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One of the new features in Elements 9. 0 that everyone is excited about is the ability to add a layer mask to a layer. layer masks have been available in Adobe Photoshop for a while now, but in Elements, until this version of the program, the only way to add a layer mask was through a convoluted workaround. Now, you can add a layer mask directly to a layer and use that layer mask to non-destructively hide and show different parts of the layer. To show you what a layer mask gives and how to use one, I have this gorgeous photograph of fall scenery in New Mexico by photographer John Lorenz.
If you look at the layers panel, you can see that, that photograph is one the top layer, the trees layer, and that I have another layer below which is currently hidden that's filled with orange. If I make the trees layer temporarily invisible by clicking its eye icon, you can see that orange layer below. I will make the trees layer visible again. Now what I would like to do is add a layer mask to the trees layer that will hide parts of the trees layer without actually deleting anything on the trees image itself.
To add a layer mask to the trees layer, I will first make sure the trees layer is selected in the layers panel, and then I will go down to the Add layer Mask icon, the icon that looks like a square with a circle in it at the bottom of the layers panel. I will click to add a white layer mask. And this thumbnail on the right side of the trees layer represents the layer mask. A layer mask is a grayscale element. In other words, it can be only white, black, or gray. Where our layer mask is white like this, it shows or reveals everything on the layer to which it's attached.
So with the layer mask white, we can still see everything that's on the trees layer here in the image. But where our layer mask is black, it hides the corresponding part of the image to which it's attached. So I am going to add some black paint to this layer mask to hide parts of the trees image and where those parts are hidden on the trees layer, we will be able to see down through the orange layer below. Before I add any paint, I want to make sure that I have the layer mask thumbnail selected in the layers panel.
I don't want to have the image thumbnail selected like this. When the layer mask thumbnail is selected, it has this thin black border around it. Then I will go over to the toolbar and I want to make sure that I have black as my foreground color. Since I have black as the background color, and white as the foreground color right now, I will click this double- pointed arrow right here and that will switch the two colors, so that black is in the foreground. Next, I will select the Brush tool here in the toolbar and I will move into the image and I am going to make a mark on the layer mask.
And remember I am painting on the layer mask. I am not painting with orange on the trees. You can see exactly where I've painted on the layer mask if you look at the layer mask thumbnail over here and where I have added that black paint to this layer mask, it is hiding the corresponding part of the trees and so in that area, we can see down through to the orange on the layer below. Now that's not very interesting. To make it look a little better, I can get a different kind of a brush. With the Brush tool still selected, I am going to go up to the Brush Picker and I will click the arrow to the right of the Brush Picker and then I will scroll down in the Brush Picker and I will select this brush that looks like a maple leaf and then I will click in the blank area of the options bar to close the Brush Picker.
I will move into the image and you can see that the brush-tip is in the shape of a maple leaf and this particular brush is what's called a scatter brush, it uses different sizes of this maple leaf pattern as the brush-tip. So I am just going to click and drag very slightly with this brush and as I do, I am adding black paint in the shape of maple leaves on the layer mask thumbnail, and wherever I have those maple leaf shapes, I am hiding the trees on the trees layer so we can see down through to the orange on the layer below.
Let's take a look at this layer mask. I can show you the layer mask in the document window by holding the Alt key on the PC or the Option key on the Mac and clicking right on that layer mask thumbnail. So here you can see where I have added black paint to the layer mask and these are all the places where I am hiding the trees on the trees layer, so we can see down through to the orange on the layer below. I will Alt or Option+click again on the layer mask thumbnail to bring back the image. So, one way to add black paint to a layer mask is to paint with black.
Another way to add black paint is to make a selection and fill the selection with black. To show you how to do that, I will go back to the toolbar and I am going to click on the Rectangular Marquee tool and from the flyout menu, I will choose the Elliptical Marquee tool. Before I make a selection with this tool, I am going to go up to its options bar, click in the Feather field, and I will type there 2 pixels, and that will make the edge of my selection feathered or a little bit soft, and then I will come into the image and I am going to start near the top-left of the image and drag towards the bottom right, creating an oval selection.
I am going to invert this selection, so everything is selected outside of that oval, by going up to the Select menu, and choosing Inverse. So now I have all of this frame area around the oval selected. And I am going to fill that frame with black on the layer mask. So I will double-check that the layer mask thumbnail is selected, and then I will go up to the Edit menu and choose Fill Selection. In the Use menu of the Fill layer dialog box, I will choose Black, and I will click OK and that fills this frame area with black on the layer mask, as you can see over here on the layer mask thumbnail.
To remove these dotted lines, the marching ants, I will go up to the Select menu and choose Deselect. So I am using black on the layer mask to hide this frame area of the trees and to hide other parts of the tree image in the shape of these leaves and wherever there is black on that mask, we can see down through to orange on the layer below. Well, you may be wondering why I didn't just delete these portions of the tree layer? And the answer is that using a layer mask gives me a lot more flexibility to change my mind. So if I now decide that I really don't want to be able to see down through these leaf shapes, I can switch from black paint to white paint over here in the toolbar.
I can get my Brush tool again and this time I will go back to the Brush Picker and I will scroll up and I am going to select just a regular soft brush. I will click in a blank area of the options bar to close the Brush Picker and now I am going to come in and paint with white over some of these areas where I had added black paint in the shape of leaves. And as I paint back onto the layer mask with white, I am revealing the trees on the layer to which that mask is attached. So, if you are looking for a way to remember, there is a little mantra that you will about layer mask which is that white on a mask reveals and black on a mask conceals.
And as a little extra point, if I paint with gray on a layer mask, I will partially conceal the content of the layer to which the mask is attached. So that gives you a sense of the great flexibility of layer masks. I can use a layer mask to non- destructively conceal or reveal parts of a layer and if I change my mind altogether and don't want that mask, I can always delete it without harming the underlying image. To delete this mask, I will click on the layer mask thumbnail in the layers panel and drag it down to the Trash can at the bottom right of the layers panel and release my mouse and in this warning, I will click Delete, and there is my original photograph of the trees unharmed.
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