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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.
Okay, so after watching that previous exercise you may feel like well, I guess the quick selection tool isn't really that bad as long as you go ahead and combine it with refine edge. That would be the wrong moral to the story. The actual moral is, the refine edge command can do that with any selection outline. So what I'm going to show you in this exercise is how you can start with the roughest selection imaginable and then make it altogether better using nothing more than the Refine Radius tool, just that one tool by itself.
All right, so we're going to start things off inside the original version of Sunny and sky.psd once again found inside the 07_refine folder and I'm going to select the image using the Lasso tool. So I'll go ahead and select the Lasso or press the L key, and then I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and I'll just click around the image like so in order to draw this polygonal selection outline. And notice that I'm not laying down all that many points. I'm not trying to be very accurate at all, and I'm zoomed way the heck out so I don't have to worry about auto scrolling.
When I get to this point here, I'll go ahead and release in order to draw that amazing selection you see right there. Now, I do have o do a better job inside the finger. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in and instead of using the quick selection tool I'll use a tool that's going to work better for our purposes which is the Magic Wand tool. And now notice that all of my options up here in the Options bar are set to their defaults so Tolerance is 32, Anti -alias, and Contiguous are turned on. Then I want you to press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click inside of this little wedge and then Alt+ Click, or Option+Click inside this area well to deselect them.
All right, now I'm going to go ahead and express this selection as a mask by dropping down to the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. And then I'll go up to the Select menu and choose Refine Mask command and rather than modifying any of the numerical values or turning on Smart Radius or doing any of that stuff I'm just going to work with the refine radius tool. I'll go ahead and zoom out a little bit so that I can see the entire image. I want to make sure that I brush all the way to the top and I'll increase the size of my cursor.
However, my Radius value is active so I need to turn on and off the Show Original check box to deactivate the numerical values. That's just something you have to do on the PC you don't have to do that on the Mac. And I'll increase the heck out of the size my cursor by pressing the right bracket key several times then I'll paint over that big region of hair and just like that it gets better. So you don't have to start with a good selection in the first place. In fact, you can start with relative garbage in the case of this image. But this is a fairly easy image to work with, because it has such a plain background.
All right, I'm going to increase the size of my cursor farther just paint one big paint stroke over on the left- hand side that takes care of that. Go ahead and zoom in on this region here. Now, I'm going to decrease the size of my cursor and paint inside this region. In order to reevaluate it we need to paint down here as well in order to reevaluate that slight detail. So I'm going to decrease the size of my cursor until it fits inside that strand of hair. So I'm going to make it pretty tiny and you can see the Size of the cursor up here in the options bar.
Notice it's 9 pixels in my case, and then I'll Alt+Drag, or Option+Drag carefully through that little region like so, it does a pretty decent job. We have some rough edges inside of the fingers, you do not want to paint with a refine radius tool, because that will mess things up. What I propose we do is increase the Smooth value to 1, just to smooth things off ever so slightly and then click OK in order to refine that layer mask. All right, let's go ahead and center the zoom and then zoom in here and I'll scroll up a little bit so we can see the difference.
This is before if I press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac quite the selection outline I started with and this is the after version if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z again, so much better as you can see. If you decide at some point that this new mask isn't quite everything you want it to be you can apply refine mask again. So you can apply this command as many times in a row as you like. You are of course modifying the layer mask so that is a destructive modification to the mask. However, it's a nondestructive modification where the overall composition is concerned.
So with that layer mask selected, I'm going to return to the Select menu choose Refine Mask again. The thing that's bothering me is that I'm seeing a little bit of blue here inside of the edges of her hair. So in other words, we've a little bit of color fringing going on. And this command offers an automated method of getting rid of that fringing. It's this Output value right here Decontaminate Colors. If you turn it on I want you to notice something notice Output To is set to layer Mask. In other words, normally when you use this command you're going to modify the contents of the layer mask.
However, if you turn on Decontaminate Colors that's actually going to change the colors inside of the image itself and notice that we have some brown showing up in the hair and these browns are caused by the flash colors bleeding into the hair. That ostensibly is going to get rid of some of the blues inside the hair. We're doing a nice job of getting rid of the blues up at the top of the hair, because it's low saturation blacks that are bleeding into this region. However, I'm not sure I'm too pleased with what's going on around the fingers. You have the option of controlling the Amount of decontamination.
If you're seeing too many colors change you can reduce that value if you're seeing not enough colors change you can increase that value. In our case, I'm going to go ahead and take that value down to something like 20 ends up doing a pretty decent job. Notice now Output To, because we are modifying the image itself we are recoloring it, Output To is set to new layer with layer mask. In other words, Photoshop is wary of modifying your original image so it's creating another one. Click OK and you create a new version of the sunny layer and the old version is turned off.
I think that looks pretty darn good so I'll go ahead and stick with it. Anyway there you have it, one of the best selection tools inside of Photoshop not quick selection, or any of these other automated tools over here in the toolbox, but rather the refine radius tool that's available to you exclusively inside the Refine Edge and Refine Mask dialog boxes.
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