Creating Channel Masks 499 Another way to add a vector mask is to select your desired layer, draw a work path with the Pen tool or one of the shape tools, and then select Layer➪ Vector Mask➪Current Path. Managing vector masks Here are a few vector mask tips. You can perform the following tasks: ✓ Edit a vector mask path. Use the pen tools and the Direct Selection tool, as described in Book III, Chapter 2. ✓ Add multiple shapes or paths to the existing vector mask. All you need to do is drag another shape with any of the shape tools. Or add another Book VI path with the Pen tool. You can also add, delete, and intersect shapes Chapter 3 and paths using the Add, Subtract, Intersect, and Exclude icons in the Advanced Masking Getting Exact with Options bar. Techniques ✓ Remove a vector mask from a layer. Drag the thumbnail to the trash can icon in the Layers panel or choose Layer➪Vector Mask➪Delete. You can also click the Delete (trash can) icon in the Masks panel. ✓ Disable (temporarily hide) or enable a vector mask. Shift-click the vector mask thumbnail or choose Layer➪Vector Mask➪Disable (or Enable). You can also click the Disable/Enable Mask icon in the Masks panel. ✓ Rasterize a vector mask. Rasterizing (or turning the mask into a pixel- based image) converts the vector mask into a layer mask. Choose Layer➪Rasterize➪Vector Mask. ✓ Apply layer styles to vector shapes. This is a quick-and-easy way to create buttons for a Web page or a custom logo, as shown in Figure 3-5. Just select the layer, not the vector mask, and choose Layer➪Layer Style. Select your style of choice. For details on layer Figure 3-5: Adding layer styles to your styles, see Book V, Chapter 4. shapes can make them really shine. Creating Channel Masks Photoshop’s channel masks are probably the most time-consuming masks to use because they require a lot of manual labor. Not heavy lifting, mind you, but work with the tools and commands in Photoshop. 500 Creating Channel Masks But, don’t get me wrong; it’s time well spent. Channel masks can usually accurately select what the other Photoshop tools can only dream about — wisps of hair, tufts of fur, a ficus benjamina tree with 9,574 leaves. You can create a channel mask in a lot of ways, but I’m here to offer you one that works most of the time. To create a channel mask, follow these steps: 1. Analyze your existing channels to find a suitable candidate to use to create a duplicate channel. This is usually the channel with the most contrast between what you want and don’t want. For instance, in my example, the Blue channel pro- vided the most contrast between the windmills and the sky, which I wanted to mask, and the background, which I didn’t. To duplicate the channel, drag your desired channel thumbnail to the New Channel icon at the bottom of the Channels panel. After you duplicate the channel, it then becomes an alpha channel and is named (channel) copy. 2. Make sure the alpha channel is selected in the Channels panel and choose Image➪Adjustments➪Levels. Using the histogram and the sliders in the Levels dialog box, increase the contrast between the element(s) you want and don’t want selected. Click OK when you’re done to close the dialog box. 3. Select a tool, such as the Brush or Eraser tool, and paint and edit the alpha channel to refine the mask. See Figure 3-6. I used the combo of the Brush and Eraser set to Block mode to clean up my mask. 4. When you complete the mask, click the Load Channel as Selection icon (the dotted circle icon on the far left) at the bottom of the Channels panel. Then, click your composite channel at the top of the list of channels. This step loads your mask as a selection, giving you that familiar selec- tion outline. You can also use one of my favorite keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl-click (Ô-click on the Mac) directly on the alpha channel to load the mask as a selection. Your selection is now ready to go. 5. You can leave it within the original image, or drag and drop it onto another image with the Move tool, as I did in Figure 3-7. Because my new sky was darker than my original, I also darkened my windmills so the lighting would be more consistent. If you’ve done a good job, nobody will be the wiser that the two images never met in real life. Creating Channel Masks 501 Channel mask Book VI Original Chapter 3 Advanced Masking Getting Exact with Techniques Corbis Digital Stock Figure 3-6: Use the Levels and Photoshop painting and editing tools to refine your channel mask. Corbis Digital Stock Figure 3-7: When combining multiple images, masking is usually the most accurate method. 502 Creating Channel Masks Putting It Together Masking Hair, Fur, and Other Wispy Things Hair, fur, fuzz, and other objects with complex or loosely deﬁned edges can prove difﬁcult to select with the run-of-the-mill selection techniques. But that’s where masking can save the day. Because a mask allows for a 256-level selection, it does a great job of pick- ing up those elusive strands of hair and such that would otherwise probably be cut off in the selecting process. Perhaps you’ve seen those photos where everyone in a composite image appears to have helmet hair? Here are the steps to avoid the Aqua Net look and select even the smallest wisp of hair: 1. Choose File➪Open. Select an image that contains something hairy, furry, or fuzzy. A portrait is an ideal choice (unless the subject is hair challenged). For your first attempt at this technique, starting with an image that has a pretty simple and uncluttered back- ground is best. In my example, I used an image of a pensive, young urban professional shown in the figure. 2. Choose Window➪Channels. View each channel by clicking the channel name in the Channels panel. Each channel is an independent gray- scale image and a potential starting point for a mask. It’s best to start with the channel that contains the most contrast between what you want to select and what you don’t. If it’s a toss-up, go with the channel that makes selecting the difficult part of the image easiest. (In my example, that’s the hair, so I chose the Blue channel.) 3. Choose Duplicate Channel from the Channels panel pop-up menu. In the Duplicate Channel dialog box, name the channel mask and click OK. You’ve created an alpha channel for the mask, shown in the figure. Now, you can edit the mask without harming the original channel. 4. Make sure the alpha channel is selected in the Channels panel and choose Image➪Adjustments➪Levels. Boost the contrast in the image by dragging the Input sliders for shadows, midtones, and highlights. Creating Channel Masks 503 Make the element(s) you want to select to be all white or all black with a little gray in the wispy areas. In other words, you want to change most of the pixels in the image to either black or white. If you need help using the Levels adjustment, see Book VIII, Chapter 1. Remember, the goal is to select the person and his or her hair. You can do that in one of two ways: ✓ By selecting the person ✓ By selecting the background first and then Book VI inverting the selection Chapter 3 In a mask, traditionally, white represents a selected area, black represents an Advanced Masking Getting Exact with unselected area, and gray represents a partially selected area. Techniques In my example, because my guy is darker than the background, I adjusted the con- trast to make the subject as black as I could while making the background lighter. You can see the result in the figure. 5. When you’re done, click OK to close the Levels dialog box. 6. Refine the mask by selecting the Eraser tool and selecting Block Mode from the Options bar. The Block Eraser is a great tool for cleaning up masks. It allows you to paint inside the mask without creating any feathered edges. 7. Press D to access the default colors. Remember, the Eraser tool paints with the background color, so be sure you have the color you want before you drag. Press X to switch the foreground and back- ground colors. continued 504 Creating Channel Masks continued 8. Clean up your mask by painting with black and white, as shown in the figure. Make sure to use short strokes so you can undo any mistakes you make. 9. Use the Zoom tool if you need to touch up the details. The Block Eraser tool has only one size, so you have to zoom in to paint thinner strokes and zoom out to erase a larger area. Remember to leave some gray around the wispy areas, as seen in the figure; otherwise they may look chopped off. Take your time and be as accurate as you can. Patience makes a big difference. If you’re not sure what you need to paint on the mask and you want to refer to the color image, simply click the composite channel (either RGB or CMYK, depending on your image) at the top of the Channels panel. Then click the mask channel again to return to your mask. Or you can view both the mask and the composite simultane- ously. Your mask appears as a red overlay. Your mask is refined and ready to go. 10. Click the first icon on the left at the bottom of the Channels panel to load the mask as a selection. Or Ctrl-click (Ô-click on the Mac) the channel mask. A selection marquee appears around your mask. If you want to soften the edge a little, you can choose Select➪Modify➪Feather and enter a value somewhere between 0.5 pixel (for a low-resolution image) to 2 pixels (for a high-resolution image). Feathering allows for a soft, natural-looking transition between your masked element and the background. I used a 1-pixel feather for my image. 11. Return to the composite image by clicking the RGB channel (or CMYK, if warranted). The selection outline appears in your composite image, shown in the figure. Creating Channel Masks 505 12. If you need to invert your selection, choose Select➪Inverse. In my example, I just filled my back- ground with a solid color, so I left the background selected. 13. Choose Window➪Color and mix a color of your choice. Choose Edit➪ Fill, and in the Fill dialog box, choose Foreground Color for your Contents. Click OK. Book VI Photoshop now replaces the back- Chapter 3 ground with a solid color. Check the Advanced Masking Getting Exact with edges to see how clean your mask is. Techniques 14. Make any final edits you need to make. My guy looked like he spent too much time at the local tanning booth, so I toned down the redness in his skin by using the Variation commands (see Book VIII, Chapter 1), as shown in the figure. 15. When you’re happy with your channel mask, save and close the file. It takes practice to get masking down to a science, but, believe me, it’s worth your time. Nine times out of ten, a channel mask lends a much better selection than any of the easier, quicker selection tools and techniques. Instead of filling the background with a color, you can also open a second image and, with the Move tool, drag and drop your masked element into the second image. A couple of things to keep in mind when compositing with two images: First, try to use two images whose lighting isn’t so dissimilar that it looks artificial. Take into account the time of day, the angle of the light, and so on. Second, try to select two images whose levels of focus make sense. If you need to soften one of the images, apply the Gaussian Blur filter. If your mask is good, your person should look right at home in his or her new digs. 506 Book VI: Channels and Masks Book VII Filters and Distortions G ot an image that needs to be sharper or maybe less dusty? How about an image that needs to look like it was wrapped in plastic and then Xeroxed on a circa-1970 photocopier? Either way, this is the book that describes the fine-tuning and the folly of filters. Filters can do wonders in correcting your images, making them look better than the original. And if it’s special effects you’re interested in, look no fur- ther. Filters can make your image look ripped, sprayed, wet, hot — and just about any other adjective you’re interested in. The best news is that Photoshop offers Smart Filters: filters that work their magic without damaging your pixels. If distortions are more your thing, you won’t be dis- appointed with the Liquify command, for which image warping, pushing, bloating, and puckering are daily activities.