Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Understanding Masks in Photoshop

I still meet lots of people that tell me they think Photoshop is only for professionals and that it's too difficult to work with. I hope to convince you of the contrary with my posts. Sure, it takes a bit of effort and lots of practise, but once you dive into the great world of Photoshop, you'll discover that there are plenty of great and useful things that are easy to understand and to use.

This post is about understanding masks. Now don't zap away, I promise you this really is an easy to understand and useful post!

As always, it starts with a picture:

Now I duplicate the background so that I have 2 layers. Next step is to add a mask by clicking on this icon

Now I have two layers and the top layer has a (white) mask.  

To see the differences between the two layers, I make the background layer black and white by selecting the layer and press Shift Cmd U 

Because the mask is white I can see it. When I make the mask black, it is hidden and you see the underlaying layer (the black and white version of the picture). To invert the mask: select the mask and click on Cmd I.

When you'd like to make part of the coloured layers visible, what you have to do is to paint the mask with the opposite color. In this case I selected a white brush and painted over some parts of the picture.
Don't forget to paint on the mask and not on the layer. On the mask you can now see that some parts are white.

Always remember this rule when you're working with masks:

White revealsblack conceals

If you understand the basics of layers you can also use the adjustment layers. 

I'll start with this picture and I added some adjustment layers

By painting on the mask you decide where in the image the effect will be highlighted

Two key things to remember when working with masks:
  1. White conceals and Black reveals
  2. Paint with the opposite colour on the mask. And when you painted a bit too much by accident, just switch the colour to the opposite color (black or white) to remove the effect.
I hope to have convinced you that working with masks is fun instead of scary. In case you'd like to dive in to this a bit more: there are also loads of clips about this subject on Youtube. 

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