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Book Review: Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-On-One By Deke McClelland

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If you want to really advance your Photoshop skills then you must come to terms with working with channels and masks. The real problem is that masking is not easy. In fact, many people think that it is one of the least understood features within Photoshop.

The goal of Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-On-One is to eliminate the problems that most have with traditional ways of learning how to mask. The one-on-one series is McClelland's teaching system of Read-Watch-Do. It will show you how to accomplish tasks by using real-world projects using hands-on training. The book is 497 pages in length and is divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "How Channels Work," examines what channels are and why they are so important. Channels have been around since the first version of Photoshop and they are the feature that gives you the ability to merge different images into seamless works of art. Chapter 2, "How Masks Work," now does the same thing with masks. Masks are the non-color counterpart to channels. They are often referred to as alpha channels.

Chapter 3, "Selection Essentials," gives you the down and dirty insights about working with selections. In this chapter you will learn about common selections, working with quick selections, magnetic lasso, Refine Edge, and transform and intersect selection outlines. Chapter 4, "Color Range and Quick Masks," examines why the best selection tool isn’t a tool at all, it is the color range command. Here you will see what makes this command so helpful.

Chapter 5, "Everyday Channel Masking," will show you the essential steps required to employ a dependable channel based mask. This technique will be used on a regular basis in your work with selections. Chapter 6, "Blends and Composites," describes how to work blend modes to obtain accurate and more flexible results when making selections. You will learn how to blend drastically different images into one homogeneous composition.

Chapter 7, "Masking Layers," will show you various ways to assign masks to specific layers. You will work with how to combine people, use translucency to create a natural interaction between foreground and background, and how to create the appearance of rapid decisive movements. Chapter 8, "Specialty Masks," will show you how to create and use six specialty masks.

Chapter 9, "Channel Mixing and Other Tricks," takes a look at ways to mix color bearing channels with each other to create high-impact, black and white images and color them on a luminance by luminance basis. Chapter 10, "Calculations (a.k.a. Channel Operations)," looks at reasons and ways to blend two channels to create an alpha channel. You will also examine the use of the Calculation and Apply Image commands in masking.

Chapter 11, "The Pen Tool and Paths Palette," looks at the many ways you can apply transparency to text blocks, paths, and imported images inside Photoshop. Chapter 12, "Masking the Tough Stuff," will show you how to use the Calculations, High Pass, and Curves commands to separate complex images from similarly colored or cluttered backgrounds.

Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks is presented in usual McClelland style – a little bit humorous, a little bit serious, and a whole lot of informative education. I like the format as well. Each chapter begins with a reading section. You are then sent to watch the video that is on the DVD, and then you perform the exercises.

The video is based on his Lynda.com videos, and there is more than three hours of them on the DVD. The book itself is in full color with more than 850 full color photos, diagrams, and screen shots to illustrate each and every step. At the end of each chapter is a quiz to test your knowledge over the chapter. If you want to learn the techniques of the selection masters, then I very highly recommend Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.