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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'll review the fundamentals of the Lasso tools. I've saved my changes as Alternative eye color.psd. Those lines look too much like a target to me, and I'm not interested in harming this frog, so I am going to turn the lines layer off. I have the original frog layer selected. Let's say I want to select this forward foot down here, so I'll go ahead and Zoom in on it, and then I'll grab the Lasso tool. Now, notice that you can get to the Lasso tool by pressing the L key. The default lasso is just called the Lasso tool.
It's a Free Form Selection tool, and all you do is just drag around inside the image in order to select a region. Now, it's pretty difficult to control your actions, because you're ultimately relying on your coordination and the precision of your pointing device, which in my case is the mouse. Notice that I've arrived at the perimeter of my Image Window, so I can't really get to the rest of the foot. Well, if that happens to you, then all you need to do is keep your mouse button down and press and hold the spacebar, and that will give you the Hand tool on the fly. Then go ahead and drag the image over, and when you're done positioning the image, then release the spacebar and continue dragging, so that entire time I have the mouse button down.
When you arrive at the beginning of your selection, just go ahead and release in order to complete that selection outline. All right, So that's one way to work. Obviously, it doesn't afford you a lot of control. You may be able to get better results if you're working with the Stylus, associated with something like a Wacom Tablet. But in my case it looks pretty awful. So I'm just going to click to deselect the image, and I'm going to switch to the next lasso down, which is the Polygonal Lasso tool. Notice it has this horned cursor right there. And what this tool does is it allows you to click to set corner points in a selection, and you can actually get some pretty decent results if you take your time, and click at many, many different points inside of your image.
Once again, I seemed to have run out of room in my window, and so all I have to do is press the spacebar, go ahead and click and drag in order to scoot that foot over. Once I get it in the right location, I'll release the spacebar and continue to click. So notice, I'm not dragging, I'm clicking at these various locations. Once you make your way all the way around, and I'm going to make fairly quick work of this, so I'm not going to do the best job, once you make your way around the foot, or whatever detail you're trying to select, notice you can close up that selection outline by hovering your cursor over the first point at which you click, at which point your little horn cursor will have an O next to it indicating you're going to close the selection.
The other option is to just double-click, in which case Photoshop will go ahead and automatically draw a straight segment between those first and last points. Now, I like this tool quite a bit. If you find that you use it a lot as well, you might as well know about this trick. If you have the Standard Lasso tool selected, and I will go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image. Then, as you're dragging along and drawing a selection outline, at any point that you want to switch on the fly to the Polygonal Lasso, just press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, keep that key down, then go ahead and release your mouse button and click as desired in order to set those corners.
So the Alt or Option key switches you from the Standard Lasso to the Polygonal Lasso anytime you like. And then, if you want to continue with the Free Form Selection, you just start dragging again, at which point you can go ahead and release that Alt or Option key, and then, if you want to switch back to the Polygonal Lasso, keep that mouse button down, press and hold the Alt key, keep it down, and then release the mouse button and continue clicking. Once you get to the beginning of the selection, you can close it off just by releasing the Alt or Option key when the mouse button is no longer down. All right.
The final Lasso tool is the most precise. It's called the Magnetic Lasso tool. Go ahead and select it if you're working along with me. I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image. And here's how you work with this one. You click, you don't drag, you just click in order to set an initial point, and you move your cursor along the edges. And notice that Photoshop automatically drops points for you. Now, if you want to set a point, click in order to establish a point, and then keep moving your mouse. You do not have to drag with this tool. And I encourage you not to, because if you do drag, you're causing wear and tear on an unreplaceable piece of hardware, by which I mean your hand and your fingers and so forth.
So just go ahead and move that cursor along the outline, click when you need to. Now say that I end up going in the wrong direction here, and I'm going to make a pretty exaggerated mistake. And you want to get rid of some of these points that Photoshop has thrown in here, then you just go ahead and press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac. And every time you press Backspace or Delete, you'll get rid of one of those points. And then you can back up your cursor and continue clicking along, moving the cursor along the outline as well. All right, I am once again going to make pretty quick work.
Now, one of the things that's interesting about the Magnetic Lasso tool is it's looking for what are known as edges inside of an image, and those are areas of rapid luminance transition. So the tool is pretty good at seeing those edges. However, it does end up creating some pretty unsmooth and often scalloped selection outlines. Once you get to the beginning of the selection, you'll see that little O next to the cursor, at which point you click in order to complete the Selection Outline. All right. And just for the sake of a summary here, I've got this group inside the Layers panel, that's called Lasso Tricks, go ahead and turn it on.
I will press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac in order to Zoom out. And you can see those two tricks I was telling you about. If you're zoomed in tight to your image and you want to move it as you're drawing a selection, you can press and hold the spacebar in order to get the Hand tool, and if you want to switch from the Standard Lasso to the Polygonal Lasso on the fly, press and hold the Alt or Option key and then click with the tool. In the next exercise, I'll show you a great use for the Magnetic Lasso tool.
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