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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.
Over the course of this chapter, I'll be passing along a few additional masking tricks. We'll also cover a few fundamentals of compositing; we'll see what to do when things go wrong. In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to view a mask and an image at the same time so that you can get your bearings and decide what kind of modifications need to be made to the mask. I'm working inside of file called Wikked comp.psd and the idea here is we are building a magazine cover. You'll see that I've got this text elements group here inside the Layers panel and it contains an editable type layer set in Myriad Pro Bold Condensed which should've been automatically installed on your machine along with the Creative Suite.
Then, the rest of the text I've gone ahead and converted to a shape layer. That way, the image remains scalable in case you want to make it larger or up sample the image, that kind of thing. In other words, the text will always remain smooth. I'll go ahead and twirl that group close and click on the background image again. Most of the magazine cover is done. The one outstanding item is the nameplate. I want to eventually create a nameplate down here at the bottom of the image that looks like this, that is, this bar filled with this colorful gradient. We have the magazine name cut out of that bar, and then I also have one of the model's boots coming in front of the bar, so we get an integration between the design, and the photographic background. All right! I'm going to switch back to the image at hand and I'll also switch over to the Channels panel.
So you can see down here at the bottom of the panel, I've got two alpha channels that I've created in advance for you. One is called nameplate; just drew a big rectangle with Rectangular Marquee tool, filled it with white, and then created some black text on top of it. Then, down here at the bottom, I've got this alpha channel called boot which represents my first attempt at selecting that red boot, and it's a pretty rough attempt as we'll see. I'm going to go ahead and scroll back up to the top of the list here, click on RGB. I am going to give you a sense of how I put that together. As we'll be discussing in a future chapter, Photoshop provides three automated selection tools; they include the Quick Selection tool and the Magic Wand, both available from the same flyout menu, neither of which worked worth beans where selecting this boot is concerned.
I'll just show you what I did with the Quick Selection tool, for example,. I went ahead and dragged inside the boot, and pretty darn quickly there, the selection outline jumped outside the boot, and ended up enclosing a fair amount of the background. Well, you can deselect with this tool as well by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and then dragging, like so. But, I found as I did so that I deselected way too much and really honestly if the Quick Selection tool isn't quick, what good is it? So I just went ahead, and pressed Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to give up on that.
The automated tool that ended up producing the best effects was the Magnetic Lasso tool. This is a fairly intricate tool to use. You actually have to set points and kind of move your cursor against the edge and it takes a few minutes in order to get the selection right and I've already got some problems there. We'll go ahead and back step backward. However, I'm not going to show you how to use the tool right now. Again, we'll be talking about all three in a future chapter. Just accept that I did indeed created this mask using the Magnetic Lasso tool. But, if we zoom-in on it, you can see that even though it took a few minutes to create the darn thing, it's pretty lumpy and bumpy, and a bunch of other words that have ump in them, and it's not all that representative of the boot itself. All right! So I know that just by looking at the mask but I don't really know how to fix the problems.
In other words, I could sit here and smooth things out, but would I be smoothing in the right directions? Would my modifications actually make sense where the overall composition is concerned? Well, you can't make those decisions unless you're seeing the composition and the alpha channel at the same time, and let me show you how you do that. It's pretty simple technique. You go ahead and scroll to the top of the panel and you click not on the RGB composite, but rather on the eyeball in front of RGB in order to view that mask as what's known as a Rubylith overlay.
So those of you who have been in the industry for a while may remember traditional Rubyliths. They were essentially acetate overlays, and you cut away this layer of pink plastic in order to reveal the imagery in the background. Now, the good news is that the Rubylith overlay allows you to modify the mask without harming the image because notice the image is not selected. We are just able to preview it while we're working and you can keep track of how your modifications work with the underlying image. So, for example, let's say I decide to switch to the Standard Lasso tool right there and I can identify this region as being altogether non-representative.
In other words, the boot is in shape anything like this down here in the lower-right region. So I could go ahead and select that area, and taking notice that my foreground color is white, I could press Alt+ Backspace or Option+Delete in order to fill that area with transparency. So the idea is that anything you make white inside the alpha channel previews as transparent when you're viewing the Rubylith overlay. Anything that you fill with black becomes part of the Rubylith, because after all individual channels don't accommodate color.
But, any shades of gray end up showing as soft transitions. All right! So that's the start. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+D, Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image. One more trick I want to pass along. You can switch back to the black and white view of the alpha channel by clicking on the eyeball once again in front of RGB. You also have the following keyboard shortcut. To turn the RGB preview back on, press the tilde key and this is the key to left of the 1 key, above the Tab key in the upper-left corner of the US keyboard.
To hide the RGB image, you press the Tilde key again. Just a little trick to bear in mind, one that I find terribly handy and you may find handy as well. All right! I'm going to go ahead and press the Tilde key again to bring back that red overlay and that's really the problem. We have a red overlay next to a red boot. Wouldn't it be great if you could change the color of the overlay? Turns out you can and it's a permanent modification to the image file, and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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