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One of the fun things to do in Photoshop Elements is to join photographs together to make new compositions. Let me show you how you can use a Layer Mask to make a joined image look really professional. I have two images opened from the 07_03-layermask subfolder, in the Chapter 07 Exercise Files folder. I'm going to get my Move tool from the Toolbox and I'm going to click on the second image, plant.jpg. I'm going to hold down the Shift key and then click and drag from the plant image into the lizard image and when I see the highlight around the lizard image, I release my mouse and then I release the Shift key.
The reason I held the Shift key down when I did that is so that the two images would be exactly registered one on top of the other. Now I'm going to close the plant image because I no longer need it and I'm going to work on the lizard image, which if you look in the Layers palette now has two layers. It has a background layer, which contains the lizard, and it has a layer called Layer 1. I'm going to rename Layer 1 by double-clicking it and I'll call it Plant, let me make plant invisible for just one second, to tell you that what I would like to have happen, is for this lizard to show up on the left side of the composite image and the plant to show up on the right side. How am I going to blend these two layers together? I'm going to use a Layer Mask, there is no direct way to add a Layer Mask in Photoshop Elements, as there is in the full fledged Adobe Photoshop, but there is an easy work around for it. First I'm going to make sure that the layer on the bottom of the two is selected and then I'm going to this black and white icon here at the top of the Layers palette, clicking and I'm going to choose Levels but you actually could do this with Brightness, Contrast or Hue/Saturation or several other of the items on this menu.
I'll choose Levels and I'm not going to reset any levels, I'm just going to click OK. The only reason I've added that Special Levels layer, which we will talk about in other movies in this course, is that it comes with its own Layer Mask and I'm going to use that Layer Mask to make this composite image. First of all I'm going to clip the Layer Mask to the top of the two layers, the plant layer by moving my mouse over the border between the Plant layer and the Levels layer, holding the Alt key on the keyboard which changes the cursor to this double circle cursor and clicking. Now just to show you how this works, I'm going to take my Brush tool from the Toolbox and I'm going to make sure that that layer mask on the Levels layer is selected and I'm going to come in and paint with black and watch what's happening.
Wherever I paint with black on that mask, the content of the Plant layer which is clipped to the mask disappears out of the image and I can see down through to the content of the background layer below. Let me undo that by going to edit and Undo Brush tool, rather than just use the paint brush I'm going to use a black to white gradient, to blend these two images together. Where the gradient is black, you will be able to see through the plant layer on top to the lizard on the background layer below. I'll go to the Toolbox and I'll select the Gradient tool, I'll look in the Options bar and make sure that I have a black to white gradient from left to right, and then with the Gradient tool, I'm coming into my image and I click on one side of the document window and drag toward the other side, it doesn't matter exactly where I let go.
I think I'll try going all the way over to the edge and when I release my mouse, like magic, the lizard begins to show through. If you look at the Layers palette, you'll see that the mask is now filled with a black to white gradient from left to right. Where the mask is black on the left side, you can see through the Plant layer to the lizard on the background layer. Now I can clean this up a little because the lizard's feet are little obscured because the gradient is not pure black where the lizard's feet are. It is becoming gray as it moves from black to white. So we can sort of see through but not completely. So I'm going to get my paint brush, make sure there is black paint here in the foreground color box and I'm just going to paint a little bit on top of the lizard's feet, making sure that I still have in the Layers palette that mask on the levels layer is selected.
Now we can see a little bit more of the lizard. Now let me show you the mask and that will help you to visualize what's going on, I can show you the mask in the document window, by holding down the Alt key and clicking on the mask. So there it is where the mask is dark either because I have drawn a gradient there or because I have used the paint brush as I have here, you can see through the plant layer, to which the mask is clipped. I'll go back and Alt-click again on that layer mask to bring my image back. So that's how you can use a Layer Mask to make professional looking, blended compositions like this one.
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