I’d like to follow up on my most recent post regarding alpha channels in Adobe Photoshop. There’s one thing I need to touch on that might make all the difference when using this feature of the application. It has to do with selecting a layer that has layer styles applied to it. As it stands, when selecting a layer and that layer has a style attached to it, the selection ignores the style (or styles). This is an issue because the whole purpose of selecting something and then creating an alpha channel from that selection is to create a mask that can be saved for immediate or later use. When the layer style doesn’t carry over, a lot of extra work can be created.
In today’s post, I’d like to work through a very brief process of showing you how to deal with the issue I described above inside of Adobe Photoshop. It’s such a simple solutions, but I feel that incorporating it into a wider scenario will be helpful. I promise to keep it brief though.
The Demo Image
I needed to find an image that I could cut something out of to place on its own layer. I think this Volkswagen emblem on a stick is perfect for that. Take a look.
Selecting & Copying the Emblem
For this first step, just to keep this type of scenario realistic, I’m going to go ahead and select the emblem and then copy and paste it onto its own layer. To do that, I’ll set up two guides, one across the top and the other down the left side. I’ll use those to make my selection.
The way I managed to make this perfectly round selection that sits right on top of the emblem is like this; I used the Rectangular Marquee Tool to make the selection. I activated the tool and then I sat my mouse pointer on top of the intersection of the guides. Then, I held down the Shift key on my keyboard to lock the proportion and finally, I dragged the mouse down and to the right, across the emblem. When I saw the selection match up with the edges of the emblem, I let go of the mouse.
Once the emblem was selected, I simply used the keyboard shortcuts of Ctrl+C to copy and then Ctrl+V to paste. That put just the emblem on its own later. Take a look at the Layers panel.
Applying a Layer Style
The next thing I’ll do is create a layer style. I’ll double-click on the new layer in the Layers panel to open up the Layer Style palette and then I’ll click on the Outer Glow option. I’ll push a few sliders, just to make the style appear clearly for this demonstration. When I’m finished with that, I’ll click the OK button to close this palette out.
As you can see, I now have a nice outer glow around the emblem.
You can also see the style in the Layers panel as well.
Selecting the New Layer
Here’s something you might not know. If I go ahead and hold the Ctrl (Command on Mac) down and click the thumbnail of the new layer in the Layers panel, the emblem will become selected. Take a close look at this next screenshot.
Do you notice how just the emblem is selected and the glow isn’t? If I were to head into the Channels panel to create a new alpha channel (as explained here) from this selection, the outer glow style would be completely ignored. You can see that already because the selection ignored it.
Now, if I deselected the layer and then right-clicked on it in the Layers panel and then chose the option of Convert to Smart Object and converted this emblem layer, things would change quite a bit.
Now that the layer is a Smart Object, I’ll hold down the Ctrl key and click on the layer thumbnail again. Let’s see what happens.
Ah ha! Do you notice anything different? In the previous screenshot, the glow wasn’t selected and in this one, it is. You can see that by looking at the marching ants in the above screenshot. The moral of this story is that you can’t select layer styles in layers unless the layer is first converted to a Smart Object.
Creating an Alpha Channel
Okay, at this point I can move into the Channels panel to create the alpha channel. I’ll first click the Channels tab that’s next to the Layers one or just go up to the Window > Channels menu item and enter the panel that way. Then, I’ll head down to the bottom of the panel and click on the Save Selection as Channel button. This will create the alpha channel, layer style and all.
And as you can see from a larger view of the mask that was created, the layer effect has come along for the ride, just as I wanted it to.
And there you have it. Again, if you’d like to learn about what alpha channels are good for, please read all about there here. It’s a great post to get caught up with.
I hope I clearly explained how to select layers styles in Adobe Photoshop by first converting layers into Smart Objects. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section down below. You may also ask any question you wish in the Photoshop forum as well. Thanks for reading!