if we do that then we'll end up losing the highlights along the tail and along the top portion of the shark that are currently in great shape.
So I'd rather get some selective control. The thing is you can't actually apply a mask to a layer effect. So instead what you need to do is convert the effects into layers and here's how that works. I'm going to click on the shark layer to make it active. Now I don't want to lose my layer effects not permanently. So I'm going to go ahead and copy them onto the shadow layer, just in case I need to come back to them later. And I'll do that by Alt+Dragging or Option+Dragging that fx icon from shark and dropping it onto shadow, and then I'll turn the effects off.
I don't want to see the effects applied to the shadow, I just want to keep them around, because I'm about to lose them for the shark layer. Go ahead and click on that arrow to collapse those shadow effects. Then right-click on the fx next to the word shark right there and go all the way down the list until you find Create layers and go ahead and choose that command. Notice Photoshop renders both effects out as independent layers that are clipped inside of the shark. Now I don't happen to like these big overly long names, so I'm going to change them. You don't have to do this if you don't want to.
But I'm going to name this guy highlights, because after all that's what they are. Now the highlights layer which used to be the inner shadow layer, that's the one that we want to mask. So go ahead and drop down to the bottom of Layers panel and click on the Add Layer mask icon and now we're going to create a very simple mask indeed using the Brush tool. So go ahead and get the Brush tool either by clicking on it or pressing the B key. Make sure your foreground color is black which it is in my case. I am going to increase the size of my brush a little bit. Now I believe I still have a hard brush from working on the selection in the Quick Mask mode.
So I'm going to right-click inside the image window and dial that hardness value down to 0% and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac, and then I'm going to press the right bracket key a couple more times to increase the size of the brush further and I'm going to click right there on that highlight on the tail and that goes ahead and mitigates it at that location. Now we don't want that much mitigation elsewhere. So I'm going to reduce the size of my cursor a little bit and I'm going to press the 5 key to reduce the Opacity of my brush to 50% and now I'll click right about there.
I want to click on top of the shark's head at that location, and then I want a click of his nose as well. That leaves us with a much more subtle effect. So just to give you an idea here if you Shift+Click on a layer mask to turn it off then you'll see those original overblown highlights there. Shift+Click again and they look a heck of a lot better. Admittedly, it's a subtle modification, but the result is a more elegant composition. In the next exercise I'll show you how to add that synthetic rainbow.
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