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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 I'll show you a couple of tricks for switching between tools from the keyboard. I'll also show you how to select single pixel rows and columns inside an image. I've gone ahead and restored the saved version of Red-eyed tree frog.psd. Now, notice if I click and hold on the Marquee tool here, I can see that in total I have four different tools to choose from, and the first two have a keyboard shortcut of M, which means that I should be able to switch back and forth between them by pressing the M key. However, by default you have to press Shift+M instead.
Now, I'm not crazy about that convention, and you can change it by adjusting a Preference setting. I'm going to assume that you have changed this Preference setting over the course of the many future exercises. So here's how it works. Press Ctrl+K or Command+K on the Mac in order to bring up the Preferences dialog box, and then notice this check box, Use Shift Key for tool Switch, go ahead and turn it off, if you will, and that way now we can press the M key to switch back and forth between the Elliptical and Rectangular Marquee tools. We'll be able to use other keyboard shortcuts to similarly switch between other tools as well.
I also recommend, as long as we're here, that you turn off Export Clipboard, that way when you switch applications your operating system won't get bogged down with a big huge pixel selections that you end up copying inside of Photoshop. And then finally, go to Units & Rulers over here in the left-hand side and change the Rulers from inches here in the States or cm or mm overseas, to pixels instead, because pixels are your best unit of measure inside Photoshop, and then go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification.
And now notice if I press the M Key, in this case, from the Rectangular Marquee tool to the Elliptical Marquee tool and then back, notice that two of the tools however do not have shortcuts associated with them; one is a Single Row Marquee tool and the other is the Single Column tool. If you grab either of these tools, I'd also like the Single Row tool, and click, but notice in this case, I've drawn a selection that's the entire width of the image, but measures just a single pixel tall. Why in the world would you want to do such a thing? Well, let's take a look here.
I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image, and let's say I want to draw across here through the exact center of this image. Then the first thing I would do is go up to the Select menu and choose the All command in order to select the entire thing. That's Ctrl+A or Command+A on the Mac. You can't see the selection outline, because it's outside of the window. I'll go ahead and Zoom out a step so that you can see it, and now you can see that the entire image is selected. I'll go up to the Edit menu and choose the Free Transform command, or I can press Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac.
And what that does is it shows me where the exact center of the image is; you can see this little target right there on our frog shoulder. So I'll press Ctrl+R or Command+R on the Mac to bring up my Rulers, and I'll now go ahead and drag a horizontal guideline from the Horizontal Ruler. I can't see it, because apparently my Guides are invisible. So if you have that same problem, go to the View menu, choose Show, and then choose Guides, or you can press that keyboard shortcut Ctrl+; or Command+; on the Mac. There it is.
Now, I'll go ahead and drag out a Vertical Guide from the Vertical Ruler. I want each of those Guides to snap into perfect alignment with that target, and then I'll just press the Escape key to escape the Free Transform mode. I'll press Ctrl+R or Command+R on the Mac to turn off the Guides. Then, I still have my Single Row Marquee tool selected, so I'll just go ahead and click right on that horizontal guideline in order to select that row of pixels. Now, I want to make these pixels white. My background color is white, as it is by default, so I'll press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Delete on the Mac in order to fill those pixels.
And now notice, if I press Ctrl+D, don't click again, because if you do that you'll not only deselect the pixels, but you'll select a new row. Press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image. We can't see right now, because the Guide is in the way, but that line of pixels is white. And I'll show you what that looks like in a moment, but first let's go ahead and switch over to the Single Column Marquee tool, and I'll click along that Vertical Guide, like so. Let's make sure I got it exactly selected. It looks like I was slightly off. So I'll click right next door at that location there. I'm actually clicking and holding so that I get a snap, and I guess I've got the right pixel selected.
I'll now press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+ Delete on the Mac to fill those pixels with white. Press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image, and let's see what we have here. If I press Ctrl+; or Command+; on the Mac in order to deselect the pixels, I can see that I've actually drawn in those lines. All right! I'm going to Zoom out a couple of clicks here once again, and now I'm going to switch to the Elliptical Marquee tool, and I'm going to position my cursor right there at the intersection of those two lines, and I'll drag away from that location.
And midway into my drag I'll press the Shift and Alt keys or the Shift and Option keys on the Mac. So I'm drawing from the center outward, and I'm drawing a perfect circle as well. And when I get a circle of, let's say, about that size, then I'll stroke it by going up to the Edit menu and choosing the Stroke command. If you've loaded DekeKeys, you can see that I've given you a keyboard shortcut, because I happen to use this command a lot, and that's Ctrl+Shift+' or Command+Shift+' on the Mac. And now, I want a Width of 1 pixel to match my lines, but I want the Color to be white.
So I'll go ahead and click on the Color Swatch, change it to white here inside the Color Picker, click OK, and then click OK again in order to stroke that selection. To see what it looks like, I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac. Now, you may or may not find these Single Row and Single Column tools to be useful. I don't use them all that often quite frankly. However, if you do want to get one of those tools, notice there is no shortcut, so you'll have to select it from the flyout menu or, of course, you can modify the shortcuts if you like by going up to the Edit menu and choosing the Keyboard Shortcuts command.
But the way I prefer to work is to take advantage of this trick. Notice, if you press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click on that Marquee tool there in the toolbox, you'll switch to the next tool. So in this case, I've switched from the Elliptical Marquee tool to the Single Row tool. Then I'll Alt+Click again for the Single Column tool and Alt+Click or Option+Click a third time in order to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool. And that trick of Alt+Clicking or Option+ Clicking on a tool works for all of the tools inside Photoshop. So any of these tools that have a little triangle down at their base offer flyout menus of additional tools and you can switch between them by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking on that tool icon. All right! There is one more thing that you can do with the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee tools, and that is you can draw fixed size selections, which can prove very useful.
And I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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