Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
In this video, we are going to take a look at layer masks, and I know from personal experience, as well as a dealing with people on both the Photoshop as well as the Painter side of the tracks, as you're kind of climbing the mountain of these applications, you eventually get to layer masks. And for a lot of people it's a head scratcher. It just doesn't easily map to what you use it for. And so layer masks can be rather mystifying, but once you understand them they are invaluable and you really can't do without them.
So I'll try to gently explain them here without trying to cause too much mystery. What I want to do here is, I want to take a couple of these elements, and this leads us to another interesting situation. I may want to work with this layer and I want to work with this layer, but I ultimately want to treat them as one. And so, in Photoshop you can easily just merge a layer with the layer beneath it and force them to be just a single layer together. In Painter that's not quite as easily done.
If I want this layer to eventually be part of this layer immediately beneath it, so it's Layer 3 here and layer 2, I need to first group them. So I am going to hold down the Shift key and while I'm in the Layers palette, I will click on the second layer, and now I've selected both of those and you can either go to the flyout menu here, or you can also go to the Layers palette right here, and as you see you also have the keyboard shortcut Command+G or Ctrl+G, but in any three of those cases this will group those layers together.
So now I can move them as a single entity, but I even want to go a step farther. I just want them to be a single layer. And so once again, we go back to layer here and I'm going to say Collapse layers. So I've now got this group and I want to collapse these multiple entities in this group together. So Layer 2 and Layer 3 are now part of this Group 1. If I go up to Layers here, I can go down to Collapse Layers, or you can use Command+E or Ctrl+E, which is the same command you use over in Photoshop.
Takes a little while to remember that in Photoshop, that actually merges the layer beneath; here it's used to collapse two layers or more, that are grouped together. But once I do that command, even though it's called Group, it's now a single layer. So I've now got this down to a single layer. Okay, now that we've got that, what I want to do here is I want to make this kind of fade into the background, almost like it's kind of stuck into this and maybe this material is somewhat translucent or slightly transparent.
I need to somehow make this disappear, and one way you could do this could be to use the Eraser tool, and I'll just show you what I mean here. I could go in here and kind of make that look as if it's actually like dropping into there. But that's destructive. Once I've done that I have no recourse other than right now to use the Undo key to bring that back. What I would rather do is have this be nondestructive.
So I am going to just reselect my layer adjuster for safety sake here, and I don't accidentally poke on it with something like an eraser. And I go down to the bottom of the palette here and here is the New Layer Mask. So the first thing you need to do is select the layer you want to add a layer mask to, and then you just say New Layer Mask, and now you'll see a second box appear next to the actual layer element itself. And which one is active is going to have this little darkened rectangle on it.
If I want to address the pixels, the color imagery in this, I want to make sure I click here and now it's highlighted with that black box. If I want to do something inside the layer mask itself, then I want to click on this element here, because this is the actual layer mask. So how do we take advantage of the layer mask? Well, you may remember earlier when we were talking about channels. There is a little phrase that helps people remember this. That little phrase is white reveals, black conceals.
So right now, this is all white. That means everything is visible, and that's surely what we've got here. But if I get some black and I go get my Digital Airbrush, I can now go in here with black, and I want to make sure this is really low opacity. So it'll build up very slowly here. And just remember what we are doing here. I'm painting in this layer mask with black, which conceals. So as I go in here now, you'll start to see it disappear and because I've got it at a very low opacity, I can do it so that it kind of graduates from full transparency through up to full opacity.
And because this is associated with this layer, I can now get my layer adjuster and I can pick this up and I can move it around. So I can even decide, you know, where do I want this to look like it's kind of sinking into this underlying layer itself? Now one thing you can not do that is possible in Photoshop is this layer is always locked. There's no way to unlock it. In Photoshop, you can actually unlock it, and then you can move just the layer mask relative to the layer element that is on that layer, and you can't do that here.
So, this is a little bit simpler. But it still enables you to do the basic function of layer masks which is to be able to adjust the opacity of elements on a layer. So you've really got two things going on here. The color is your RGB, or your color information, and the second tier of information associated with this layer now is a mask which has 256 levels of grayscale, all the way from black to white.
That's why if I paint with black, particularly if it's set to low opacity, I can slowly create this kind of gradient from full transparency to full opacity, and that's why we get the visual effect that we are getting here. So layer masks, while they may at first seem a bit mysterious, they're really just a way to treat individual layer elements with a selective visibility. And once you understand that you can then create a layer mask for any layer and use the tools in the layer mask from black to white, which can easily get here on the left edge of the triangle in the hue/saturation triangle of the Color palette, you can very easily start to play with and adjust the transparency of the elements on layers.
Now because this is a full grayscale and remember; black conceals, white reveals. So now I can take my brush and if I want to play with this I can also bring back. So if I want to bring it all the way back, for example, I can. And so, you've got this push/pull with black and white that let you do just this. And being able to do that, again gives a lot of flexibility. Now I can probably undo here to get back a bit.
But being able to now switch to white even gives me a way to kind of even get a little more finesse in the way this is changing from transparency to opacity. So you want to take advantage of layer masks, and just remember that you've got this full range of grayscale to address the mask to determine how much or how little you are rendering an element on your layer transparent.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 49984 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 37285 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 81191 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 10600 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.