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The elusive alpha channel remains one of the most misunderstood yet powerful tools in Photoshop. Alpha channels are collections of luminance data that control the transparency of an image, and they inform just about every aspect of Photoshop. As he builds transitional blended layers, fashions a depth map, makes edge adjustments, and takes on extreme channel mixing, Omni Award-winning expert Deke McClelland teaches Photoshop users that where there's a will, there's a way. Photoshop CS3 Channels and Masks: Advanced Techniques covers mapping texture on an image, turning flesh into stone, using vector masks, working with all different channels, creating a rustic edge effect, and much more. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Channels and Masks from the Exercise Files tab."
All right friends just a couple of more steps to go. In this exercise we are going to go ahead and choke the highlights that are showing up around the fingertips, and in the next exercise we are going to add some tendrils of lightning, it's going to be really cool, coming after the pen nib. All right so here is the deal. I am working inside of a catchup document called Supersat.psd, because it is supersaturated, don't you know? And I am going to go ahead and zoom in on the image a little bit. Now you can see that the pen has sort of these choked shadows that are tracing around it. So the pen is actually in good shape. I don't want to change the way that the mask is fitting the pen right now, but we have some highlights and very soft highlights that are popping off of the fingertips and I think it would help the image out a lot, it would help the composition, if we could choke some of that away, just a little bit without affecting that pen nib of course.
So here is what we are going to do. Go ahead and click on the hand layer for starters and I want you to press the Q key to enter the Quick Mask mode or you can click on the Quick Mask mode icon of course if you prefer. Then I want you to grab the Gradient tool and it should be set to a linear gradient, Mode normal, Opacity 100% all that jazz. All the default settings there, and let's go ahead and switch to the Foreground to Transparent gradient. And with any luck Black is our foreground color as it is for me so I am going to go ahead and drag like this from this point on the pen I am going to drag over in order to create the soft transition and this will protect the pen of course and it will expose the flesh tones, the hand itself to some modifications.
Now I'll go ahead and press the Q key once again or Click on the icon to leave the Quick Mask mode and return to these standard marching ants mode right there. Now I want you to click on the layers mask for the hand layer and we are going to go up to the Filter menu and we are going to choose Other and because we want to choke the mask we want to choose Minimum, because we want to expand the minimum luminous level which of course is Black. And I am going to expand this luminous level by two pixels, radius of two pixels and you can see how that chokes things inward around the fingertips without affecting the protected pen nib and I will go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. And that looks pretty darn good, I think.
The flaring is still popping up after the thumb a little bit but everything else is taken care of quite nicely. This is before and this is after, and if we had any concerns about that if I wanted to bring the thumb into the equation as well, I would just go ahead and undo that modification. Go back to the Quick Mask mode here for a moment and grab my paint brush. It will be probably the best way to do it. Make sure that your mode is set to Normal. And let's just go ahead and swap the foreground and background colors here so that the foreground is White, and I will paint in the thumb like that, but not too much. I need to be pretty careful. Let's go with harder brush actually. I will press Shift+] a couple of times in the row and then press left bracket a couple of times in the row in order to make my brush a little bit smaller there, because I really don't want to get that pen and I will go ahead and press Shift+[ in order to get a softer brush again. I might also paint into this region of this fingertip of the third finger there. The pen nib is still protected that is what is most important at this point.
Now press the Q key to escape back out and click on the layer mask icon once again to make sure it is active and then we will go ahead and just press Ctrl+F or Command+F on the Mac to repeat the application of the minimum filter and I press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image and that looks actually quite good in the next and final exercise where this particular project is concerned. We are going to add these lightnings zaps and series of lightening zaps that are coming after pen nib. We are going to take advantage of basically this kind of power duplication function that you have available to you here inside Photoshop.
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