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Tutorial: Working with alpha channel in Photoshop.

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Working with alpha channel in Photoshop


Hello everyone. So, after I saw some people asking about how to work with alpha channel in Photoshop, I decided to make a simple tutorial for it. Tutorial was created in CS5, but this should work in any other version as well.

We're going to use Photoshop ONLY. No DXTBmp! That program is only good for working with extended bitmaps, since Photoshop can't save that. But for DDS textures, you can use nVidia Photoshop DDS plugin and there's absolutely nothing Photoshop cannot do. So here we go.
Step one:

Assuming you already have some layer ready for alpha channel, we switch to CHANNELS tab. In case you for some reason don't have that tab in there, you can activate it in "Windows" drop-down list.


We named our layer we want in alpha channel "Alpha layer"


Step two:

Now switch to the alpha channel itself or create it, if there's not one already.


Step three:

Go to Image -> Apply Image...


Step four:

Now the importnant part. Set everything just like you see it on screenshot below.

Layer: There should be your layer you prepared before to be used in alpha channel. In our case, it's called "Alpha layer"
Channel: RGB, because that's where the layer currently is.
Blending: Normal, so you can actually see the alpha after.

Do not press invert unless you actually need to invert your alpha for some reason.


ALL DONE! Alpha is now there, no need to use any other witchcraft.

Reverse process: Extracting alpha into RGB channel

In case you want to edit your already existing alpha channel and want it in RGB channel, it's very easy. Just create a new layer and use "Apply Image..." menu again. But now you select your source channel as "Alpha 1". Layer now doesn't matter, since that channel has only one and Blending should be again set to Normal.




I hope you learned something today and if you have any questions or ran into any issues, feel free to ask, I'll be more than happy to help you!

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Spectacular!! Thank you George. This is outstanding and very much appreciated.



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Thanks for posting this George.....

 I discovered this for myself some time ago.....But took along time to figure all this out.....

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Interesting... Didn't know that method, cheers! That's the great thing about PS so many ways to accomplish your goals...


Normally I create a normal image layer with the greyscale alpha image I want and copy/paste it into the alpha layer...


Sent from my HTC One X+ using Tapatalk



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Yup, that works as well, although I'm somehow used to this method. I think it's good to let people know what Apply Image does, since it could be useful when working with layer masks as well. Still better than fiddling with DXTBmp. :smile:

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Typing as I'm taking a break from repainting an FS9 aircraft with far too many separate texture sheets, I can safely say that anything beats fiddling with DXTbmp! ;) If only there was an extended-bmp plugin for photoshop :(

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