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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."
Now I have brought back up the final version of this composition, the version of the composition that we shall be creating together by time this chapter is over. Just so that you remember how cool this graphic is going to be, and you remember what we are going for, you know what the end result is, we want to go ahead and take this woman, who is so expertly carved out of her background here, and we want to put her in a super suit. We actually want to put her underwater a little bit, so we are going to blue up her flesh slightly. Then, we are going to add this hem to her super suit, which is a shape layer, and then we are going to finally add the super suit itself, and super suits, of course, are so great. They are lightweight, and they are bulletproof in a whole number and they trace every single little hair and wrinkle on your body.
So you can only wear super suit if you are in super great shape, because otherwise you are going to show off all your pudges and everything. You look like the Michelin Man, otherwise. Then we are going to add these waves and all this other jazz and text, you will see. But in this exercise we are going to blue up her flesh slightly and add the hem. It's all we are going to do. So here is the image. If you want to catch up with me, it is found inside of the 15_paths folder. I am going to Shift+Tab up my palettes on screen here.
Notice I am going to go ahead and zoom in a little detail here. I feel like I got something slightly wrong. Notice that we have a little bit, maybe I should zoom even farther in. We have a little bit of the background showing through underneath her chin and if that bugs you, here is how to fix it. Go ahead and click on the vector mask associated with the Profile layer to make sure it's visible, if you need to click that is, and I am going to Shift+Tab away my palettes for a moment. I am going to grab the White Arrow tool from the toolbox and I am going to click on this segment to make it active, this top segment that's associated with the shoulder path.
I am going to go ahead and drag this control handle down so it's underneath that little weird edge. I am going to drag this control handle over like so, and then I will check out to make sure that I didn't reveal any of the shoulder that I shouldn't have over on that side, and it looks pretty good actually, so that's all fine and dandy. And then, since I have my Arrow tool selected, I can just press the Enter key here on the PC, or the Return key on the Mac in order to check that edge, still not looking exactly the way we want it to, we've still got a few pixels there.
So let's try again. I will press the Enter or Return key again to bring the path back up, and I tell you what we are going to do here. Let's go ahead and take this point and drag it over a little bit, and see if that doesn't do the trick. We are so zoomed in that it's hard to tell, but I think that actually worked. Now let's press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac, and you will see some weird little edges going on, but those are the tiny little hairs underneath her jaw. So we don't want to totally eliminate those because if we did, then you know she wouldn't have any shoulder left at all. So that looks good to me. Anyway, I just wanted to show you how, once again impress upon you how infinitely flexible these path outlines are here in Photoshop. All right, let's go about making her blue, giving her a blue cast because she is underwater after all.
We are going to do that by making sure the Profile layer is active and then I am going to press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Click the Black/White icon and choose Solid Color. Once you do, you should see the New Layer dialog box appear because you have the Alt or Option key down. I am going to call this blue 1. I am going to turn on the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask, and I am going to change the Mode from Normal to Multiply. Then I am going to click OK in order to create this new dynamic fill layer, and that's going to bring up the Color Picker dialog box, and here is the values I want you to enter, 215 for Hue, and that would be a 100 for Saturation and 50 so we get this color here, very deep beautiful cobalt blue.
That matches the barracuda background. Then I will click OK to accept that. Now I want to reveal some of the lighter colors in her flesh, and I am going to do that using that Underlying Layer slider thing in the Layer Properties dialog box. So I want you to double-click in an empty portion of the blue 1 layer. It's very important that it's an empty area over here on the right. Don't double-click on the name, that renames, don't double-click on the thumbnail, that would bring up the Color Picker dialog box once again. You could double-click over here on the left hand side if you want to too, because you have a little bit of room, because you clip the layer inside of the face.
Anyway, here is what I want you to do. We are not going to get anywhere with this layer, because this layer, the active layer, just contains three luminance levels, one each in the Red, Green, and Blue channels, that's it. So this slider isn't going to do us a lot of good, but the underlying image has tons of luminance levels so we can use Underlying Layer in order to bring out the flesh. I am going to drag the white triangle over to 210 here like so. And then, we have some fairly rough transitions, I would say. So I am going to Alt+Drag or Option+Drag the left half of the white triangle all the way over to 0, like that, so that we have this continuous drop-off. Then, I am going to click OK.
So, your values by the way say 0 and then 0/210. Click OK, and you get this slight cast associated with her flesh. This is without that layer, this is with it. I think it helps a lot. It makes it look like she is being cast in some sort of gloom, and in this case, it is a little bit of an underwater gloom, a good gloom but still, it does cut the light down. Now for the hem, we are going to use that exact same shade of blue. In fact, we are going to use that same shade of blue three times, one for the color cast, one for the super suit and a third time for the hem.
So go ahead and jump this blue 1 layer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on a Mac, and I want you to call this layer blue 3, because the super suit is going to be nudged between the two. It will end up being blue 2, but the hem is blue 3. Turn on, Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask once again. Multiply is fine for now I expect, so go ahead and click OK in order to accept that new layer. Now we are going to cut it. We are actually going to cut it using a path that I have created for you in advance. So go over to the Paths palette, and you will see right there, there is costume hem ready and waiting for you.
Now that costume hem path is a pretty advance path so far as paths go. I am going to zoom in on it because it contains a lot of cusp points that are being joined by curve segments, and it's kind of waving organic curvature right there. I did draw it from scratch, you can give it a try too. It actually took me a fair amount of time to draw, I am here to tell you. But if you want to take a look at it, you can sort of piece through it using the White Arrow tool, and you can even edit it if you want to. I find actually on this side here, that I think I want to cut this up, farther a little bit, so that we are better matching this line here. I had to create three points on this side in order to match what I could just do with two points on that side because this point right there is raised by comparison to this one. So you have to make those decisions when you are working with path outlines.
Now I have got the costume hem path active here inside the Paths palette. I have got some points active too, it doesn't matter if they are. Go now back to the Layers palette, and with the blue 3 layer selected, I want you to Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on this layer mask icon here at the bottom of the Layers palette. Now then I want to change the blending a little bit. So I am going to double-click in front of the layer this time in order to bring up the Layer Style dialog box, and I am going to adjust the Underlying Layer properties here.
I am going to try to drag that left half of that white slider, but it's not going to let me, so I will have to do that in a separate operation and then put the black triangle back where it was. Then I am going to move that left half of the white triangle up to 120, actually. So let's bring it back down here. So 120, and then I am going to bring the right half of that white triangle up to 255. I figure that looks a little gloomy, it looks a little kind of dark blue, kind of low-saturation blue. So I am going to change the Blend mode to Hard Light.
That gives me a more saturated color and then I will click OK in order to accept that modification. If we go ahead and click on the vector mask to hide it from view, then we can see, this is the bluish version of the woman's face along with the hem. And of course, the hem is staying inside of her face because we are working with the Clipping Mask. If we were to unclip that by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking on that horizontal line right there, you can see that the path would exceed the boundaries of her face a little bit at the top and just ever so slightly at the bottom in the chin area.
So make sure by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking that horizontal line again, that the path is clipped, otherwise, it's going to bleed over into the barracudas, and we don't want that. Goodness knows, they are terrifying enough without irritating them with some extra path overflow. In the next exercise, we are going to add the super suit, and we are going to create that super suit using a traditional layer mask that is based on our path outlines.
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