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We are going to talk about feathering a vector mask, which sounds like a contradiction in terms because a vector mask is by its very nature crisp, but we can now actually add a feather amount to that vector mask. We have all seen effects like these where we put a circular or spherical mask around a picture so that it looks like this, and then we can come to the Masks panel, increase the Feather amount, and we get this type of effect. I am going to just press Command+H to hide my active path.
Well it has to be done sometimes. We have all done it and we probably will do it again, but it's probably not something we want to make a habit of. So let's have a look at another perhaps more useful thing that we can do with feathering the mask. So here I have a composition that's made up entirely of shape layers, a piece of type that has been converted to a shape layer and combined with this butterfly which is also a shape layer. I am going to just zoom out a bit so we get a bigger perspective on that and again I am going to press Command+H or Ctrl+H to hide the edges of my path, and it's going to look like this.
Now here I am using feathering on some of the masks, just to give a sense of depth of field. This large leaf that is in the background, I am going to pull my Layers panel off and expand it, so we can see all the layers. The large leaf in the background, if I come to this and then turn the Feather amount down, and once again I'll have to press Command+H to hide my edges, you can see that the edges of that leaf are a little bit too crisp, but by feathering those edges, we give the impression that we have a shallow depth of field and the leaf is in the background.
So what I am doing here is as the subject comes closer to the foreground, I am applying a decreasing amount of feathering to its mask and that builds a sense of depth within the composition. So there is another, a perhaps less obvious way of applying feathering to a mask. Now what you can't do with feathering though and what you would need a layer mask in order to achieve, should you want to do this, is you can't add differing amounts of softness around the edges.
The feathering amount is going to be uniform around the edges. If that's all you need then a vector mask is going to serve you just fine. If you do need to vary the softening or the transition from the mask edge in transparency, then you will a layer mask. This title has been relatively pun-free, but I can't resist the temptation to make a pun here. Applying a feather to a vector mask really does blur the distinction between layer masks and vector masks.
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