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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."
Oh, hey and there is one more tool that I promised to share with you. That's the Convert Point tool. So let me show you how that works here in our final exercise of the chapter. I am working inside of a document called a'Queous composition.psd. It may look like a'Queous in terms of its spelling, but thanks to that special apostrophe that we drew using that Campfire shape. It is now pronounced a'Queous which is the name of the a'Queous Land from which this woman hails. All right, I want you to switch over here to the blue 3 layer which as you may recall represents the hem of her super suit. And let's go ahead and zoom in here. Let's check out one of the points inside of this path outline. I am going to ahead and switch to the White Arrow tool and I am going to click on the path outline and notice this guy right here how he is curving, he is a smooth point of course. So he has got two opposite control handles that are locked into alignment with each other.
Now let's say what I wanted to do was create a little bit of a corner at this location. So I wanted to create a cusp point in which we have two curve segments that are ending and a sharp corner and that means that I need to break these control handles out of alignment. I don't want to cleave one of them off, I want to break it off of alignment, and I do that. I can do that by using the Convert Point tool. You get to the Convert Point tool by going to the Pen tool fly-out menu and choosing this guy right here, Convert Point tool. And notice it has the most boring of possible cursors. It looks like a little caret when you move it over something that it can activate. So if you move it over a control handle or if you move it over am anchor point, both of which the Convert Point tool can modify then you get the proper cursor which is just a little caret that the character. If it were a character of type it would be called a caret.
And I am going to go ahead now and notice this, I am going to go ahead and drag the control handle and now it moves independently of the other control handle and we just converted the smooth point to a cusp. So that's one way to use a Convert Point tool. Another way is to just click on a point. If you do that, you sever off both control handles, they both go away and you convert either a cusp point or a smooth point to a corner point. If you drag from a point then you are going to draw out symmetrical control handles. So you control that point back to a smooth point and then as I say, if you want to convert a smooth point to a cusp point, then you drag on the control handle to move them apart from each other and you get this effect here.
So let's do the same thing on this point down here, but let's do it using a keyboard shortcut just so that everything that's available to you. If you press the P key to get your Pen tool right there and notice you move your cursor over a point, then it wants to give you the Subtract Point tool unless of course you press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac in order to get the White Arrow tool on the fly. Then click on the point to select it, all right. And I am going to move the point up a little bit like so just to change its position and you know, no, I am not, because it does not reveal an edge between this path outline and the layer mask. So you know what? I am pretty happy with where it was. Let's put it back.
Now you can get the Convert Point tool on the fly when the Pen tool is selected. The Pen tool has to be active by pressing and holding the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Now it doesn't look like you are going to get to the Convert Point tool, keep that Alt or Option key down and move your cursor over the control handle. Now you can see that it's a Convert Point tool and drag that control handle independently at the other one and the deed as I like to say is done. Now I am going to press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac to move this point down like so and then I will move this control handle over as well. Now of course we are interfering with the edge of the super suit. So let's go ahead and convert this to a selection by Ctrl+Clicking or Command+Clicking on that Vector Mask thumbnail that's associated the blue 3 layer. Now switch to the blue 2 layer like so and make sure that the layer mask thumbnail is active.
Then we have got enough of an edge I think to work with here. We need to fill that area with black, so black is my foreground color. Press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that area with black inside of the layer mask. Now let's press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect that region and I am going to Alt+Click or Option+ Click on the layer mask thumbnail just to see the mask independently and make sure there is no weird little white edges remaining and there aren't. Everything looks beautiful. Now let's just go ahead and switch back, if you will, by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking again. You know there is another way to work, actually I should say, and I am going to show you what the heck. Let's be crazy. I want to show you the actually, potentially, the better way to work. Let's go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+Z, Ctrl+Alt+Z a couple of times in a row that would be Command+Option+Z, Command+Option+Z until we no longer have a selection outline.
And I am sitting here thinking rather than converting this to a selection outline and making it part of the layer mask, why don't we add a vector mask? Why don't we use a vector mask and apply it to the blue 2 layer? Because we still have the vector mask slot open to us. All right, so here I am with just my vector mask on screen here from the blue 3 layer. I am going to Alt+Drag or Option+Drag that vector mask from blue 3 down to blue 2 in order to transfer down there. Now this might make you think, gosh, Deke that can't possibly be the results you wanted. Well, no it's not. But that's okay. Watch this. What happened was I went ahead and applied the same vector mask so that we are only keeping the part inside of the hem that's associated with the blue 2 layer which is the super suit layer.
Go ahead and click on that layer mask thumbnail. It may take a couple of clicks in order to make it active and then here is what I want you to do. I want you to switch to the Black Arrow tool, by pressing the A key a couple of times you will get the Black Arrow tool. Click on the path outline. This is going to seem extraordinary weird, but just in case you haven't run into this issue. Click on the path outline, then go up to the Option bar, notice that Add is turned on. I want you to change that to Subtract. Even though it's one path by itself inside of the vector mask. There is nothing to subtract it from, you are actually subtracting it from everything. So it turns into a whole like so and notice that edge just went away. This is before, we have that edge inside of there. This is after. We get rid of the edge. We keep the super suit. All is wonderful and you can even see that now the area inside of the zigzag here inside of the Vector Mask thumbnail.
It's gray, showing that it's the whole and the area outside is white showing that it is exposed. All righty, then people. Let's go ahead and switch to a different layer that doesn't have any kind of clipping mask associated with it. This is the final, final version of the image that I came up with. You might not want to go that route with these little zigzags because it does give her a certain jowly appearance that maybe our superheroes shouldn't have, but gosh! You know what, its fun to play around with these different option, I think. And we have seen everything you can do. Everything you can do with the Pen tool, the Paths palette, adding paths, adding segments, adding points, subtracting points in segments, Converting Points of course, working with vector mask, working with layer mask, working with vector mask and layer mask together inside of Photoshop. And you know have yet another tool in your masking tackle box.
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