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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.
All right! So here we are looking at that blended version of the nameplate which I'm calling Preliminary nameplate.psd. And let's say I'm talking to my boss or my art director or my client, what have you. And they tell me, this is great, but we'd like to see some sort of edge-tracing around the nameplate, either a stroke or an inner glow or something along those lines. So with the nameplate layer selected, go ahead and drop down to the fx icon and choose the Inner Glow command. After all, Inner Glow tends to be the most flexible of the tracing effects.
Now I'll click on the yellow swatch and I'll dial-in a brighter yellow by changing the Hue value to 50 degrees and both the Saturation and Brightness values to 100%. Then I'll click OK. I'll take the Opacity value up to 100%, a Size of 5 pixels is just fine, but I want to set the Technique to Precise so that we fill in those corners. Now I show this to the client, the boss, whomever, if they're ecstatic, they love this effect. Great! I click OK and I don't like it at all. In fact, I have a couple of problems at work.
Notice that I'm tracing a highlight around the boot, one that's also interrupting the shadow and I'm tracing the right edge of the nameplate along with the left edge as well, whereas the effect I want is this one right here which you can check out inside that file called Final Wikked nameplate.psd. So obviously it is possible to avoid tracing the boot and to reinstate the shadow behind the boot and make sure that we don't trace the right and left sides of the nameplate. But how in the world do we do it? The good news is our alpha channels are in great shape, so we don't have the modifier masks and we don't have to redo the layer effects.
We can pick those up later. The bad news is we have to redo everything else. So essentially, we've got to recreate this nameplate. Now the problem arises from an overly hopeful view of layers. In my experience, folks tend to think as long as I'm using layers inside of Photoshop, I'm golden. I won't run into any problems. And so there is sometimes a propensity to put too much on a single layer, and that's a problem that we have. We need to break our effects into multiple layers, always a good idea, by the way,. We also need to introduce a couple of layer masks and a clipping mask in order to get the effect we're looking for.
And for starters, we need to expand the canvas because we've got to create a nameplate layer that's actually wider than the magazine cover itself. So let's start things off by turning off the existing nameplate layer, go ahead and click on the Background layer to make it active, let's press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac to back out from the image. Then go up to the Image menu and choose the Canvas Size command, or you can press that keyboard shortcut Ctrl+ Alt+C or Command+Option+C on the Mac. Then turn on the Relative check box, so I'm either adding pixels to or subtracting pixels from the existing canvas size.
And now I'm going to increase the Width value to 100 pixels so we're expanding the canvas 50 pixels to the right as well as 50 pixels to the left, and then go ahead and click OK. Now that's going to create a region of white in the background, assuming of course that your background color is white. Don't worry about that though; we'll get rid of it in a moment. Switch over to the Channels panel and then click on the nameplate layer to make it active. And I want you to go ahead and select this rightmost region of the nameplate using the rectangular Marquee. Don't select any of that D, you just want to make sure you get empty rectangle.
And Ctrl+Shift+Alt+Drag or Command+ Shift+Option+Drag that selection to the right, like so. And because you have the Ctrl key down or the Command key on the Mac, you end up getting the Move tool on the fly. Because you have the Shift key down, you go ahead and constrain the movement horizontally. And then because you have the Alt or Option key down, you create a copy of that selection and you go ahead and extend the nameplate all the way to the right side of the canvas. All right! Let's go ahead and do that same thing over here on the left side of the nameplate.
I'll go ahead and select it and then Ctrl+Shift+Alt+Drag, that would be a Command+Shift+Option+Drag that selection over to the left. Then go ahead and click off the image in order to deselect it. Now I want you to press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and click on that nameplate channel in order to convert it into a selection outline. Click on the RGB item up here at the top of the Channels panel in order to switch back to the composite image. And I'm going to switch over to the Layers panel as well and press Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac to make a new layer, and let's go ahead and call this one newplate and click OK.
And I'm going to press the D key to reinstate my default colors and I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that nameplate with black. Again, this is a placeholder; I'm just filling it with black to determine the opaque pixels inside the layer. All right! Now I'll click off the image to deselect it. Now we are going to reinstate the original canvas size by going up to the Image menu and choosing the Canvas Size command. Now the Relative check box should still be on, go ahead and reduce the Width value this time to -100 pixels, so the same value we entered before, except negative instead of positive, and click OK. All right! Now we get this misleading error message.
It says the new canvas size is smaller than the current canvas size, some clipping will occur. Well, in our case, it's true. Some things will get clipped, some won't. The things that will get clipped are the flat objects like the background image, that will get clipped, or if you prefer, cropped, and so will the alpha channels because Photoshop can't help but crop alpha channels to the existing canvas size. However, this nameplate layer will still be the same size we made it, so it will actually extend 50 pixels to the right and 50 pixels to the left of the new canvas.
So go ahead and click Proceed in order to crop the image. That goes ahead and gets rid of those areas of white around the background image. Now just to prove everything worked the way it was supposed to, Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the thumbnail for the newplate layer and you'll see that the selection extends out beyond the edge of the canvas. And that will allow us to get the tracing effect we're looking for. In the next exercise, we'll reinstate that gradient, we'll add the layer effects, and I'll show you how to cut the layer effects with the boot.
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