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Created:
2010-12-06
Last Updated:
2010-12-10
by
User Level:
Beginner
Products:
Photoshop Extended
Photoshop CS


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Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop CS5

What are Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop?

Photoshop Layer masks can isolate part of the picture and keep it from changing. When you create a mask based on a selection created using a selection tool, the part that is outside the selection is protected and unavailable for any changes. Masks can be used to apply non-destructive adjustments such as color correction or image compositing where you can use masks to hide part of layers rather than to permanently delete.

The advantage of this mode is that you can always change the mask and what is shown without damaging the original data (pixels) by using brushes, filters and tools for selection. You can remove the cover and restore the original appearance of the layer. In Photoshop you can create a temporary mask for one use or preserve them and use them whenever you need them.

When you make adjustments via the ADJUSTMENTS palette, the mask (by default white color which reveal) will be automatically created on a new adjustment layer that will appear at the Layers palette. To create a mask, click on its thumbnail, choose the brush from the toolbox, set the foreground color to be black and paint directly over parts of the images you want to exclude from adjustment (the thumbnail view cover will begin to appear black on the parts of the paint). 

Another way is to make a selection with selection tools, then choose adjustment from ADJUSTMENTS palette and the mask will be automatically created based on selection you made.

In Photoshop there are two different types of masks:

Pixel masks. To create such a mask you can also use a selection tool or brush and paint the mask that you create by clicking on the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. A mask can not be created on protected (Background layer).

 

Vector masks. Instead of tools for selections and brushes you can use Pen and Shapes Tools that one will delineate a Path and thus determine what will be shown. When you work with vector masks, make sure that the model (drawing mode) is Path in the tool bar options. To add a vector mask to a layer, hold down the CTRL key down while clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon.

Working with masks from MASKS palette

TheMASKS palette appears on palettes on the right side of the screen. The MASKS palette can be shown from Window > Masks. On this palette you have the following options:

To add a pixel mask to the layer, click the thumbnail of the layer to activate the layer, and then click the Add a mask icon at the upper right of the MASKS palette.

 

To add a vector mask to a layer, click the thumbnail of the layer to activate the layer and then the Add a vector mask icon at the MASKS palette. 

To change the opacity of a mask (eg, this can be used when you apply too much contrast by Curves to reduce the intensity), click the thumbnail of the mask to activate it (when the mask is active it has a double frame) and then drag the Density slider to the left.

 

To create a mask based on the level of colors in the image, click the thumbnail of the mask to activate it and then click Color Range.

Invert the colors on the mask, click the thumbnail of the mask to activate it and then click the Invert button.

To improve the edge of the mask, click the thumbnail of the mask to activate it and then the Mask Edge button. The Refine Mask dialog box will appear and you have a large number of sliders you can use to refine and polish the mask.

To make a selection based on the mask contents cover, hold down the CTRL key while you click the thumbnail of the mask. You can invert the selection from Select > Inverse menu or by using the keybord shortcut Ctrl + Shift + I.

To permanently apply the mask on the layer and delete it at the same time, click the thumbnail of the mask to activate it and then click Apply mask.

To show / hide the effect of the mask, click the thumbnail of the mask to activate it and then the eye icon on the palette, or use keyboard shortcut Shift + click the thumbnail of the mask to hide it. To show mask again, repeat operation.

To delete a mask, click on its thumbnail to activate it and then click on the trash icon on MASKS palette.

Temporary Masks

You can create a temporary mask by clicking the Edit button Quick Mask Mode, which is located in the toolbox. To create a selection, choose the brush from toolbox, set the foreground color to be black and paint directly over the parts of the images you want to be excluded from selection. Painted area will have red color overlay by default. When you finish painting the part of the image that you want to manipulate, again click the Edit button in Quick Mask Mode, and what you painted will be converted into a selection.

 

How to save the mask along with the file?

Each time you create a mask it will appear in the CHANNELS palette as an alpha channel. The channel will be saved along with the file if the format supports layers and channels (PSD, TIFF).

  Visit my blog Adobe Photoshop Secrets for more tips, tricks and creative ideas.

 

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