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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.
Now that you know how the color bearing channels work, it's time to introduce you to the non-color bearing channels which are known as Alpha Channels. I explain why they're called Alpha channels in the very next movie, but for our purposes Alpha channels contain masks. Let's imagine a simple scenario. You start with a standard rectangular selection where you have to convert that selection to an Alpha Channel, everything inside the rectangle would be white and everything outside would be black, so just as everything inside the selection is selected and everything outside is protected, where an alpha channel is concerned white means selected and black means protected.
So whatever modification you apply, whether you're moving or re-coloring or rendering something utterly unrecognizable, it will only happen to the area represented in white, but masking is not all black and white and alpha channel is a grayscale image. Those grays translate to subtle transitions, soft edges, gradient fades and so much more than you can do with a standard selection outline, so here's how it breaks down. An Alpha Channel contains a mask, masks and selection outlines are the same thing expressed in different ways, Photoshop sees a mask every time you make a selection.
So an Alpha Channel lets you store a selection for later use. It also lets you elaborate on that selection even using the selection tools themselves. This is just a warm-up, an introduction to Alpha Channels and a first glimpse into the magic of masking in Photoshop.
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