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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.
Before I somewhat start this exercise I should acknowledge the fact that we have seen an awful lot of layer mask so far, just about every composition we've created in the previous chapters involved at least one layer mask on one layer. However, what I'd like to do inside this exercise is familiarize you with the basic metaphor associated with the layer mask. So you understand exactly what's going on. And I'll do so in the context of this photograph. It comes to us from the Fotolia image library about what you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke.
It's a great composition I think the photographer did a fine job of capturing this couple. I think something may have gone wrong and post however, because we've got some problems. First of all, you can see that we have an awful lot of color associated with the shadow details inside these T-shirts, those areas ought to be neutral. Meanwhile, we don't have nearly enough saturation associated with the skin tones and then finally notice this section of this guy's forehead, it's really quite blown.
In other words we've lost some highlights, they have gone completely white and we have an awful lot of posterization going on in the neighboring colors. Compare that to the final version of a composition that we'll be creating together here in which the shadows are neutralized. We've got a lot more saturation going on inside the skin tones. Her eyes are brighter, the details are sharper, there is less color noise, and I totally rebuilt his forehead here and I did so using her forehead. So once again it's important to bare in mind that we are all orange people with interchangeable body parts and so far as Photoshop is concerned.
Alright, I'm going to switch back to our original image its called Contemplative couple.jpg and it's found inside the 09_layermask folder. And we're going to start things off by selecting those skin tones using the color range command. So go out to the Select menu and choose Color Range, or if you loaded Deke keys you can go ahead and press that keyboard shortcut and mash your fist though. And then make sure that the Localized Color Clusters check box is turned off make sure Fuzziness is set to 40 as by default. For now we're going to leave the Invert check box turned off.
I'm going to go ahead and switch the Selection Preview back to None, so we can see the full-color image. It's couldn't be a lot easier to select the stuff we don't want to affect such as, the highlights and shadows in the T-shirts, for example,. So I'm going to start by clicking on his collar right about there, and then I'm going to Shift+Drag around the collar like so in order to lift as many of those aberrant blues as possible. Then I'll Shift+Drag over her shoulder and that should pretty well select all the details in the T-shirts.
Now notice that she has some very saturated colors going on inside of here eyes that highlight, for example,. I want you to Shift+Click on that blue highlight across the top of her iris, and then I'm also going to Shift+Click very carefully along the top rim of her eyelid where that mascara is. And we end up, by the way, with this selection right here. I'll go ahead and switch to Selection Preview back to Grayscale, so you can get a sense of whether your selection matches mine. Now we want to affect the skin tones not the stuff that is currently appearing white.
So I'm going to turn on the Invert check box, so that everything that was previously selected becomes deselected. Alright, now I'll go ahead and click OK and as soon as I do Photoshop will go ahead and select the region that appears in white. So anything when we're working inside the color range dialog box and I know you know this, but I'm just emphasizing it. Anything that's appearing white will be selected, anything that appears black will be deselected and therefore protected, and anything gray is some degree of selection in-between.
Alright, I'm going to go ahead and click OK. Sure enough we get a selection outline just as we've seen in the past. That's not the way it has to work incidentally and we'll see some exceptions in future exercises. Now our next step will be to apply an adjustment layer and I'm going to do so by pressing the Alt or Option key and clicking the Black White icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and then choosing the Vibrance command. And because I had Alt or Option down that brings up the New layer dialog box I'll go ahead and call this layer skintones and click OK.
Now notice that that does three things, it brings up the Adjustments panel so that we can apply a color adjustment. And in my case I'm just going to go ahead and crank the Saturation up to about 80 lets say. Obviously, that is not the final correction I'm looking for, but it gives us a sense of what's going up. We can easily see the adjusted portions of the image. So Photoshop brings up the adjustments panel, but it also creates an adjustments layer here inside the Layers panel and it also converts that selection outline to a layer mask.
Now the metaphor changes a little bit when we're working with layer masks. Previously we've seen whether we're working inside the color range dialog box, or we're working with an alpha channel white indicates the selected region and black indicates the protected region. That's not quite what's going on in the case of a layer mask; rather white indicates the opaque portion of the layer and black indicates the transparent portion of the layer. So if I press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac and click on that layer mask icon, then we'll see the layer mask independently of the rest of the image.
White as I say is the opaque region black is the transparent region and these gray values are various levels of translucency in-between. Which is why you may hear people say, 'white reveals and black conceals'. And that is particularly true in the case of a layer mask. So just bare in mind instead of selection versus protection we have reveal versus conceal. Alright I'm going to go ahead and Alt+ Click, or Option+Click once again on that layer mask thumbnail to return to the RGB composite, and then I'm going to change my settings here.
I'm really looking for a Saturation value more in the neighborhood of 10, and then I'm going to Tab to the Vibrance value and take that up to 75. And as you may know the Vibrance value is a kind of equal opportunity saturation function. So it raises the saturation values of the least saturated colors inside the image more than those that are already intensely saturated, thereby avoiding color clipping and it is especially useful for increasing the saturation of skin tones. And notice throughout this modification we are just changing those areas inside the skin tones we are not increasing, or otherwise affecting the saturation of those colors inside the shadow region of the T-shirts, inside of that highlight, in her iris and so forth.
Alright, so that's the basic mechanics of layer mask inside of Photoshop. In the next exercise, I'll share some handy tips and tricks.
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