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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 his exercise I'll show you how to transform and warp a selection outline. I'm working inside that file called the egg.psd and I've gone ahead and drawn my elliptical marquee. I'm going to go back up just so that we can do this together. We'll go back up to the Select menu and choose the transform Selection command. Now here's a few ways to transform a selection. For one you can go ahead and resize it by dragging one of the handles. Another option available to you, I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac.
By the way, you only have one undo when you're working inside this Transform mode. So if you mess something up like I have and you want to reinstate that original selection then you can do so using the numerical options in the options bar. So I'm going to go ahead and turn on the chain icon between W and H so that we can constrain the height and width of the object and I'm going to click on this bottom right reference point, because I want to be able to scale with respect to the bottom right corner and I'm going to increase the Width value to 100% and that ought to get me more or less back to where I was.
You can also, by the way, drag the selection if you want to in order to move it, or you can press the Arrow keys in order to nudge that selection outline around. If you move your cursor outside the bounding box you'll see it turns into a little rotate icon. Go ahead and drag in order to rotate the selection. Now in my case I'd specified that the bottom right corner was a reference point. So that's why it went ahead and rotated around that location. If you don't want that press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. In order to take advantage of your one undo switch to the center reference point like so and then go ahead and drag again to rotate around the center.
Again, I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. There are a couple of other options. If you want to slant the selection, you press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and you drag either one of these side handles like so, or I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac so I don't mess things up too much. You can also Ctrl+Drag or Command+ Drag either at the top or bottom handle. I'll undo that movement as well, because another option that's available to you is to Ctrl+Drag or Command+Drag one of the corner handles in which case you'll apply a kind of four-point distortion, like so.
None of these is what I want, and in order to reinstate the selection outline exactly I'm going to press the Escape key in order to escape out of the Free Transform mode. Now let's go right back in, because I want to show you another option that's available to you, but you haven't seen so far. We'll go up to the Select menu, choose Transform Selection. Now there is all kinds of additional keyboard tricks. You can try out. For example, let's say I go ahead and scale the selection so it's taller and I want to bend the top sides inward to create a kind of perspective effect.
Well, I would press the Ctrl+Shift+Alt keys or Command+Shift+Option and drag the corner handle inward, like so. Notice, by virtue of the fact that I have the Alt key or Option key down the opposite corner handle moves in and by virtue of the fact that I have the Shift key down I apply an exclusively horizontal distortion. So there are all kinds of other tricks and if you're sufficiently interested you can go ahead and try out some different keyboard combinations to see what happens. I'm going to press the Escape key again, because this still isn't what we are looking for, and I'll go right back to the Select menu and choose the Transform Selection command.
This time I want you to notice up here in the Options bar that there is this Warp icon. So it switches you between the Free Transform and Warp modes. Go ahead and click on the icon and you'll enter the Warp mode. When you're in this mode you can drag these handles in order to distort the shape, notice that. And this'll give us a curved distortion as you're seeing here, which is going to do a lot better job of getting us to our final goal. Now that I've dragged the control handles a few times I'm going to zoom in by pressing Ctrl++ a couple times just so I can better see what I'm doing.
Here's an even better way to work, at least it's more intuitive. You can drag directly on the selection outline. Now you won't see the selection outline update until you release, but if you start by dragging on the selection outline and then dropping on the edge of the egg, you'll actually move the outline to that location. Now you'll also move a bunch of other portions of the outline in kind. So it's going to take a lot of tweaking back and forth to get this right. I'll go ahead and drag this edge over there as well. We've got a pretty light edge here. That's why I wanted to zoom in so I could see it better.
Now I'm going to drag the top of the egg selection downwards and I'll drag this guy up a little bit and so forth and I'll drag this guy over a little bit. I'm going to zoom out so I can see the bottom portion of the egg. Notice that we are really bowing this portion of the egg outward. Let's go ahead and take it inward like so and in my case I'm dragging the control handle. It doesn't matter. That you can work back and forth any way you see fit. So essentially the egg has kind of a tapering middle associated with it. So its hips and shoulders are a little wider than its middle.
Even though that's not the way it looks, but that's the way you need to transform the selection, because it starts off as a perfect ellipse. I am going to drag this guy in just a little bit. It's those final movements that are the toughest ones. Just a warning to you. But you want to spend the time, because we do want to get this as exactly right as possible. So I'm going to take this edge out just a little bit. That's going to cause problems elsewhere of course. So I'll take the top edge down and see what happens. We are getting closer and closer to getting this right, at least I am. I hope you're experiencing some high degree of fortunate selection outline madness here.
I'll go ahead and scroll up a little bit, drag this edge upward, drag this edge downward a little bit. If you have problems getting to an edge, by the way, especially at the top and the bottom and the sides, just try again. Sometimes Photoshop doesn't read your cursor position exactly right. I am going to take this control handle down. I am going to take this one up. I'm hopefully going to do it. I'm going to take it up and out actually. That should help. One of the things that you are going to notice about this egg is that is that it's not perfectly symmetrical, at least where your modifications are concerned.
So you may have to tip it up into the left slightly. It's looking like I'm getting pretty close to being done here. I might have to take this edge down a little bit like so and that's going to move the other side down, although it looks pretty good, and I'm just going to take a look around the entire perimeter and make sure I've done a halfway decent job. I think this is about as good as I'm going to do. So I'll press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 to zoom out and then once you figure that you've got a decent selection outline go ahead and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to apply that change.
Now I'll say something about transforming selection outlines. This is a destructive modification. Bear in mind that every selection at least in Photoshop's mind is an alpha channel. So it's seeing white pixels against a black background and you just applied a static transformation effect to it, which means that's not a bad thing, one static effect is just fine. However, if you didn't get it exactly right, you don't want to go up to the Select menu and choose Transform Selection again, because that's going to apply additional damage to that selection outline.
Instead what I recommend you do as tedious as it sounds, your best option if you need to re-transform that selection is to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac and start over again. In my case though, it's looking good. So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to reinstate the transformation. Don't worry, by the way, if you're following along with me and you're having problems getting the selection the way you want it I've gone ahead and saved off my selection as an alpha channel here inside the Channels panel. In the next exercise I'll show you how to paste an image into the selection outline.
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