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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. We didn't really get anything done in the previous exercise, so I've reverted to the saved version of Alternative eye color.psd. I'll once again turn off the lines layer so that we can focus on the frog. In this exercise, I am going to show you a great use for the Magnetic Lasso. One of the things that bothers a lot of folks as they start using this tool is they try to get too ambitious with it. You don't want to select an entire image really using any of these tools. You are best off combining the tools together and I'll show you how that works in the next chapter.
But for now, I just want to make a case for using this tool on small portions of an image. For example, let's say that I want to take this rear eye right there, the eye that's barely visible in the background and we want to make a commensurate change to it so that it matches this forward eye. What we want to do is select this rear eye and add it to the layer Mask, make sure you have the Magnetic Lasso tool selected and these kinds of small modifications are exactly what this tool is designed for.
So I'll click down here at the bottom of the eye like so, and then I'll click at this corner. I may actually click down here at this location, and then sort of round off the corner like that. What you want to do is you want to make sure that these edges that are getting drawn between the various points are scalloping outward if possible instead of inward, because if they start scalloping inward, that's going to give us bad effect. So the trick is to lay down as many points as you can and then up here at this obvious corner, I'll click, and I'll continue to move my cursor down trying to avoid of course that scalloping right there and I'll continue to add points along this edge until I get back to the beginning, and then I'll click in order to complete that selection outline. All right.
Now, at this point, you are probably going to want to smooth off this selection outline and give it a little bit of a blur too, so that it matches the focus of that rear eye. And the way folks typically work with this tool is they go up to the Select Menu, choose Modify, and then choose, for example, Smooth. The problem with this command is you're working on a marching ant selection, so you can't really see what you are doing, and furthermore, there's no preview associated with this dialog box. So you are not going to see the results until after you click OK. So if I apply a Radius of 3 pixels, I am really working in the dark.
I'll click the OK button, I guess that looks better, I don't really know. I can see that I've rounded off the edges a little bit. Then I might go up to the Select menu, choose Modify, and choose the Feather command in order to soften that selection, so that it matches the blur associated with the image. But again, I'm trying to modify a marching ant style selection, and I am working blind because there's no preview. So I might say, well, gosh. It looks like there is a blur of 6 pixels, I don't know, and then click OK and I really don't know if I've done what I was trying to do or not.
So I tell you what, let's undo those modifications by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z, or Command+Option+Z on a Mac twice in a row to get rid of feather and then smooth. Then switch to the eye color layer right there, and click on its layer Mask to make it active, and we want to fill this area with white. White is currently my background color. So I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+ Delete on the Mac in order to make that portion of the mask white which reveals the adjustment. All right. Now, I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image and we can already see that it's far too harsh.
So I tell you what, let's switch to the layer Mask by pressing the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and clicking on that layer Mask thumbnail there in the Layers panel. Now, we see the layer Mask independently of the image so we can get a sense of what's going on, and you'll note that it's pretty garbagy. Now, the problem is we need to modify this portion of the mask without harming the forward eye which is in great shape. So somehow we need to select this right -hand region and you can do that using either of a couple of tools we've already seen; either you could switch to the Lasso tool and just go ahead and draw big broad selection around that area, or I'll go ahead and click to deselect the image.
You could even switch to the Rectangular Marquee tool and just draw a selection like so, and that's where these tools become really powerful when you're modifying the contents of an existing mask. All right. Now, we need to smooth the mask and feather it using a couple of filters. We'll start by going to the Filter menu, choosing Noise, and choosing that command that allows you to smooth off your masks which is Median. I came up with a Radius value of 6 pixels, and that ends up smoothing off those edges pretty nicely. It rounds out the corners as well, but that's going to prove to be okay once we blur this mask.
So now I'll click OK in order to accept that modification. To feather the mask, you go to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. Gaussian Blur and Feather are actually exactly the same command. They work the same except that Gaussian Blur obviously works on the mask as opposed to a selection outline, and you can preview the results. Now, I found that a Radius value of 4 pixels worked out nicely. So I'll go ahead and dial in that value and click OK. All right. Now, you can click inside the Image window in order to deselect the mask. All right.
Now, let's see the results by Alt+ Clicking or Option+Clicking on that layer Mask thumbnail again, and you can see that we have some smoother softer transitions. So just to get a sense of the contribution of the adjustment layer, I'll turn its eyeball off for a moment. So you can see that the original eyes are much redder. Now, I'll turn that adjustment back on, so we can see the newly modified colors. Now, one more thing about the Magnetic Lasso, I am going to go ahead and switch back to it here. If I were you, I'd wonder what's going on with these options, because typically, the options up here in the options bar do a lot to control the accuracy of the automated selection tools.
However, in this case, I don't find them to be all that overwhelmingly powerful. The Width value sets how far the points and segments can vary from the edges that are automatically detected by the tool. A width of 10 pixels works out pretty nicely. However, if you find that you need more precise results, you can reduce that value and you can do so from the keyboard by pressing the Bracket keys. Those are the keys to the right of the P as in Paul key on an American keyboard. So pressing the Left-bracket key will reduce the Width value, pressing the Right-bracket key will increase that value, and you can experiment with that as desired.
The Contrast option determines how much contrast, how much luminance contrast is required inside the image in order to count as an edge. So once again, lower values are going to give you more precise control. However, reducing either Width or Contrast will also increase the complexity and potentially the scalloping associated with that final selection outline. So that's something to bear in mind. Frequency sets how frequently the tool lays down Anchor Points. Again, you can experiment with this value as desired.
But, between you and me, it verges on a kind of black magic, not exactly sure what that 57 even means. Then finally, we've got this option for those of you who own Wacom Tablets and the like. You've got the option to use the Stylus Pressure to change the Width setting on-the-fly. But, for my money, and this is based on years of experience with this tool, I leave these values as set by default. All right. That takes care of the Lasso tools. In the next exercise, I'll show you how to use the Quick Selection tool.
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