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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, so a brief recap, we went ahead and applied this stone to this guys face using the Overlay Blend mode along with a few other settings. And then we created a displacement map in the form of the fellows Blue Channel and we attempted to use that displacement map in order to wrap the stone around the contours of his flesh, but it didn't really work out right. So we are going to make some modifications, in this exercise we are going to make some modifications to that displacement map in order to make it work better for our purposes. So here is the displacement map, now here is the thing, you created this displacement map, its called JCE -- if you named it the same thing, I named it in the previous exercise, it's called JCE Blue.psd and it's found inside the 18 Displace Maps folder. But you will have had to perform that exercise for this image to exist. It's a gray scale image if you followed along with me properly and now we are going to change it.
And here is the deal, what we need to do is soften the transitions inside of this image so that we don't have these super harsh transitions between highlights and shadows, that's what's causing the pixel ripping to occur when we employ this image as a displacement map. So sharp edge gray scale image is while they look great, don't work well for displacement maps. Soft, gummy, gooey images that look terrible work great as displacement maps. So let's go ahead and gum this image up.
I want you to go up to the Filter menu and I want you to choose Noise, then choose Median and I am looking for an average radius value of 8 pixels, then click OK. Now again that's not a magic number, just happens to work well for this image when you are building your own displacement maps, you will want to experiment to see what works best for you. But I went with 8 pixels, now I am going to follow it up by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Blur, choosing Gaussian Blur as I want to do, its very common way to work. Go to Gaussian Blur and let's take that radius value up to twice the previous radius value, just to make sure that we are wiping out any extra new edges inside of this image. So I will take the radius value up to 16 pixels, twice eight and I will click OK. And even though it doesn't look as good, right, it's a better displacement map just take my word for it.
Now let's go up to the File menu and just go ahead and save, just go ahead and update the file by choosing the Save command. If you want to do a Save As, you can, just remember the new name for your file if you are going to go that route. I am just going to save over the original because it's just the Blue Channel that's already inherent in the guy, we can get it any time we want. Don't want to be cavalier but I mean you know, we can its just sitting there ripe for the picking. All right, let's return to the RGB composition that we have been working on here, it's still called, Your mother was right.psd. We really haven't done anything to this image except for turn off the chain link between the Stone and the Layer mask. So make sure that chain is missing, if it isn't, if its there, if you can see it click on it to make it go away. And then click on the stone thumbnail right there to make it active.
Now let's go up to the Filter menu, choose Distort and choose Displace and these values still hold true. So Horizontal Scale -12, Vertical Scale 12, click OK. Then what I want you to do is click on JCE Blue.psd that's found inside the 18_Displace Maps folder. If that's where you put it, I hate to overemphasize these things, but dude I must. And then I will click the Open button in order to apply that change and check it out. Lets go ahead and zoom in, this is before, this is after and you can see how it's doing just this great job of wrapping the stone around his face and we don't have those ripped pixels on his lip any more.
So that's been largely taking care of. It's a little soft in this region but it looks pretty darn good. So again this is before, this is after, things looks really nice over his cheek region and into his jaw. So it really looks like we are going up and around like this on the cheek and then down and around in the concave area of his jaw. So, again, before, flat; after, nice rounded contours. The only change I would make is in the nose region, I just don't buy the front area here of his nose and I feel like it should be this soft and there is a little ripping still going on there.
So I am going to go ahead and grab the History brush and then I am going to bring up the History palette which I could do by choosing the History command from the Window menu of course. And I am going to go ahead and source the step just before Displace as my History Brush source right there so that I am painting back to before the Displace filter. Then I am going to go with a very big soft brush. So I want to make sure my brush is as soft as humanly possible here and maybe a little smaller than that, so about 125 that should work out really well and then just kind of paint over the nose.
And also the Displace function kind of blue the bridge of his nose out a little bit, so that it looks like his nose is kind of slightly broken. So I will just paint that back in like so, I like it better the way it was before and I could paint this side of the nose as well. And does that look better? Lets see, before, after, before, after, yeah I like that. All right, anyway, paint to your hearts content, do want you think you need to do. Now there is one other thing that I want to do, I feel like this stone is too colorful, its need to be a little more stony and I think if we made it little bit more beige, it would be more stony.
So I am going to lift a color from this stone pattern here, I am going to go ahead and restore the Blend mode to normal by switching back to the Rectangular Marquee tool which I have done and press Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac. And then I am going to get my Eyedropper and the reason I have to shift back to normal is because the Eyedropper tool is always seeing the composite color. So I grab the Eyedropper tool and I could get it by pressing the I key of course, I will go ahead and click in this region right here which is a nice stony color. And then I am going to switch back to the rectangular marquee, press Shift+Alt+O again or Shift+Option+O on the Mac in order to restore the Overlay mode.
You can also do an undo if you want to because the Eyedropper function changing a foreground or background color is not an undoable operation. So the last thing you really did, the last undoable operation was changing the Blend mode so Ctrl+Z or Command+Z would work as well; just mentioning that so you know your alternatives. All right, I am going to Alt+click or Option+click on this black-white icon and I am going to choose Solid color and I am just going to call this Color, I don't want to call it Stone because we already have a Stone layer and I don't want to call it stone color because that's obvious. Anyway so I am just calling it Color and I am going to click OK in order to create a layer filled with that stone color. So it's going to go ahead and lift the foreground color as the color for this new dynamic fill layer. Then I will click OK and it appears on top of the stone image which is just fine actually.
All right, so now I am going to take this Color layer and I am going to move it under the Stone layer actually. So it looks like this and I am going to go ahead and Alt+drag or Option+drag the layer mask thumbnail onto this color layer so that we are keeping the color inside of the flesh region right there. And then I am going to change the Blend mode for this layer to the Color Blend mode by pressing Shift+Alt+C or Shift+ Option+C on the Mac and I am going to press the 8 key to reduce the Opacity value to 80%. We end up with this effect right here, this is without that Color Layer, this is with the Color Layer, definitely a more stony effect if we add this color layer to the mix. I am going to go ahead and Tab away my palettes and press the F key a couple of times and then I will zoom in on the image and this is the final version of the composition with his flesh turned to stone, thanks to a combination of blend modes and displacement maps and of course filtering the displacement map with a Median and Gaussian Blur filters. Very important, in order to demonstrate to children across the world, listen to your mommies kids, mommies are right.
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