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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
If a selection that you're going to use is the basis of a targeted adjustment, or a composite image takes any effort at all to create, it probably makes sense to save that selection. Of course, it's worth pointing out right from the start that if you utilize a selection as the basis of a targeted adjustment, or a composite image You're probably already saving that selection, even if you don't know it. Let me show you what I mean. I'll start off by creating the selection of the sky and I'll just chose the quick selection tool and drag it across the sky. Let's assume that this selection is absolutely and I want to use it as the basis of an adjustment that only affects the sky. I'll go ahead and create the new adjustment layer. Simply choose curves, and then I'll adjust my curves adjustment so that you can see I'm only affecting the sky.
Well, that's because by adding an adjustment layer with an active selection, the layer mask for that adjustment layer will automatically reflect the shape of the selection. That means that essentially I've preserved the selection right here as part of my adjustment. The layer mask perfectly matches my initial selection. Of course, that could change. What if I modify this layer mask? Just to illustrate the point, I'll go ahead and apply some feathering to this mask. You'll notice now that we get a bit of a halo effect.
And if I show you the mask itself, you'll see that it has a soft edge. Whereas the original selection was unfeathered. It had a crisp edge. Well now if for any reason I need to get back to my original selection, I don't have it preserved anywhere, well, technically I could just set the feathering back down to zero pixels, and then reload the selection based on this layer mask. But let's assume that I've done other things to modify that layer mask and therefore I no longer have my selection available. In this case I could certainly recreate it without much trouble, but it's even easier in many cases, if I've saved that selection.
In fact, in many cases, when I create an initial selection, I'll save that as my baseline saved selection. Because I know I'm probably going to modify the results when I create a layer mask later for example. And sometimes I want to be able to get back to that original selection. So let's take a look at how we can save selections, so that they're very easy to get back to later. I'll just go ahead and throw away my adjustment layer by dragging it down to the trash can, and then I'll recreate my selection. And now, I'll go the Select > Save Selection, from down at the bottom of the menu.
That will bring up a Save Selection dialogue. I need to type a name for it. And this name should be something that is obvious. In other words, so that when you see the name on a list, you'll know exactly which portion of the image it relates to. I'll type sky for example, that seems to make a lot of sense here, and then, I'll click OK in order to create that saved selection. I'll then press Control+D on Windows or Command+D on Macintosh to deselect that selection. And now, the question is where is that saved selection? I can certainly go to the Select > Load Selection.
Now we'll bring up the Load Selection dialogue, and I can choose the appropriate selection from the Load Selection dialogue. I can even choose to invert that selection so that in this case for example, I would get the Eiffel Tower selected instead of the sky, and then I can click OK in order to load that selection. In this case a selection that's the opposite of my actual saved selection. But where is that selection saved, and how am I able to access it? Well, it's actually just an alpha channel. In other words, a channel other than the red, green, or blue channels that define color in our images. So, I can go to the channels panel and sure enough, you'll see that I have a sky alpha channel.
That is my saved selection. And in fact, I can utilize the Channels panel to create a saved selection or to load a selection. So since right now I have a selection that is the opposite of my saved sky collection. I could also save this selection if I wanted to. I'll go ahead and click on the Create Channel button. That's the circle inside of a square icon. And that will create a channel based on the currently active selection. When I click that button you'll see that I get an alpha channel. It's called Alpha1 in this case.
And the white area that represents which portion of the image was selected reflects the Eiffel Tower. And the black area, the deselected area, reflects the sky. I can double-click on the name for that alpha channel in order to give it a more appropriate name. We'll call it Eiffel Tower, for example. And I'll press Enter or Return on the keyboard to apply that change. And I could also go back to my full color image, of course, by clicking on the RGB thumbnail. So at this point I'll deselect the selection by pressing Contro+D on Windows or Command+D on Macintosh. And we can take a look at how we can actually load a selection based on the saved selection.
So we already know that we can save or load a selection from the Select menu, and we just saw how we can effectively save a selection directly on the Channels panel. Well how can we load a selection? There are actually a couple of ways I could simply hold the Control key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on the thumbnail for the particular alpha channel that I want to load. In other words I could Control or Command click on the thumbnail for the saved selection. So here I've loaded the sky selection. I can also though, click on the alpha channel.
The save selection and then click on the Load Channel as selection button. That dash circle icon down at the bottom of the Channels panel. And that will load a selection based on the currently active channel in this case my save selection in the form of the Eiffel Tower channel. And then I'll go ahead and click on the RGB thumbnail once again, so that we could get back to the full color image. But the key is to keep in mind that selections are saved as alpha channels. Where white represents areas that are selected. And black represents areas that are deselected. And so, whether we're using the Select menu to save a selection or load a selection, or we're utilizing the various options on the channels panel.
In order to create an alpha channel or saved selection or to load that saved selection, we have various options for making sure that we'll always be able to get back to our saved selections anytime we need them.
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