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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."
All right, it's time to take our young, urban executives here and apply some extreme channel mixing to them in order to increase their impact. So I would like you to go ahead and open this image, it's called TCFTB.psd, it's found inside of the 13 Channel mix folder and stands for two cool for the board room. That's why these guys had to come out of the board room and get on the roof for this photo shoot here. This image comes to us from photographer, Alexander Hafemann of iStockphto.com.
What we are going to be doing? I am going to show you how I sharpend this image and then we will take a look at applying an infrared photography effect using a channel mix or adjustment layer. All right, so as I say, I went ahead and sharpen the image and I am going to make this pretty quick. I am going to burn through this a little bit. We have got the original image on the background. Then we have got this thing called the sharpen set which is a group of three layers, as you can see. At the bottom is a high pass layer, so I went ahead and duplicated the original image, applied the High Pass filter to it, and then applied a density mask in order to isolate the sharpening to just the darkest features inside of the image, to just the shadows. I went ahead and increased the amount of sharpening using this clipped levels adjustments layer.
We have seen all of these techniques in previous exercises but then I went ahead and added a knockout layer. Now the reason I did this -- this knockout layer here, and you can see it's really just a fuzzy rectangle, a fuzzy black rectangle against the transparent background. The reason I did this is because I was over sharpening her. Notice that he is a little bit beyond the field of focus here. So he is a little bit soft and as a result his skin has this really porcelain, sort of, milky quality. Meanwhile, she is, sort of, bearing the brunt of the post sharpening that I am applying here and I found like she was bearing too much of the brunt of it, that she was getting over sharpened.
So you can see this is the sharpened version of the woman in the foreground. In addition to sharpening her hairs, which actually the hairs look really great and the eyelashes look really good too, but then we are sharpening the individual eyelashes, we are sharpening the heck out of her lips, this little wrinkle on her chin, this edge to her nostril, and all of this sort of, noise, and her whiskers too, and that will be for everybody. Everybody has got hair on him all over the place. In the high resolution photos you see, the more you see hair on women's noses, it's all over the place, but we are calling more attention to them by sharpening this image.
We are also sharpening the noise which isn't really part of her at all, she doesn't have any noise on her face, that's part of the photography process. So I went ahead and added this knockout layer and you can see what a difference it makes, if I go ahead and take the Opacity up to 100% for this knockout layer. 100% Opacity, of course, 0% Fill opacity because otherwise, it wouldn't be a knockout. So this is without that layer, this is with the layer. Perhaps, you can see the difference, you should be able to see the difference very easily on your screen, if you do this along with me. Now I felt like, at this point, I was taking too much sharpness out of the equation, that's why I went ahead and reduced the Opacity value to 50%. So that we are reducing the opacity of the knockout which means that we are not knocking out quite so much. All right, so I am going to go ahead and twirl that sharpen set clause. So that's how this sharpen set works, just to give you a sense.
All right, what we want though is to apply our own infrared photography effect. So I am going to go ahead and make the Layers palette a little less wide so that we can keep an eye on the Depeche here in the background, as well as our foreground executive. I am going to press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and I am going to click - and-hold on the black/white icon down here at the bottom of the Layers palette, and I am going to choose the Channel Mixer command, and because I have the Alt or Option key down, it brings up the New Layer dialog box, and I am going to call this infrared, because it is an infrared effect that we are about to create. Then I will click OK.
Now to give the infrared effect, basically what you do is you apply a negative Blue value and you go ahead and send the Red and Green values, positive. So for example, if I make the Green value 152, +152, and then the Blue value -152. Well, we still have a Red value of 100%. Then the total is going to be 100%. Now I happen to be applying this to the Red channel, so we are getting this trippy sort of, other worldly color effect going on inside the image. I could exaggerate the effect by going to the Green channel as well. Let's this time go ahead and decrease the Red value and increase the Blue value as in exactly an infrared effect.
In order to get an infrared effect, you do have to have a negative Blue value with positive Red and Green but it is an extraordinary color effect. I would say, it's extreme and this guy is about to blister. I think it's time for him to get out of the sun for the whole weekend. In fact, he should stay indoors. Now that's not really what we want, we want a monochrome effect. So here is what I want you to do. Go ahead and turn on the Monochrome checkbox that will reset your values to their defaults. Here is about -- well you can play around with these, if you want to. You will see if you take Red and Green up and then you take Blue down, and you keep an eye on that Total value, and you try to make sure that it stays at a 100%.
You can also keep an eye on the Histogram here and you will see that we are clipping some highlights over here on the right side of the Histogram. So you could take the Blue value down even farther, if you wanted to in order to avoid clipping. But you can see how we do get infrared effect. If you know anything about infrared photography, you know that the camera is responding to heat as well as light and so the warm blooded animals are going to show up the best. We are going to see light where we are seeing flesh, essentially, and that's what we get by raising those Red and Green values and lowering that Blue value. We are really highlighting the flesh tones and making every thing else go away, really getting these extraordinary, sort of, ghostly effects as a result.
All right, here is values I want you to apply. I want you to take the Red value up to 110, and then I want you to take the Green value up, through the roof, to 190, and then we are going to take the Blue value down to -200 which is the minimum value you can apply. 200% is the highest value and -200 is the lowest value for any one of these options. Now notice, we are clipping up a storm. You can see that in the Histogram, you can see that in the image as well, even though, the Total is 100%, it is possible to clip both channels and highlights. In our case, we have got shadow clipping and highlight clipping going on. That's okay because we are going to merge this effect into the background image.
Go ahead and click on OK in order to accept this radical channel mixer effect and then join me in the next exercise when we merge this infrared effect with the original photograph.
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