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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 save Alpha Channels along with your image file here inside Photoshop. Now you'll note that I'm still working along in the toolman.jpg file. I have unsaved changes as indicated by this asterisk outside of the parentheses here in my Title tab. If you're going to follow along with me in this exercise, you'll have to make sure that you've followed along with a previous couple of exercises and you're ready to save your brand- new Alpha Channels as well. Now the reason this is so important is because we're starting with a JPEG file and JPEG does not support Alpha Channels.
It does support up to four channels where we saving, for example, a CMYK image, but you cannot save three color bearing channels along with an alpha, which is pretty interesting given that the JPEG format came around about 10 years after Alpha Channels. However, there is a variation on JPEG called JPEG 2000 that does support Alpha Channels. The problem is it's never really caught on and it has become much of an industry standard. Whereas the TIFF format is and that's the way we'll be working.
So if you like go up to the File menu and choose either the Save command or Save As either way Photoshop is going to bring up the Save As dialog box for the simple reason that JPEG is incompatible with Alpha Channels. Now if we're working inside of a layered image I would suggest that you save that image as a native PSD document and a great thing about PSD is it does save those layers it is very much in industry standard and it introduces a little bit of lossless compression as well which saves on file size.
However, when you're working with a flat document like this that is to say there are no layers, there is just a background image, and you have Alpha Channels. Your better option is the TIFF format and the reason TIFF is better is because it offers better compression where Alpha Channels are concerned. So you'll end up with smaller files. Make sure that the Alpha Channels check box is turned on. Photoshop has a habit of turning it off sometimes in which case I'll go ahead and do it here. You'll see this warning icon and the As a Copy check box come on as well and what that will do is save your file, but it'll break the link between your existing image and that file on disk, which is not what we want.
So go ahead and turn Alpha Channels back on, make sure As a Copy is off. I'm going to name this image Masked man, and then I'll click on the Save button in order to bring up the TIFF options dialog box. Now when you're working with Alpha Channels you definitely want to set Image Compression to LZW. First of all it's more of a standard than zip. So it enjoys wider compatibility. Secondly, it really does a great job of compressing masks and I hasten to say this is lossless compression, by the way,; it's not lossy compression as with JPEG.
So none of the pixels are rewritten. What Photoshop does is it says okay here is his big area of black, for example, in the eyes channel and instead of describing each and every pixel in that area independently which is what happens when you set Image Compression to None, it goes ahead and says this huge block of pixels right here is black and that saves a heck of a lot a space. So that's the advantage to LZW. It'll make your images with Alpha Channels much smaller.
Go ahead and leave Pixel Orders set to Interleaved as by default. Byte Order actually does not matter. You can set this to IBM PC or Macintosh and still be able to open that file inside just about any application on just about any platform. If you have any concerns however, what I would recommend is that you set Byte Order to the platform that's used by the people you most often work with and that way you should have the fewest problems. But even though I'm working on a PC and I'll save it in the Macintosh format that's not going to give me any problems at all.
Nor will it give you any problems regardless of your platform. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to save out that file and that's all there is to it. So remember when saving flat images like this one than happened to contain Alpha Channels use the TIFF format. When saving layered images whether they contain Alpha Channels or not save to the native PSD format. In the next exercise I'll show you how to load you're Alpha Channel as a selection outline so you can put it in play.
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