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Photoshop CC Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Converting a selection into a layer mask


Photoshop CC Essential Training

with Julieanne Kost

Video: Converting a selection into a layer mask

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.
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  1. 1m 42s
    1. What is Photoshop?
      1m 42s
  2. 4m 18s
    1. Welcome
      1m 4s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Installing Adobe Bridge
      1m 23s
    4. What's new NEW
      1m 26s
  3. 40m 58s
    1. What is Adobe Bridge?
      3m 3s
    2. Getting photos from a camera
      6m 0s
    3. A tour of workspaces in Bridge
      8m 30s
    4. Customizing how thumbnails are displayed
      4m 42s
    5. Changing file names and batch renaming
      4m 39s
    6. Adding basic metadata with metadata templates
      4m 46s
    7. Creating and applying keywords to images
      7m 1s
    8. Viewing images in Full Screen Preview mode
      2m 17s
  4. 27m 23s
    1. Using Review mode to filter out rejected images
      5m 32s
    2. Saving images in collections
      3m 52s
    3. Rating and labeling images
      4m 31s
    4. Using the Filter panel to view different subsets
      3m 7s
    5. Using smart collections
      3m 39s
    6. Viewing final selects in a slideshow
      2m 50s
    7. Organizing groups of images into stacks
      3m 52s
  5. 29m 57s
    1. Comparing raw and JPEG files
      5m 5s
    2. Starting in Camera Raw instead of Photoshop
      4m 1s
    3. Touring the Camera Raw user interface
      5m 29s
    4. Previewing before and after adjustments
      3m 18s
    5. Toggling onscreen Shadow/Highlight clipping warnings
      4m 44s
    6. Choosing output settings
      3m 34s
    7. Saving a copy without going to Photoshop
      3m 46s
  6. 56m 7s
    1. Using the nondestructive Crop tool: Door and window with ramp
      3m 42s
    2. Correcting a tilted horizon line with the Straighten tool
      4m 12s
    3. Fixing color casts with the White Balance tool
      3m 52s
    4. Fixing blown-out highlights UPDATED
      5m 42s
    5. Revealing hidden shadow detail
      4m 36s
    6. Reducing distracting color noise with Noise Reduction
      5m 55s
    7. Correcting lens distortion
      5m 17s
    8. Making perspective corrections to images
      5m 51s
    9. Removing chromatic aberration
      3m 32s
    10. Sharpening details
      7m 23s
    11. Making an average photo great
      6m 5s
  7. 1h 3m
    1. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      5m 39s
    2. Adding a radial gradient
      6m 35s
    3. Making local adjustments with the Adjustment Brush
      11m 19s
    4. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Removal tool
      4m 35s
    5. A quick portrait retouching technique using Clarity
      7m 49s
    6. Converting to black and white
      3m 17s
    7. Editing images directly with the Targeted Adjustment tool
      3m 56s
    8. Selective coloring effects with the Adjustment Brush
      5m 56s
    9. Easy sepia and split-tone effects
      4m 11s
    10. Adding digital film grain texture effects
      2m 27s
    11. Adding vignettes and border effects
      4m 24s
    12. Saving variations within a single file with the Snapshot command
      3m 27s
  8. 19m 16s
    1. Copying and pasting settings across files
      1m 52s
    2. Processing multiple files in Camera Raw
      4m 22s
    3. Saving and using a library of Camera Raw presets
      5m 47s
    4. Saving multiple files in Camera Raw
      3m 36s
    5. Using Image Processor to batch process multiple files
      3m 39s
  9. 27m 6s
    1. Opening files from Bridge
      3m 9s
    2. Customizing the interface in Photoshop UPDATED
      5m 16s
    3. Managing panels
      5m 1s
    4. Switching and saving workspaces
      3m 45s
    5. Switching tools using the keyboard
      3m 21s
    6. Customizing the keyboard shortcuts
      6m 34s
  10. 22m 49s
    1. Working with tabbed documents
      2m 51s
    2. Arranging documents
      3m 37s
    3. Stopping Photoshop from tabbing documents
      2m 49s
    4. Panning, zooming, and using the Rotate View tool
      9m 51s
    5. Cycling through the different screen modes
      3m 41s
  11. 26m 19s
    1. Understanding file formats
      8m 26s
    2. Choosing the resolution you need
      5m 15s
    3. Understanding Resize vs. Resample
      9m 40s
    4. How big a print can you make with your image?
      2m 58s
  12. 59m 15s
    1. Using Undo and the History panel
      6m 40s
    2. Using crop options
      4m 20s
    3. Understanding Hide vs. Delete for the Crop tool
      3m 52s
    4. Cropping to the perfect print size
      3m 51s
    5. Making the canvas bigger with the Crop tool
      5m 2s
    6. Making the canvas bigger using the Canvas Size command
      4m 57s
    7. Straightening a crooked image
      4m 21s
    8. Removing keystoning from buildings
      2m 6s
    9. Using the Perspective Crop tool
      2m 4s
    10. Scaling, skewing, and rotating with Free Transform
      8m 29s
    11. Nondestructive transformations with Smart Objects UPDATED
      3m 56s
    12. Warping images UPDATED
      4m 48s
    13. Preserving important elements with Content-Aware Scale
      4m 49s
  13. 41m 55s
    1. Exploring layer basics UPDATED
      13m 25s
    2. Loading, selecting, and transforming layers UPDATED
      9m 28s
    3. Organizing layers into layer groups
      8m 47s
    4. Merging, rasterizing, and flattening layers
      10m 15s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
      11m 41s
    2. Combining selections
      6m 40s
    3. Converting a selection into a layer mask
      7m 40s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool and Refine Edge
      7m 12s
    5. Selecting soft-edged objects using Refine Edge
      9m 28s
    6. Touching up a layer mask with the Brush tool
      5m 42s
    7. Changing the opacity, size, and hardness of the painting tools
      9m 9s
    8. Blending images with a gradient layer mask
      4m 55s
    9. Combining multiple exposures with layer masks
      5m 5s
    10. Making selections with Color Range NEW
      5m 17s
    11. Selecting with Focus Mask NEW
      3m 10s
  15. 42m 5s
    1. Introducing adjustment layers
      3m 29s
    2. Starting with a preset
      2m 36s
    3. Improving tonal quality with Levels
      7m 32s
    4. Increasing midtone contrast with Curves
      5m 7s
    5. Removing a color cast with Auto Color
      2m 37s
    6. Changing the color temperature with Photo Filter
      1m 56s
    7. Shifting colors with Hue/Saturation
      5m 39s
    8. Making washed-out colors pop with Vibrance
      2m 7s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      3m 32s
    10. Creating traditional darkroom toning effects
      2m 51s
    11. Controlling which layers are affected by an adjustment layer
      3m 49s
    12. Three different ways to add an adjustment layer
  16. 24m 41s
    1. Adjusting shadows and highlights
      5m 49s
    2. Replacing color using Selective Color
      5m 39s
    3. Using fill layers to create a hand-painted look
      7m 18s
    4. Using a gradient fill layer to add a color wash
      5m 55s
  17. 40m 53s
    1. Removing blemishes with the Healing Brush and Patch tools
      10m 21s
    2. A quick technique for smoothing skin and pores
      3m 4s
    3. Making teeth bright and white
      2m 47s
    4. Brightening eyes, to make a person appear more alert
      6m 31s
    5. Taming flyaway hair
      4m 53s
    6. De-emphasizing wrinkles with the Healing Brush
      1m 53s
    7. Body sculpting with Liquify UPDATED
      5m 6s
    8. Removing unwanted details with Content-Aware Fill UPDATED
      6m 18s
  18. 22m 47s
    1. Creating panoramas with Photomerge and Auto-Blend
      5m 50s
    2. Combining multiple frames of an action sequence
      6m 21s
    3. Swapping heads in a family portrait
      4m 3s
    4. Working with bracketed exposures (HDR)
      6m 33s
  19. 1h 0m
    1. Overview of filters UPDATED
      3m 3s
    2. Applying filters nondestructively with Smart Filters UPDATED
      5m 56s
    3. Straightening images using the Adaptive Wide Angle filter
      5m 28s
    4. Creating a soft glow with the Gaussian Blur filter
      3m 23s
    5. Creating an infrared look with Diffuse Glow
      5m 4s
    6. Adding noise with the Add Noise filter
      7m 7s
    7. Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen
      7m 22s
    8. Giving an image texture with the Texturizer filter
      1m 53s
    9. Using the Field, Iris, and Tilt-Shift Blurs UPDATED
      6m 9s
    10. Using the Spin and Path Blurs NEW
      7m 38s
    11. Applying the Camera Raw filter
      2m 48s
    12. Applying a filter to multiple layers
      4m 11s
  20. 24m 3s
    1. Cycling through the blending modes
      5m 24s
    2. Scanning or photographing paper to add a deckled edge
      4m 55s
    3. Adding texture with blend modes
      1m 58s
    4. Making a cast shadow more realistic with Multiply
      5m 57s
    5. Sharpening an image with High Pass and Overlay
      2m 49s
    6. Adding a realistic off-center vignette
      3m 0s
  21. 35m 37s
    1. Exploring character (point) type UPDATED
      11m 58s
    2. Adding paragraph (area) type
      4m 7s
    3. Adding type on a path
      7m 3s
    4. Clipping an image inside type
      3m 41s
    5. Warping type
      2m 36s
    6. Defining character and paragraph styles
      6m 12s
  22. 24m 13s
    1. Using the shape tools
      13m 45s
    2. Custom shape layers
      6m 15s
    3. Adding a keyline to an image
      4m 13s
  23. 24m 48s
    1. Adding a drop shadow effect
      8m 57s
    2. Adding edges, textures, and color overlays using styles
      5m 11s
    3. Creating a transparent logo or watermark
      4m 46s
    4. Knowing how and when to scale layer effects
      5m 54s
  24. 11m 43s
    1. Creating contact sheets
      4m 29s
    2. Creating PDF presentations
      3m 25s
    3. Saving for the web
      3m 49s
  25. 23m 9s
    1. Working with video clips
      12m 14s
    2. Adding special effects to video files
      5m 56s
    3. Adding pans and zooms to still images
      4m 59s
  26. 1m 4s
    1. Next steps
      1m 4s

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Photoshop CC Essential Training
13h 51m Beginner Jun 17, 2013 Updated Jun 18, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learning how to use Adobe Photoshop efficiently and effectively is the best way to get the most out of your pixels and create stunning imagery. Master the fundamentals of this program with Julieanne Kost, and discover how to achieve the results you want with Photoshop and its companion programs, Bridge and Camera Raw. This comprehensive course covers nondestructive editing techniques using layers, masking, adjustment layers, blend modes, and Smart Objects. Find out how to perform common editing tasks, including lens correction, cropping and straightening, color and tonal adjustments, noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, sharpening, and retouching. Julieanne also shows how to achieve more creative effects with filters, layer effects, illustrative type, and the Photomerge command for creating panoramas and composites.

Topics include:
  • Using Bridge to batch rename files and add keywords and metadata to photos
  • Viewing, rating, filtering, and creating collections to isolate your best work
  • Comparing raw and JPEG file formats
  • Retouching and automating workflow with Camera Raw
  • Navigating documents and the Photoshop interface
  • Understanding file formats, resolution, canvas size, and print size
  • Cropping, straightening, transforming, warping, scaling, and resizing images
  • Selecting, stacking, aligning, and grouping layers
  • Making precise selections using the Marquee, Lasso, and Brush tools
  • Using Refine Edge, Quick Selection, and layer masks to isolate soft edge objects
  • Improving tone, contrast, and color selectively
  • Converting to black and white and tinting images
  • Retouching blemishes, smoothing skin, whitening teeth, and brightening eyes
  • Retouching with the Liquify, Content-Aware Fill, Healing Brush, and Patch tools
  • Merging multiple exposures
  • Making nondestructive changes with Smart Filters
  • Adding texture, edge effects, and drop shadows with blend modes
  • Working with type
  • Creating, modifying, and combining shapes using the Shape tools
  • Adding layer effects
  • Saving and sharing images via contact sheets, web galleries, and Save For Web
  • Editing video and audio clips
  • Panning and zooming still photos
Photography Raw Processing
Julieanne Kost

Converting a selection into a layer mask

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.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop CC Essential Training.

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Q: This course was updated on 01/16/2014. What changed?
A: When Creative Cloud applications are updated, we refresh our training to make sure it covers the latest features and interface changes from Adobe. This update covers changes to Camera Raw, including nondestructive cropping, workflow and output settings, and the ability to save multiple files automatically.
Q: This course was updated on 6/18/2014. What changed?
A: In June 2014 Adobe released new features for Photoshop CC and added enhancements to several existing features. We added movies to introduce the new Focus Mask and Blur Gallery features, and changed several movies to reflect updates to instant type preview, font search, Typekit, Liquify, Content-Aware Fill, Adobe Camera Raw, and Smart Guides. 
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