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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.
In this exercise, I am going to take you on a tour of the other options that are available to you in the Color Range dialog box. I've gone ahead and saved my changes as Gradient with masks.psd, and the first thing I am going to do is switch to my eyedropper tool and click in that orange bar to lift that shade of orange as the foreground color. Now you may recall, when we chose the color range command in the previous exercise, we didn't have anything selected at first. However, this time, when I go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range Command, you can see that the entire bar is selected and that has nothing to do with the Fuzziness value, by the way,.
I could crank that down to its default setting of 40. What it has to do with is the fact that the foreground color is orange. So the Color Range command is always working in concert with that foreground color. In fact, if I click with my eyedropper right there on that vertical guideline again in order to switch my selection, so that I'm selecting the gradients, instead of the bar, I also went ahead and changed the foreground color on-the-fly. All right, notice these other tools that are available to me here. In addition to the eyedropper, we have one with the plus sign that let's me add to the selection and one with a minus sign that subtracts from the selection.
However, you can get to the same functions by pressing the Shift+Alt or Shift+Option keys. So in other words, if I press the Shift key, you'll see a little plus sign next to my eyedropper, and I can click in order to add another key color to my selection. If I press the Alt or the Option key on the Mac and click, I'll go ahead and subtract a key color from that selection as well. And as I'm working, the Color Range command is actually keeping track of all those key colors on the fly. Now in my experience it's a little difficult to keep track yourself of which colors you are subtracting from a selection, so I don't use that Alt or Option key technique very often.
However, adding key colors to a selection is an excellent way of working. Let me show you how excellent. I am going to move that Color Range dialog box down for a moment and I'll click, not Shift+Click, I am just clicking in order to wipe out the old key colors and set a new one. I want you to watch what's going on here inside the selection preview. Notice that in addition to Shift+ Clicking, I can also Shift+Drag and that selection will expand dynamically, which is not something you can do with the Magic Wand tool. So Color Range allows you to make quick work of a selection, just by dragging around inside the image.
All right, next I want to introduce you to your Selection Preview options. Notice that you can see either the selection or the image here inside the dialog box. I usually prefer to work with the selection. And the selection of course is that mask preview. But you can also view the selection out here in a larger image window, by changing that Selection Preview option. So, for example, Grayscale, which will show you the mask view, or you can see your selection against the black background, or you could see the selection against a white background.
And then finally, you can see it represented as a quick mask, that is to say, everything that's deselected has a Rubylith overlay, and we'll be checking out the Quick Mask mode later inside this exercise. I am going to go ahead and switch my view to Grayscale, because I want to show you what's up with localized color clusters. So I am going to click up here in order to establish a new base color. Notice that the selection goes ahead and jumps that gap. However, that's not always what you want. Sometimes you'd like the Color Range command to pay attention to the geographical position of your click point inside the image.
And you can do that by turning this check box on. So if you turn on Localized Color Clusters and then change the range and I am going to take that range down to something like 30, let's say, then you can see that it's selecting 30% of the image essentially away from the click point and it's doing it as a kind of radial gradient. So I am going to go ahead and crank my Fuzziness value body up to 100, so you can better see what I am talking about. And if I now Shift+Click at a different point, you can see that I add another kind of radial gradient of selection outward from that point.
Now it still jumps the gap, however, it does keep your selections a little tighter to your click points. Anyway, I am just going to go ahead and Shift+Click at a few other locations. So you can see what's going on. By the way, you can also click and Shift+ Click inside this little preview if you want to. So that's another way to work. If you turn on the Invert check box, then you are going to invert your selection, which is just like choosing the Inverse command from the Select menu, which can be useful when it's easier to select the background, rather than the foreground inside of an image.
We'll actually be taking advantage of the check box later, for now I am going to go ahead and turn it off. I also want you to see that you have the option of saving your settings. So you're not saving the actual selection itself, you are saving all the parameters. That is all the position information of your click points, also what colors you ended up clicking on, the Fuzziness value, the Range and so forth. So in my case I'll go ahead and click the Save button and I'll call this file Wacky selection, and then I'll go ahead and click the Save button in order to save it out, and now let's just Cancel from the dialog box, and because I canceled, I didn't generate a selection outline.
Now I'll go back to the Select menu and choose a Color Range command again. We've got my old settings at work here. I'll go ahead and click the Load button, then click on Wacky selection, click the Load below button again, and you'll see that I've re-established those exact same parameters, and my click points as well. Now the reason I say you're not really saving the selection is because these particular click points and colors and so forth are only going to work inside this image. If you try them out inside a different image, you'll get very different results. Anyway, I'll go ahead and click OK in order to generate that selection.
If you really want to save it out though, you'd want to save it as an Alpha channel, by switching over to the Channels panel, dropping down to the Save selection icon, Alt+Clicking on it presumably if you want to name it, that'd be an Option+Click on the Mac, and I'll go ahead and call this wacky or something and then click OK, in order to save out that selection as a mask, and then I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image, so you can get a sense of what it looks like. All right, just one more thing that you need to know, I am going to switch back to the Layers panel and notice that I have a few additional layer set up.
I am going to go ahead and click on that background image to switch back to the RGB image, and then I'll turn on all of those layers by dragging up the eyeball column. And I'll go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range Command. Now notice, when I click in one of these bars, the Color Range command is actually seeing each one of the bars, and the reason is, because the Color Range command always sees the composite image. So it sees the results of all visible layers at a time. And that's important to know, because whereas the Magic Wand tool allows you to sample single layer or all layers at a time, the Color Range command is always sampling all the layers.
All right, I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that selection, but of course, you can only use this selection on one layer at a time. In the next exercise, I'll show you how the Color Range command offers one remaining set of options that allow you to select predefined color ranges.
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