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The elusive alpha channel remains one of the most misunderstood yet powerful tools in Photoshop. Alpha channels are collections of luminance data that control the transparency of an image, and they inform just about every aspect of Photoshop. As he builds transitional blended layers, fashions a depth map, makes edge adjustments, and takes on extreme channel mixing, Omni Award-winning expert Deke McClelland teaches Photoshop users that where there's a will, there's a way. Photoshop CS3 Channels and Masks: Advanced Techniques covers mapping texture on an image, turning flesh into stone, using vector masks, working with all different channels, creating a rustic edge effect, and much more. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Channels and Masks from the Exercise Files tab."
Okay, so here I am back inside the Adobe Bridge and I have got the Bridge trained on the Jumpers sub-folder inside the 11 layer masks folder, that's inside your Exercise Files folder, and you may recall that we have got Jumpers 1 through 4 which are those photos we used to create the Tumult At the Aviary band poster. But I have also got, you may notice here, I have got Jumpers 5 through 8, and basically, what's going on here is I have the gang move around a little bit. I put Paavo in front, as just as you can see there, and then, I put Megan in front, and then, I put Jehf in front with his Dasto t-shirt, and I have got another one with Paavo in front at this point. Now, this is the problem with Paavo.
Finally, I told Paavo, stop jumping, just pretend you are jumping, just lift your arms up, and act like you are jumping, just a little bit of back story for you. What we want to do is we want to combine these images in order to create a composition that's just filled with Megan of course. So I want you to click on Jumpers 5, and Shift+Click on Jumpers 8 in order to select the range of images from 5 through 8, and I also want you to add Jumpers 3 by Ctrl+Clicking on it or Command+ Clicking on the Jumpers 3 file on the Mac, so that we should have five images selected in all, because these are the best views of Megan.
Basically, this is the best version of Megan over here on the right, this one is the best version of Megan over here on the left, then, this is the best middle version of Megan, the best distant version of Megan is down here I believe. And then, this one, Jumpers 8, we will use to fill in some details, because Paavo and Megan are really close together inside of the file. At least, they are visually close together. And then, go ahead and press Ctrl+O, or Command+O on the Mac, in order to open all of the images inside the Photoshop. Now I have gone ahead and saved some time by opening the images in advance, of course. So again, we have got Jumpers 3 as well as 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Now I want you to go to the File menu, choose the Scripts command and choose this command right there, Load Files into Stack, in order to load all of these opened files into a single image, into a single composition. Click on the Add Open Files button in order to add all those files to the list, and then, I want you to turn-on this checkbox, Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images. That way, Photoshop will go ahead and combine the images into a single composition and auto-align them in one step essentially, actually it's multiple steps, but at least, it's automatically in charge of those steps, thanks to the fact that we employed a script. And you can see there it is, it's going ahead and aligning those images, and it went ahead and put them inside of a single composition.
All right, now I am going to switch to the Maximize View here, and I am going to zoom in on the image just a little bit. Now we need to put these layers in a proper order, and here is what I want you to do. I am going to put the Jumpers 6 image at the bottom of the stack because it's our main image. As you will see, if we go ahead and turn-off the others, that's where Megan is most prominent, she is right there in front. And then, in front of that, I want you to put Jumpers 5, so goes 6, then 5, and then 8, that's fine and then 3, and then 7. That's going to be the best way to approach this specific project.
Now I want you to turn-on the Jumpers 5 image right there. Go ahead and click on it to make it active. So you should be seeing Jumpers 5 and 6 like so, they are the only ones that are turned- on. And I want you to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask icon here at the bottom of the Layers palette in order to create a layer mask that's filled with black. Now this is the good version of Megan over here on the left hand side of the image. So I am going to zoom in a little bit. I am going to grab my Paint Brush tool. I am going to make the Paint Brush a little bigger. I am going to swap my foreground, background colors, so that the foreground color is white.
Let's go ahead and paint Megan in now on the left hand side of the image, and everything is aligned, so we should be able to paint her in just fine, but notice what we run into here, we are running into Paavo's arm, because I told him not to jump in and just raise his arm. His arms are all the way over here on the left hand side of the image. It's just not his fault, its bad direction on my part, but it is something that we can eventually take care. I will go ahead and press the X key, and I will paint some of that arm away, but then, if I paint too much of it away, then I get his other arm, that's poking as if these are two sort of distant bodied Paavo arms that we have going now.
All right, so let's just try to minimize it as much as we can. If we can, that is this, oh, look at that, I am just making a mess of everything at this point. Ain't I? All right, let's press the X key and see. Can I paint that away? Oh, I see, I got to press X again in order to paint that black but then, I start painting in his foot. All right, so I am going to leave it like that, though we are going to have two distant bodied arms. That's just fine because in addition to that, I will just go ahead and paint in a little of Megan's shadow here, so that we can see that shadow that goes with her left body over here.
We have got Jumpers 8, and the nice thing about Jumpers 8, if I display that layer; notice that it has a big bunch of sand, the twin Paavo because he is so high because he has jumped in through the roof there. We have some exposed sand, and see weed and rock between the two people that we can work from. So I am going to ahead and click on that layer, and Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask icon in order to add a black layer mask, and now let's paint white once again to paint away the arms. And paint carefully so you don't paint away her feet. I don't want to get rid of those.
And notice I am using a fairly hard brush, I am still using that brush that has a hardness of 75%, that I said a few exercises ago now. All right, so we were able to paint away bad Paavo and keep good Megan. It's not that Paavo is always bad but, you know, what I am talking about. All right, let's now insert this Megan over here, the good Megan on the right hand side of the image. I will click on Jumpers 3 in order to make it active, it's also visible of course. Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask icon in order to add a black layer mask, and then start painting in Megan. So it's the same old, same old stuff, not that it isn't just totally thrilling because after all, it is absolutely totally thrilling.
Then, I am just going to keep painting here in order to paint in some surf, paint in her shadow, and in this case, notice that if I got the circle too far, I am going to notice that the wet portion of the sand goes well into this other area of the image. So I am going to make my brush softer by pressing Shift+Left Bracket a few times, then I am going to press the X key to paint in Black, and I am going to paint some of this area away, so that we have something of a fairly natural transition of this water going into the sand over there.
And now I'll just click a few more times here in order to create a little bit of a rounded edge and let's go and press the X key to paint in some more of this image right there. And I found that it was easy as to paint Paavo back into the scene a little bit, paint away Jehf and paint in Paavo, so that we create a better transition. And notice that we have a little bit of an issue which is despite the fact that I applied Auto-Align, when I combine these images together, the horizon line is not consistent across the images.
In fact, she is a little low over here too, and so what you might find helpful is to go ahead and click on one of these offending images. For example, I am going to click in the second to bottom layer here, the one that contains the left version of Megan, and then just press something like Ctrl+Up arrow, in order to nudge her up, just a hair or a bit, just a little bit there. You might get a little bit of misalignment in the rocks, but that's going to be a lot less noticeable than misalignment in the horizon over there. Let's go ahead and select this layer, the second to the top layer, and I am going to press Ctrl+Up arrow several times in a row, in order to raise that horizon line, so we get this effect right here. So things are looking pretty good as it seems to me.
Now I am going to turn-on the top layer and I am going to click on it to make it active. I am going to Alt+Click or Option+Click in the layer mask icon to add a black mask, and then, with that layer mask active, I am going to paint in the final Megan right there. And she has got a little bit of light water that's surrounding her, that's fine so I will just take it easy with a very soft brush. Then I might press the X key and paint back in some of the sky, just a little bit but notice I paint in Paavo's head at this point, so just go ahead and click a few times in order to paint that head away. So this image is a little bit lighter but it's not bothering me too much. I am going to press Ctrl+Up arrow to raise it a pixel, so that we get that consistent, if possible a consistent horizon line, but actually I think it look better where it was.
All right, so there we have it. This is all the Megans, that anyone would care to add to a single image I think. Now I am going to grab my Crop tool in order to just to generalize crop, so we don't see all these weird edge around the image and I am going to drag around, like so, in order to crop away the transparent stuff. Now in this case, I am sort of having in a problem with the snapping. So I am going to go ahead and turn snapping off by going up to the View menu and choosing the Snap command to turn it off like so. And now I can move these edges with a little more freedom so that they are not snapping to strange arbitrary points inside of the composition. Move it over to here, looks good, press the Enter or Return key. I presume that the Height option is still on, and this is the final version of my composition. I am going to press the F key a couple of times, or I have already hit my palettes. It looks good, your results may vary but you should see, before you have even working along with me, you should see before you -- that it's completely fantastical, impossible composition.
The result once again of marrying together multiple group shots using the Auto-Align function inside Photoshop CS3 and layer masking.
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