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In the last video, I introduced to you the concept of Alpha Channels or Channels and as you remember, a Channel is basically the same thing that a selection is and it just represents varying levels of transparency. Layer masks, which we are learning about in this video, extend the concept of an Alpha Channel by associating it with a layer. So the first thing we want to do is learn how we create a layer mask. And what I'm going to be doing is applying it to this little statue figure, which we cut out earlier and give the illusion that this is actually protruding from the water.
Layer masks are the perfect tool to do that, because it's going to enable me to determine exactly how transparent or opaque portions or the bottom of this are going to be. If we go over to the Layers palette itself, I'm going to create a layer mask. So there is a couple of ways to do it. I can go down to the row of icons down here and if we go to the one at the far right, I can click on there and you will see that two things have happened. For one thing in the Channels palette, we have created a channel. But it is a channel that is associated with this layer.
Hence the name layer mask, because we are going to use its transparency capabilities to determine which parts of this layer are transparent or opaque. Notice in the Layers palette that right now there is a dark outline around the little thumbnail. This is telling me that the color information of this layer is now targeted. If I were to use a brush, I would paint with color on that layer. If I want to work in the layer mask, I have to click on it and you will see what happens is now it's targeted.
It shows us that it's targeted by putting the black outline around it. That means when I paint now, I'm going to be painting with a density, basically, in this layer mask. Remember we have 256 levels of density from white to black and once again remember that white reveals, black conceals. Right now, our layer mask is 100% white. That means it's 100% able to show me any pixels that are on this layer. Now let's go in here. I'm going to open up my Color palette for a moment so I can get to my colors.
We have this set up so that my main color is black and the secondary color back here is white. With that setup, I can either in the Color palette or over here on the Tool palette, which I'll be using, I can click on this little toggle. You can see I can switch these two colors back and forth. I can also use the Shift+X key to do the same thing. So right now, I'm no longer clicking on there. I'm actually using the keyboard shortcut to do that. The reason this is important is when you're doing masking work, you really only need black and white to do the masking.
So by being able to toggle these two colors back and forth like this gives me very elegant way to instantly switch between adding opacity and adding transparency, because as we remember white reveals and black conceals. So by having black there right now as my color when I paint, I'm going to painting the transparency into this layer. So before I get started, I instantly make sure that I have both my black and white setup, which I have just done there. I make sure I have targeted my mask so I'm not going to be painting in the color information of that layer.
I also want to make sure that I have my brush setup. So with all of these things setup I'm ready to go, but if you don't stop to do that, you could very easily start painting and something doesn't go right and you have to adjust those things, if you want to draw with masks safely. So let's go in now and I'm going to switch to black and I'm going to start to paint in here. You will see that as I paint and because this is an airbrush, it very slowly builds up color and its pressure control. I can very slowly kind of decide how much I want to make an area of this invisible.
Now you could do a similar thing with the Eraser tool, for example, which will look like you are doing the same thing I'm doing here. The difference is that is destructive. Once you have done that, you can undo it. You can use then Undo tool, but later on, after you have done a bunch of things there is nothing to bring back what you've erased. What we are doing here is painting into this mask, which visually looks the same, but the difference is this mask is nondestructive. I can switch to white and start to paint in here and you can see I can bring this back and I can switch back and forth between black and white as much as I want and continue to bring back and erase my image.
So that's one of the very important concepts around why a layer mask is so powerful. I have the ability to do this nondestructive editing and not worry about losing some of the actual color layer pixel information of my image. So let's once again switch to black. I'm going to start thinking in terms now of this kind of disappearing into the water. So I'm just applying very light feathering strokes here to get this to slowly sort of go down into the water. The water is fairly transparent in my mind's eye and I'm just using that kind of visualize how I want this to look as if it's going beneath the water and say it's kind of right around there.
So up to about one dark edge is the water line and then it starts to disappear into it. So that looks pretty good. I am going to go ahead and at this point I realize I'm going to want to reduce the scale of this a little bit. So I'm going to go up to the Edit menu and now you'll notice-- this is a good lesson right here. If you wanted to Free Transform it, it's grayed out. Why is it grayed out right now? Well, we are targeting the layer mask. We need to target the actual pixels in the color layer in order to be able to do that.
When I go back to there now, you will see that it's enabled. So if you go up and Free Transform is not enabled, it means that most likely you've got your layer mask with a particular layer you are working on targeted rather than the color information. So now I'm free to transform this and I'm just going to reduce the scale, just a little bit and hit the Return key. So now I have got this setup, I'm going to kind of place it where I imagine it coming out of the water, somewhere around here.
The next thing I want to do is I want to create a reflection because it looks a little unnatural. It's there but it doesn't seem to have any weight, because unlike everything else here which is reflecting in the water, it's not and so to make this coherently in the scene, it makes sense for it to have a reflection. So if you remember from earlier, if I hold down the Alt or Option key, while I'm in the Layer Adjuster tool, I can click and drag this layer and it will create a copy for me. So now I have got two of these in here and what I'm going to do is take this and I basically just want to flip it.
So I'm going to go into my Edit menu and go down here and say Flip Vertical. So now I have got this flipped and right now think about how a reflection works. The farther it gets away from the object, the more transparent it's going to get and right now we don't have that going on. So I don't even need it in place here. What I'm going to start to do is once again if I started painting here with my airbrush right now. In fact, I'll do it just to show you what can go wrong. See, we don't want that to happen, because I'm targeting the color information.
If I click on the layer mask itself, now I can go in here and if I switch to white, I can bring back all of these information. So now I can start afresh and what I want to do is we'll flip back so that we are going to painting in transparency. I'm going to enlarge my brush a bit here and what I really want to happen is I want this to be pretty transparency as it gets down towards the bottom here. I think I'm also going to want to do some cutting off at the very top, because we don't really see the top of this in the water because it's submerged.
I'm just going to go in here and really kind of get rid of this altogether. Feather it just a little bit, so it's got a soft edge to it and here we go. Now let's go ahead and get the Layer Adjuster and we'll set it in here. I'm just going to put it roughly where I would feel like that is the spot at which it's going to be reflecting. Now I'm just going to take advantage of the Opacity slider in the Layers palette and see I can start turning this down and all I'm going to do here is just visually kind of slowly turn it down, so I see what it looks like. Yeah, that's about where the reflection would be.
You don't want it to be too obvious. So I'm just keeping it very, very slight. I also because I'm in the Layer Adjuster tool, I can use my arrow keys. I'm just going to nudge this. You could see how it's moving a little bit to the left and right. I'm just using this now as well as Up and Down arrows key to just finesse it into the spot that gives the feeling I want. It might need a little bit more opacity in it. I can also at this point still go back and target that layer mask and use my airbrush to do any additional size adjustment.
I'm going to go up here and enlarge my brush a bit, and let's just-- So now we've got our elements. In fact, if I click and drag my Layer Adjuster, I can click-and-drag on the image and as long as I select both of those layer elements, I can now actually pick this up and move it around. Now this gives me the opportunity to turn it right where I want it and everything is already set. So I would say right about there. So that is just a quick explanation of how I can adjust elements to give them different degrees of transparency by taking advantage of an Alpha Channel that is simply been attached to a layer and at that point, it's just known as a layer mask, but you are doing nothing more than dealing with an Alpha Channel.
It's just one that happens to have this unique connection to a layer element. So the major thing, the walkaway with this, is layer masks are major nondestructive compositing tools that you can use to blend various layer elements together and by adding this technique to your arsenal, you can create a wide variety of visual results.
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