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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 we're going to brighten up the woman's eyes and we're going to do so using Vector Masks. This gets pretty gnarly, you're either going to think, wow, this is a lot more effort than it's worth, or gosh, this is great that I have that much control. Your opinion of course is entirely up to you, but it is a preview of just how powerful Paths are inside of Photoshop. We'll see a lot more of them when we get to the Pen tool course. I've saved my progress as Pixel and vector mask.psd, found inside the 09_layer masks folder.
I am going to go ahead and zoom in on the woman's eyes, until we can see them actually at about 200%, will help us out pretty well. And I'd also like you just so that we can control things a little better, I'd like you to go ahead and click on any one of the layers that does not contain a vector mask, because otherwise that kind of complicates things. Now drop down to the Ellipse tool. So just as the Elliptical Marquee tool is great for selecting eyes, if you're going the pixel route, while the standard Ellipse Shape tool is great for selecting eyes, if you're going to vector route.
The next thing I want you to do here is to go up to the options bar and click on that second icon in, which is called Paths, and what that does is it goes ahead and creates path outlines in the Paths panel. Now let's set about tracing the woman's right eye, her left of course, and I'm going to start by drawing an ellipse around this region right here. All those tricks that work with the Marquee tools work with the Shape tools as well. So you can press the spacebar as you are dragging in order to move that shape on the fly and align it into place.
So go ahead and draw that first shape outline. And you won't notice anything happening inside the Layers panel, instead, go up to the Window menu and choose the Paths command and that's going to bring up the Paths panel over here on the right side of the screen, and you'll see that you have a new Path called work path. What I recommend you do, because it's very easy to lose these work paths. Notice this, if I click off the work path in order to hide it and I start drawing another shape at a new location, my old path disappears and is replaced with my new work path.
I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac to restore my original path outline, and I can see it's restored if I go ahead and click on work path, there it is. Go ahead and say that path out by double- clicking on it and let's call this path right eye, then click OK. Now notice if you click off the path and draw a new path. you'll create a new work path, but your original right eye path will remain intact. All right, I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac to undo that change. Once again, switch back to right eye by clicking on it.
Now go ahead and draw a second path outline like so, and align it by pressing the spacebar to the right top side of that woman's eye. And once you get the result that looks more or less like this, go ahead and release. Now notice that I did not press any keys that time around. And so as a result Photoshop has automatically added one path outline to the other. You can confirm that's the case by Ctrl+Clicking or on the Mac Command+Clicking on that path here inside the Paths panel and that will go ahead and convert the path to a selection outline and you can see that it's as large as both of the paths put together.
That's not what we want. We want to find the intersection of those two ellipses, so I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image. Click on the right eye path to once again select it and now I'll switch to my Black arrow tool, which Photoshop calls the Path Selection tool incidentally. You can get to it by pressing the A key for arrow after all. Then go ahead and click on the newest of the two path outlines. The one you just got done drawing. And notice up here in the Options bar, you have these various options for combining path outlines with each other.
Right now, the Add to shape area icon is selected. You want to switch it to intersect shape areas, which is the third icon in. And now if you Ctrl+Click or Command+ Click on that path, there inside the Paths panel, you'll see that you're finding the intersection of those two path outlines. All right, I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac in order to deselect the image. Click on the right eye path once again to select it. Now what if you want to intersect in advance, you want to draw the path and create an intersection at the same time? Well in that case, you once again select the Ellipse tool and you can try out those same keyboard shortcuts that work with Selection tools.
So right now notice that I have a cross shaped cursor with a plus sign next to it, so I'm automatically by default going to add the next shape I draw. However, if you want to subtract the shape instead, you press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, in which case you'll get a little minus sign next to the cursor. If you want to find the intersection, you press Shift+Alt or Shift+Option on the Mac, and then you see a little X next to the cursor. Now go ahead and draw your shape, and because I have Shift and Alt down at the same time, where shape tools are concerned, this is a little bit of a departure for Photoshop.
I am drawing a circle from the center outward. So if you don't want that, and of course, we don't, go ahead and release the Shift+Alt keys of the Shift+Option keys on the Mac, because you've already told Photoshop that you want to find the intersection by now. All right, as you drag, go ahead and press the spacebar in order to align that shape along the bottom eyelid. And we are now finding the intersection of all three of these shapes, again to confirm, you can Ctrl+Click or Command+ Click on that right eye path in order to convert it into a selection outline.
Now let's apply these path outlines as a vector mask to an adjustment layer, by pressing Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image. Then click on the right eye path there in the Paths panel, switch back to the Layers panel, click on the top layer in the stack, because we want to create a new layer above it. Then press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Click the black-white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose the Levels Command. Those of you who loaded DekeKeys can press Ctrl+Shift+L or Command+Shift+L on a Mac. And let's go ahead and call this new layer eyes and click OK.
And notice the Photoshop has automatically converted those path outlines to a vector mask. Now let's modify the settings here inside the Adjustments panel. I am going to raise that first black point value to 5, then I am going to press Tab a couple of times to advance to the white point value and change it to 180 in order to brighten up that eye considerably. Go ahead and click on the vector mask thumbnail here in the Layers panel in order to hide those paths outlines. There is the brighter eye as you can see. This is the before version of the eye, this is the after version; we are going to see those path outlines again, so I'll click on them to turn them off.
Another thing you can do, by the way, as long as one of the vector tools is selected, either the Arrow or the Shape tools or the Pen tools, well, when you have a vector math thumbnail active, you can press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac in order to hide that path outline, then press Enter or Return to once again see the path outline. And if that's not working for you, just go ahead and click inside the image window and then try it again. Anyway, I'm going to press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to hide the outline. We still need to deal with that left eye. That gets a little tricky, and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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