Layer Mask Essentials

In this chapter, we'll revisit several techniques we harnessed in Chapter 5, "Selection Tools and Techniques." This is because masks generally start as a selection, which is then attached to a layer. The mask can be refined, adding to it with black or subtracting with white. Learning to create and modify masks is importantand a skill that becomes significantly easier with a little practice.

Video Training

Layer Masking

Adding Layer Masks

The best way to learn about Layer Masks is to jump right in and create one. We'll start with an easy image, but one that will help illustrate the important concepts. Let's get started:


Open the file Sundial.tif from the Chapter 7 folder on the DVD-ROM.


Convert the Background layer into a floating layer by double-clicking its name in the Layers palette. Name the layer Sundial.


Select the Polygonal Lasso from the Toolbox.


Make a rough selection around the octa-gon-shaped platter and the metal sundial bar. Be accurate, but not obsessed with making a perfect selection.


When you close the selection, by returning to the starting point, it will become active. You should see the "marching ants" encircling the sundial.


Click the Add layer mask button to add a mask to the layer.


To make it easier to see the edges of the border, place a solid color layer behind the Sundial layer. Choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Choose a color that is not in the image, such as green.


Drag the fill layer below the Sundial layer in the Layers palette.


Depending on the accuracy of your initial selection, your mask may be usable as-is. If needed, you can quickly touch it up using the Brush tool.


Click the Layer Mask thumbnail to select it.


Activate the Brush tool by pressing B or choosing it from the Toolbox.


Press D to load the default colors of black and white. Black will add to a mask and create transparency, white will subtract from the mask. Using gray or blurring will create a softer edge.


Zoom in to better see your edges. You can use the Zoom tool or the Navigator to get a better look at your edges.


Paint with a soft-edged brush to refine the mask. If you add too much to the mask, press X to toggle the mask colors. Remember, painting with black will add to the mask (hence removing or masking the image).


You can improve the edges of the mask by using the Blur tool (R) or the Smudge tool (R) on the edges. You can stop tweaking when you are satisfied with your results.

Disabling Layer Masks

The primary benefit of masks is their flexibility. In the previous section we explored that flexibility by adding and subtracting to a mask. This flexibility can also carry forward with the ability to temporarily disable a mask. This can be useful if you want to check your progress, or if you need to restore the original image to use on another project:


Work with the Sundial image from the previous exercise or open the file Sundial_Masked.tif from the Chapter 7 folder.


Select the Layers palette so it is active.


Shift-click the Layer Mask thumbnail to disable it. Alternately, you can right-click the mask's thumbnail to access more options.

Shift-clicking a Layer Mask's thumbnail will temporarily disable the mask.


To re-enable the mask, Shift-click its thumbnail again.

Deleting Layer Masks

After going through the effort of creating a mask, you are unlikely to want to permanently discard it. But if you change your mind and are certain you want to delete it, doing so is easy:


Work with the Sundial image from the previous exercise or open the file Sundial_Masked.tif from the Chapter 7 folder.


Select the Layers palette so it is active.


Click the Layer Mask thumbnail. Drag it to the trash icon in the Layers palette.


A dialog window appears asking you to decide what to do with the mask:

  • Delete: This will discard the mask and restore the image to its premasked state.

  • Cancel: This allows you to cancel the command and return the image to its masked state.

  • Apply: This permanently applies the mask and deletes the pixels that were originally masked.


Click Apply to permanently apply the mask.

Using Vector Masks

Most users choose to work with the raster-based Layer Masks discussed earlier in this chapter. These raster-based masks tend to be the easiest to work with and allow the most flexibility in editing due to the wide variety of tools you can use to modify the mask. However, some users prefer to work with vector tools like the Pen tool or the Shape tools because of personal preference (or more experience with programs like Adobe Illustrator). There are several ways to add a Vector Mask:

  • After you've added a raster Layer Mask, click the Add Mask button in the Layers palette to add a second mask that is vector-based.

  • To add a Vector Mask initially, Cmd-click (Ctrl-click) the Add Mask button when adding the first mask.

  • To add a new (empty) vector mask, you can choose Layer > Vector Mask > Reveal All.

  • To hide an entire layer, choose Layer > Vector Mask > Hide All.

Understanding. AdobeR PhotoshopR. Digital Imaging Concepts and Techniques
Understanding Adobe Photoshop: Digital Imaging Concepts and Techniques
ISBN: 0321368983
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 129 © 2008-2017.
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