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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 first exercise we'll take a look at the basics of working with the Marquee tools, which allow you to create geometric selection outlines either in the shapes of rectangles or ellipses. Now these are not difficult tools to use and I'm guessing you already have experience with them. I just want you to know all of the tips and tricks at your disposal so you can maximize the performance of these tools as you work inside your own images. I happen to be working inside a file called Red-eyed tree frog.psd. It comes to us from the Fotolia image library about which you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke.
Notice, I have the Rectangular Marquee tool selected that is the default tool inside Photoshop meaning it's the tool that's selected when you first launch the program and it's a great go-to tool not only because you'll find yourself using it an awful lot rectangular selections are very common, but also because it has an unobtrusive cursor just a simple cross so you can easily see what's going on inside your image. You can get to the tool from the keyboard just by pressing the M key; M as in Marquee and you don't have to press any other modifier keys.
It's not Ctrl+M or Command+M, nothing like that; just the M key by itself. To use the tool you drag from corner to opposite corner and that gives you an unconstrained shape meaning it can be wider than it is tall or taller than it is wide what have you. If you want to create a perfect square then as you are drawing with the tool, you press and hold the Shift key and notice that goes ahead and constrains the shape to a square no matter where you move your cursor. So my cursor is way over there on the right side of the image. If I release the Shift key, I return to an unconstrained shape.
So if a square is what you are looking for you want to make sure and press and hold that Shift key until you get done drawing with the tool. So in my case, I'll go ahead and release the mouse button and then release the Shift key and you'll see that I now have a shape that's exactly the same number of pixels wide as it is tall. Now that I've drawn the selection, I can move it to a different location by dragging inside the selection outline and it doesn't matter which selection tool is active. So, for example, if I switch over to the Lasso tool and then drag inside the selection that still allows me to move it to a different location.
Notice that you're moving the selection not the pixels inside the selection. If you want to move the selected pixels then you have to switch to the Move tool and I'll show you how that works in a future exercise. All right! I am going to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool and at this point, I'm going to go ahead and deselect the image and the reason is because once you have a selection active inside Photoshop, you have the option of creating a new selection outline by dragging in a different location, or you can add to that selection or subtract from it and we'll be reviewing those so-called selection calculations in the next chapter, but for now, I want to focus on the creation of a single selection at a time.
To deselect an image when you're working with the Marquee tool, you can just click inside of the image at any location either inside the selection or out, or I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to reinstate that selection. You can also go up to the Select menu and choose the Deselect command or better still you press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac. All right! Here's another way to work. As you're drawing your rectangle and of course, normally, you're drawing from corner to opposite corner, but let's say you want to draw from the center outward instead then you press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and notice as that key is down, you are dragging from the center out.
If you release the Alt or Option key at any point in time then you'll go back to the corner-to-corner metaphor. So if you want to draw it from the center out, you need to keep that Alt or Option key down until after you finish the selection. If you want to draw a square from the center outward then you press and hold the Shift key as well. So in this case, I have both the Shift and Alt keys down. These would be the Shift and Option keys on the Mac, and then I'll go ahead and release the mouse button, and then I'll release the keys in order to create that square from the center out.
Now the final trick is the best of them all. I'll go ahead and click inside the image to deselect it, and then I'll begin drawing a marquee and now let's say I started it too high or what have you, this selection isn't going to work out for me at this point. Why I have the option of moving the selection on the fly by pressing and holding the spacebar. So while the spacebar is down you have the option of moving the selection to a different location. Then once you get that corner where you want it, you go ahead and release the spacebar and continue to drag to create the selection. All right! Now let's go ahead and switch over to the Elliptical Marquee tool.
I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image. Click and hold on the Marquee tool to bring up a flyout menu and then choose the Elliptical Marquee tool and now I can go ahead and draw an unconstrained shape. Notice that the ellipse fits inside of a kind of rectangular bounding box. So the entire ellipse fits inside that area that's described by the beginning and ending of my drag. As with the Rectangular Marquee tool, you can draw a shape that's wider than it is tall or taller than it is wide. You can press and hold the Shift key in order to create a perfect circle.
You can press and hold the Alt key in order to drag from the center out, like so. If you want to draw a circle from the center out then you press and hold the Shift key as well. So in my case, I have both the Shift and Alt keys down. These would be the Shift and Option keys on the Mac. I'm going to go ahead and release those keys, however, because I'm not interested in creating a constrained shape; I'm interested in selecting the frog's eye but of course, I started at totally the wrong location and even if I'd started at a moderately reasonable location, it's hard to get that selection outline where I want it, which is why it's so very useful that you can press the spacebar in order to move that shape around.
That allows me to figure out where the marquee needs to be, and then I can release the spacebar in order to finish selecting that eye. Now I'm not too worried about exactly selecting the eye. It's not perfectly elliptical so it's not going to work exactly right. However, the spacebar does give me the opportunity to get things more or less the way I want them. All right! If you're working along with me inside this file then you'll find a summary that's here inside the Layers panel and it's this folder called marquee tricks. Go ahead and turn it on and you can see that you can create either a perfect square or a circle by pressing Shift.
You can draw it from the center outward by pressing Alt or Option and you can move that marquee on-the-fly by pressing and holding the spacebar and you can combine all of these tricks together in any way you see fit. In the next exercise, I'll show you some less basic tricks that are associated with the Marquees.
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