Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-on-One
Read the lesson. Watch the video. Do the exercises.
Publisher: O'Reilly Media / Deke Press
Final Release Date: January 2009
Pages: 512

Coming to terms with alpha channels (or masks) is the most sure-fire way to boost the quality of your work in Photoshop. But masking isn't easy-in fact, the elusive alpha channel has been described as the least understood feature in Photoshop's enormous arsenal.

Now, you can master masking with Deke McClelland's unique and effective learning system. Through step-by-step text lessons, DVD-video demonstrations, and real-world projects, you'll learn how to select and composite highlights, shadows, clouds, fabric, feathers, glass, flame, lightning, eyes, all varieties of hair, and then some. Deke's expert advice and guidance is like working with a personal coach. With this book, you will:

  • Learn at your own speed with 12 self-paced tutorials
  • Try out techniques and best practices with engaging real-world projects
  • Get more than 850 full-color photos, diagrams, and screen shots that illustrate every key step
  • See exactly how it's done in real time with five hours of all-new video instruction
  • Test your knowledge with multiple-choice quizzes in each chapter

And more. Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-on-One simulates a classroom environment that provides one-on-one attention as you proceed from lesson to lesson. You'll learn to use Photoshop faster, more creatively, and more efficiently than you thought possible.

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Timeless techniques

By Stefan

from Germany

About Me Designer, Educator

Verified Reviewer


  • Accurate
  • Concise
  • Easy to understand
  • Helpful examples
  • Well-written


    Best Uses

    • Expert
    • Intermediate

    Comments about oreilly Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-on-One:

    Very helpful, timeless techniques that apply to many Photoshop versions, not just to CS4 as the title suggests. Over the years my copy has become torn, underlined and heavily highlighted and dogeared - and I still keep referrubg to it, again and again, for several reasons:

    It contains profound advice, none of the self-explanatory methods you see elsewhere. Deke has a knack for bringing across heavy stuff in a light, entertaining manner. It's fun to read, he manages to create an almost intimate atmosphere, very fitting for the one-on-one series title. His examples get you hooked, they're easy to follow along, very advanced and yet written in a conversational, nonchalant style. Pleasant reading, witty and insightful.

    Deke also delivers info-sections how certain Photoshop features work behind the scenes (Anti-Aliasing, Blend Mode Math). This helps to judge the effectiveness and quirks when trying to match a tool to a task. These in-depths analyses are strewn in along the way, without getting in the way. Well done.

    (4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)


    CS4 Channels & Masks

    By Sally Brown

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-on-One:

    Author Deke McClelland was elected to Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2004, and considering that he has written dozens of books, including four on Adobe CS4 alone, it is no wonder that this one is both profound and illuminating. It is vast in its overview.

    This book would serve extremely well as a textbook for an instructor and a class of students headed for lives in graphics or photo editing. Given the meticulous instructional method used throughout this book, the determined individual reader with a basic background could study along and gradually absorb the lessons. It would also be possible for ordinary folks to learn many basic techniques without going full bore to the end of a lesson or the end of the book.

    Deke is an extremely dedicated and talented instructor. He anticipates places where the student might wander off and gives clear hints of what to avoid. Every instructional page has color photos or diagrams matching the text, the only exceptions being those pages loaded with background material explaining what is happening in Photoshop's mathematical underpinnings. Given that Deke was a math major (and fine arts major) in college it should come as no surprise that he understands the mathematics of Photoshop, that he enjoys teaching it, and that he wants readers to learn to use it happily too. These essays on mathematical insights go a great distance helping the reader understand what to expect in Photoshop and are among the best features of this book.

    While Deke seems to have set up the projects in this book so that he could include at least a mention of every single feature in Photoshop, in fact he has chosen very carefully what he wants everyone to learn and take away from this book. The reader gets detailed, lengthy and precise follow-along instruction on those chosen features which he has singled out as being the most important for future success with masks and channels.

    The first chapter (Lesson 1) introduces the basics of channels and then moves off into long sections on LAB, CMYK inks, the multichannel mode, and finally duotone, tritones, and quadtones in the printing process. Graphic artists will be well pleased.

    Naturally enough, Lesson 2 begins with the equation for the alpha channel, which was such an important discovery in 1977 that in 1996 it won an Oscar for its team. The first project teaches the all- important basics of alpha channels and selections, and the second project how to modify masks and combine them together.

    Deke devotes most of Lesson 3 to in-depth teaching of three basic tools: the magic wand, the quick selection tool, and the magnetic lasso - how they actually do their work and how and when they should be used. He includes a helpful page on adding to, subtracting from, and intersecting sections before demonstrating through the transform command that the outline of a photo is entirely separate from its pixels.

    Deke feels that a better selection tool is the Color Range which he calls Magic Wand on steroids, and in Lesson 4 he explains how to use it effectively along with the Refine Edges function. But better than this is using the Quick Mask for refining a mask, which needs 12 pages of instruction to fully describe and teach, and best of all is using them together.

    For Lesson 5 Deke has chosen a woman with the most amazing tresses of black hair including hundreds of tiny tendrils extending out nearly two feet. It takes the entire lesson to mask her out of her plain white background and place her against a landscape. Deke moves from the basic technique of starting with the blue channel through lots of painting, and threshold, and color range, and more and more techniques to accomplish this.

    Lesson 6 on blend modes builds on the very helpful video which shows what some of these modes do. In the text Deke labels the photos showing these blend modes and explains the mathematics of each type individually. He also includes an essay on the equations of lightening and darkening which makes understanding these features much easier. There are two follow along exercises for practicing these skills, and a dandy little project on using luminosity creatively.

    Lesson 7 is about masking layers, and the five different practice exercises clearly demonstrate the almost endless number of ways masking can be employed in everyday editing projects. In the course of these exercises Deke has also made sure to include a goodly number of the techniques described earlier in the book and thus remind the reader that all these pieces fit together.

    Lesson 8 addresses specialty masks, specifically six that have value in everyday editing situations. 1) the luminance mask used in the refinement of portraits, 2) a corrective mask to fix mottled skin, 3) a color mask to change the color of a piece of clothing without affecting the whole photo 4) a density mask for sharpening edges only 5) depth mask to add more depth of field to a photo 6) an edge mask to correct old family photos. Each of these exercises is detailed and involved.

    Lesson 9 is about channel mixing, and the five methods of converting RGB photos to black and white. Deke disposed of the three automatic ones in the accompanying video, leaving two for practice exercises for this chapter. The first is the traditional Channel Mixer, first developed by Deke himself, but with the added fillip here of colored sepia instead of black and white. The second, the black and white adjustment, uses six separate color sliders and thus offers much more control. The next exercise involves changing a regular RGB photo of two young people to an infrared image through an elaborate series of steps. (Maybe it is easier to shoot in infrared to start with!) Finally Deke deals with extreme red-eye, first by showing that Photoshop's method is far from satisfactory, and then by demonstrating his own intricate system for dealing with it, and reminding the reader that the best method is not to shoot any red-eye in the first place.

    In Lesson 10, Deke makes it clear that Calculations and its little brother Apply Image are his preferred methods for difficult masks, based as they are on using the two most useful channels of the image at hand. He goes into lengthy explanation of when to use these commands, how to set up their dialogue boxes, and what their mathematics mean. He has also written an essay on Add and Subtract, Offset and Scale which belong to these commands. With all this preparation you should be ready to tackle the two very complicated exercises but beware, Deke being Deke, he has included many more steps to fix up little features that were not quite right, yet.

    Lesson 11 and its accompanying video are a seamless continuum of instruction on using the pen tool. If you haven't started with the pen tool yet or the least bit squeamish about using it, you have come to the right place. As always the individual steps are meticulously worked out in a series of increasing difficulty, and as always the text is laced with explanations of how the various features work. You can hardly help learning with instruction of this caliber. You might even be glad that you did.

    The last lesson is entitled 'Masking the Tough Stuff', and that is indeed what it is, only more. There are three approaches to consider, the first being several consecutive passes through Calculations, the second using the high pass filter with lots and lots of painting, and the third, using the pencil in curves to create a mask from a channel. There are two exercises to teach these methods, and naturally they include many of the features taught in the earlier in the book. The first shows a blond lady with her flaming match and the second a cute colorful macaw. Each of them requires 13 pages of continuous instruction to create a mask, but then this is the price of excellence.

    Included with this book are 12 lengthy and valuable videos on DVD ROM in very high resolution, which serve as introductions to the lessons themselves. However, only by raising the resolution on my Mac desktop to 1920 by 1200 could I access the control bar at the bottom of the video. At any lower resolution my only option was to go straight through the video without stopping.

    (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


    the best book out there for learning about channels and masks

    By Jeff Kew - Vancouver InDesign User Group

    from Vancouver

    Comments about oreilly Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-on-One:

    Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-On-One by Deke McClelland.

    I'm a big fan of the one-on-one series. If you need to learn about channels & masks, this is the book to get. The tutorials on masking hair and alpha channels are 2nd to none. The fact that this book also comes with 3hrs video training makes this book the obvious choice for learning about this subject. There's also no other book out there on this subject, and luckily it's Deke who's written it.

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