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Photoshop Masking and Compositing: Fundamentals is the introductory installment of Deke McClelland's four-part series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course shows how to make selections, refine the selections with masks, and then combine them in new ways, using layer effects, blend modes, and other techniques to create a single seamless piece of artwork. Deke introduces the Channels panel and the alpha channel, the key to masking and transparency in Photoshop; reviews the selection tools, including the Color Range tool , Quick Mask mode, and the Refine Edge command; and shows how to blend masked images so they interact naturally.
In this exercise I'll show you a possible application for a Vector mask and we'll see how you can apply Vector masks to any layer inside of Photoshop, even an adjustment layer. I've saved my progress as Density and feather.psd, found inside the 09_layer_masks folder. Let's say I want to take the saturation out of the blue portions of these t-shirts so that they're nice and neutral. I'm going to start things off by switching back to the Adjustments panel and I'm going to click that left pointing arrowhead in the lower left corner of the panel in order to switch back to my adjustments list, and then I'll go to the Adjustments panel flyout menu and I'll choose Adjust Mask By Default to turn it back off so that we don't create a layer mask automatically for our next adjustment layer.
Next, I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+ Click on this first icon in the second row. This represents Vibrance, by the way,. And because I had the Alt or Option key down; that brings up the New layer dialog box. I'm going to call this new layer desat and click OK, and then I'm going to take the Vibrance value down to -60, which depletes the saturation across the board inside of the image, because currently we have no mask. Now I'm going to hide the Adjustments panel by double-clicking to the right of the word Masks. Now let's say we do want to add a mask to this layer.
However, instead of adding a layer mask, as we would if we just clicked on the Add layer Mask icon down here at the bottom of the Layers panel, I want to create a vector-based mask instead. In which case press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and click on that same icon. Even though it doesn't look any different at first that is a vector-based mask into which we can play shapes. I'm going to go ahead and zoom out a click here so that we can take the image in a little wider and I'm going to click and hold on the Shape tool icon in order to bring up this flyout and menu and I'll choose the Ellipse tool.
Now I want to go ahead and draw this ellipse into this existing Vector mask. To do so the first thing you have to do is make sure the Shape layers icon is turned on, on the far left side of the Options bar. Next, you want to go ahead and switch to this icon as opposed to creating a new shape layer, which is the default setting, you want to add to the existing shape area. So either click on that second icon in, or you can just press the plus key. Now I'm going to drag from outside the image up until the left like so, and I'll press the spacebar in order to move that ellipse downward.
So what I'm trying to do is roughly in circle those t-shirt areas. Now as soon as I release notice that's going to create a sharp edge transition. We're also seeing the path outlined around the ellipse. If you want to hide the path outline but still be able to work on it then press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac so that same keyboard shortcut that hides marching ants also goes ahead and hides path outlines. With a Vector mask still selected inside the Layers panel, and notice when I hover over the thumbnail, I temporarily see the path outline.
It will disappear after a moment. With that Vector thumbnail selected I'll bring up the Masks panel once again and I'm going to increase the Feather value to 40 pixels and notice that that option is equally applicable to Vector masks inside of Photoshop. So whether you're working on a Vector mask or a layer mask you can change both the density and feather values. The buttons however are only applicable to pixel-based layer masks. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in on my image. The result is that I've softened the transitions around that elliptical area.
Of course, I've still included much of the man's face inside the color adjustment as well as the bottom of the woman's jaw and her neck. I need to mask those areas away using a pixel-based layer mask and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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