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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, we're going to adjust the workspace so that your panels are in the same position as my panels and so that you have access to all the panels you'll need to successfully mask images inside Photoshop. We'll also adjust a couple of panel Preference settings so that your copy of Photoshop behaves just as mine is behaving. By the way, these preferences in my opinion help to limit your frustration with the program. So I'm starting off with the workspace that's known as Essentials.
If you want to make sure that we're starting from exactly the same place, then you can right-click on Essentials, and choose Reset Essentials. That'll go ahead and display the panels as you see in here. I'm going to double-click to the right of the word Styles up here in the top-right corner in order to collapse my Color panel. Then I'll double-click to the right of the word Paths in order to expand my Layers panel. The reason I have to do this is because I'm working in a low-resolution environment here, that is, my screen is small and the only reason we do that is so the videos fit nicely on your much larger screen. All right! Now, we're going to bring up a few additional panels by going to the Window menu and first choosing the Actions command.
That'll go ahead and display this little Actions icon here in this column list on the right-hand side of the larger panel. Next, go up to the Window menu and choose the Info command. As long as you have Info open like so, what I'd like you to do is click on this little plus sign. Notice it here next to X and Y, click on it, and change your unit of measure from either Inches or Centimeters or Millimeters depending on where you live to Pixels. Pixels is by far the best unit of measure when working inside of the pixel-based Photoshop. All right! Now, I'd like you to go back to the Window menu and choose Brush, and that way you've got all of your Brush options ready and waiting for you.
Then go back to the Window menu again, and choose Character, and that'll give you access to both the Character and Paragraph panels which are important for formatting type. Then, go up to the Window menu, and choose layer Comps. We're going to be taking advantage of layer Comps quite often throughout this series. By the way, layer Comps allow you to save states of your image basically; which layers are turned on, the Opacity and the Blend modes of layers and so forth. I go ahead and bring up the tool Presets panel as well which you'll see down here.
If you own Photoshop Extended, just the Extended version, you'll also see this little 3D icon, which is just fine. All right! Now, I'm going to move things around slightly by dragging the tool Presets icon up into this next step up, so it's immediately below layer Comps. I'm going to grab Notes which I never use. You may, but I don't. Drag it into the middle of the window like so, and then I'll close it by clicking on the little close x right there, and then I'm going to grab my Navigator panel which is toward the top of the list, above the little Histogram icon, go ahead, and drag it down below tool Presets like so, and drop it into place.
You might also want to increase the width of your panels a little bit just so you can better see what you're doing. Now, what I recommend you do is save out this workspace by clicking on this little Double-arrow icon up here at the top of the screen and then choose New Workspace and then go ahead and name your workspace One-on-One, so named after my One-on-One video courses, and click the Save button. Now, in my case, I've already created a One-on-One, I'll just go ahead and save over it, doesn't harm anything. You'll see One-on-One listed up here are at the top of the screen.
Now, if you don't see all the workspaces you want to, you can drag this little bar back and forth like so and that'll reveal other workspaces that are available to you. I'm just going to go ahead and tuck it down so I'm seeing One-On-One, Essentials, and Design. If you ever want to switch back to the original Essentials, then you just go ahead and click on Essentials. If that doesn't do it for you, then you right-click and choose Reset Essentials, and that'll reset the workspace; now you might think, oh! No, I got rid of the work I just got done doing. Not true.
All I have to do now is click on One-On- One and that'll reinstate the workspace that we just created. A couple of other changes that I recommend here; inside the Adjustments panel with the Adjustments panel open, and if you don't see it, you can go to the Window menu and choose Adjustments. I recommend you go to the Flyout menu icon, go ahead and click on it, and then turn off this command. By default, this command has a check mark in front of it; Add Mask by Default. You do not want masks by default for your adjustment layers.
They just end up getting in the way. You can always add them later, it's no problem. So go ahead and turn that command off. Let's drop down to Layers panel, click its Flyout menu icon, and choose panel Options. Go ahead and set the Thumbnail Size to the biggest one, so click on this big thumbnail right there in order to make it active and that way you can get a big preview of every layer inside of your image. I also recommend you turn off this check box, the one that says Use Default Masks on Fill layers, turn it off, Expand New Effects, go ahead and leave that one turned on, and then Add "copy" to Copied layers and Groups, turn that one off.
That way, you'll have fewer problems with your layer names. Then, go ahead and click OK. Now, switch to the Channels panel which is right next door. Right-click in an empty portion of that panel and choose Large as I've done, so you get large previews inside your Channels panel, very important, then switch over to Paths and do the same thing, right-click, and choose Large. That's it! Now, you and I are totally on the same page. I'm going to go ahead and click on the Layers panel to make it active. I'm going to double-click to the right of the word Masks to go ahead and collapse the Adjustments panel.
Then, I'll double-click to the right of the word Styles to expand my Color panel and this is how I'll be working throughout this course. With those few steps accomplished, I now set you free to enjoy the more exciting and creative movies in the following chapters.
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