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We need to take a minute to talk about the fundamentals of masking and using layer masks in Photoshop. So, let's start by creating a soft edged vigneitte around this image. I'm going to double-click to open the 02IvySavedSelection. So, if you're following along, you want to make sure you grab this image and not the 01 Ivy, because they actually are different. So I'll double click on that and it will open it up in Photoshop. I'll select my Marquee tool and you'll notice that I'm on my regular Marquee tool, this will just create a selection as opposed to maybe subtracting or intersecting the selection. So I'll select the first one and click and just drag out in my image the size that I want the vignette to be.
Now, I've created my selection, but if I use the Layer menu, you'll notice that I cannot add a layer mask. And that's because I'm on a background layer. But, there's a little shortcut. Instead of using the menu item to add a layer mask, if I click at the bottom of the Layers panel, on the Add Layer Mask icon. Photoshop will do two things, it's going to convert my background into a layer and add the mask at the same time. So I'll click on that. We can see that it's now a layer. We've got the thumbnail for the image, and the thumbnail for the mask. So let's take a look at the mask for a moment.
If I want to see the black and white mask, I can hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on Windows, and click on the layer mask thumbnail. Now we can see wherever the mask is white I'm able to see the data on the file. And the reason that I say the data on the file, I mean here obviously it's a photograph, but masking always works the same way in Photoshop. So it doesn't matter if I'm on a type layer, if I'm on an adjustment layer. Wherever the mask is white, I can see what's on that layer, so I'd be able to see the photograph or I'd see the type or I would see the adjustment.
Wherever the mask is black, it's going to be hiding the contents of that layer. So in order to see the photograph again, let's click on the eye icon in the Layers panel, and that will display it. Now just because I clicked on the eye icon, doesn't mean that I'm actually targeting the photograph. So if I were to do something like paint right now, I would actually be painting on the mask, not the image. So the way that I can tell is because of this double line around the thumbnail. Right now it's around the mask, if I click on the image, I get the double line around the image telling me that that's selected.
Let's go ahead and click on the thumbnail. Now what you might be seeing in front of you might be a little bit different. Instead of this checkerboard you might actually be seeing a white background and that just depends on a preference. So I'm going to turn off the checkerboard so that I can visualize what this would look like as if it was flattened or printed onto a piece of paper. And I'll do that by choosing the Photoshop menu on the Mac, you chose the Edit menu on Windows, then come down to Preferences, and then Transparency and Gamut. And we'll just change the grid size to none.
Click OK and this area now is still transparent, it's just that Photoshop is showing it to me as if it was printed on a white piece of paper. But the vignette that I added is very hard edged and I would like to make that a soft edge. What a lot of people do is they make their initial selection, and then they'll add what's called a feather. And a feather will soften the edge, but it's always hard for me to guess what the size of the feather should be. Should it be two pixels or five pixels or ten pixels, and the reason that it's hard to guess is because it's going to depend not only on the resolution of the file. So if I had a really high-res file, a two pixel feather would be nothing compared to a low-res file.
But it also depends on how soft of an edge I want. Do I want it semi-soft or really soft? So instead of adding a feather before I create my mask, I use this non-destructive way of softening the edge of my mask. So on my Layers panel, making sure that the mask is targeted. I can choose my Properties panel and if your Properties panel isn't showing you can go under the Window menu and then Show Properties. But mine's right here, so I'll just expand it by clicking on the iconic panel. And then you can see that I've got the mask targeted and down here I have a dynamic feather. So as I move it over to the right, you can watch the edge of the mask getting softer and softer.
Now I don't want to go too far so I'll bring it back maybe around, maybe 25 pixels or so, but the best thing about this is that it's completely non-destructive. I can go back in here even after I've saved the file, as long as I've saved it as a layered document, I can change this next week or next month. So let's see what's happened to the actual mask. I'm going to collapse this panel by clicking on the two arrows here, and then we'll hold down the Option key and click on the layer mask thumbnail. You can see that I have really blurred or feathered the edge of this mask, and that's what's giving me the soft edge. Wherever the mask is black, that layer's totally hidden. Wherever it's white, it's showing, and then, in the varying levels of gray, we've got varying levels of transparency to show the content or the photograph on this layer.
In fact, if we want to watch this dynamically change, we can actually expand the Properties panel again, and you can see, as I move the feather, that the mask is dynamically updating. Alright, I'll collapse that and then we'll click on the eye icon in order to see our image again. And now I'm going to load up the selection. This is a selection that was saved from the previous lesson. Just so that we don't have to make the selection again. I'll go underneath the Select menu and then choose Load Selection.
Now because I'm on a layer that has a mask, Photoshop's automatically going to load that mask right here, and that's not actually what we want. What we want to select, is we want to select the save selection, the one that I save, so we wouldn't have to re-select right now and waste our time doing that again. So we'll choose Window and then click OK, and you can see the marching ants around that selection. Now what we're going to do is we're going to add our brightness and contrast adjustment layer again, and when I do that, Photoshop of course converts those marching ants in that selection into a mask for me. We can see the mask here on the Layers panel.
And in the Properties area, you can see that I've actually got the options for the adjustment layer. So sure enough, we can take the brightness down here and maybe increase the contrast again. And now, if I want to quickly switch from controlling the properties versus the mask, I can click right here on the Properties panel, and now I'm adjusting the mask. So it's really easy for me to come down and just add a slight feather. Because let's look at the mask for a moment. I'll hold down the Option or the Alt key and click on the mask.
Here's the mask with a slightly feathered edge. Here it is with a sharp edge. And if I use Cmd+plus, or Ctrl+plus on Windows to zoom in to 100%. Use my space bar to make sure we can see that edge. You can see the difference here, when I add the feather, it gets nice and soft, as opposed to no feather. And if we look and view the image itself, by clicking on the eye icon. See that hard edge right there? It looks like it's been cut and pasted. But, If I add just a little bit of a feather, that sharp line goes away and it becomes really difficult to tell what area of my image has been adjusted and what area hasn't creating a much more realistic and believable adjustment.
With that we'll close the Properties panel, use the Cmd+minus key in order to zoom out and there you have it. The fundamentals of masking works the same no matter what kind of layer you're on. Where your mask is white you can see the information on that layer and where the mask is black, it hides it.
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