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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'm going to share some tips and tricks for working with layers inside of Photoshop. I've saved my changes as Vibrant skintones.psd found inside the 09_layer_masks folder. Notice that my Adjustment layer is selected here at the top of the Layers panel. Now I was telling you that you can view the layer mask by itself, independently of the image by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and clicking on that layer Mask thumbnail there inside the Layers panel, and now we'll see the revealed portions of the layer in white, the concealed portions in black and the levels of translucency in -between in shades of gray.
If you want to return to the full- color Composite view then you can either Alt+Click or Option+Click on that layer Mask thumbnail again, or you can just go ahead and click on one of the layer thumbnails. For example, in this case, I could click on that Vibrance icon right there and that'll switch me back to the RGB view. Notice, it also deactivates the layer Mask in this case, so I can no longer paint inside of it, for example, if I grab my Brush tool and then move my cursor inside the Image Window I'll see a little Ghostbusters icon.
Normally if I were working with something like say a Smart Object layer and I were to click inside of the image that Photoshop would offer to rasterize the layer. In this case, it can't rasterize an Adjustment layer so you get this error message just telling you that's the case, and all you can do is click OK. But that does give you an indication that the layer mask is not available. To make it active once again you just have to click on that layer Mask thumbnail and then if you bring your cursor inside the Image window you can paint away and either reveal or conceal portions of that Adjustment layer.
In my case, I'm pretty happy with the way things are, so I'll just go ahead and press the M key to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool. But now that my layer Mask is active I want you to see something. I'm going to switch over to the Channels panel here and you'll see that the layer mask shows up as a temporary Alpha Channel at the bottom of the list. Also notice the layer mask is active even though it's invisible and the RGB image is visible even though it's inactive. So this is one of those rare occasions where you can paint inside of a mask without actually seeing what you're doing, that is you can't see the mask, you see the repercussions of the mask instead.
Notice you do have these keyboard shortcuts that are available to you, so you can switch to the layer mask by pressing Ctrl+Backslash, that would be Command+Backslash on the Mac, or you can switch back to the RGB image by pressing Ctrl+2 or Command+2.So notice I'll press Ctrl+2 or Command+2 that switches me back to the RGB image, the layer mask is no longer active. If I want to switch to the layer Mask instead I'll press Ctrl+Backslash or Command+Backslash. That same trick, by the way, works from the Layers panel. So notice I can see that the layer Mask is active, if I press Ctrl+2 or Command+2 on the Mac, the Adjustment layer becomes active instead and the layer Mask becomes inactive.
If I press Ctrl+Backslash or Command+Backslash that switches the focus back to the layer Mask. You can also use these keys by themselves without the Modifier key in order to control the display of the mask. So, for example, when working on a layer that contains a mask, you can press the Backslash key by itself to display the mask as a Rubylith Overlay. At this point, you can hide the image by pressing the tilde key which is that key above the Tab key on American keyboards. Then to view the RGB image and the mask together you would once again press the tilde key and if you wanted to hide the layer Mask then you would go ahead and press the backslash key.
Something else to bear in mind as you can change the color of that overlay. So when I press the backslash key by default the overlay appears in red. If you want to change it just double- click on the layer Mask thumbnail there inside the Layers panel, click on that Color Swatch and go ahead and change the Hue value let's say the 210 degrees in this case, that will be a nice complementary color. Click OK, click OK once again and we now have I suppose a Sapphire overlay instead. All right! One last trick here. I'm going to go ahead and press that backslash key in order to hide the layer mask.
The final trick is you can disable a layer mask temporarily if you're so inclined by Shift+Clicking on the layer Mask thumbnail there inside the Layers panel. So notice when you Shift+Click on that thumbnail you get a big X and now that Vibrance adjustment layer is affecting all details inside the image, including those aberrant blue shadows as well as those blue areas inside of her eyes. Keep an eye on those, because as soon as I Shift+Click once again on that layer Mask thumbnail those blue areas in her eyes go ahead and calm down because I've reinstated the layer mask.
Finally, if you want to get rid of layer Mask, you can go ahead and right-click on a layer mask thumbnail there inside the Layers panel and you can choose the Delete layer Mask command. The great thing about that trick in my mind is you won't see a warning message asking you if you're sure you want to delete the mask, it'll just go away. Of course, in this case I want to reinstate the mask so I'll go ahead press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to bring it back. So there are your tips and tricks, use them if you wanted, don't if you don't. In the next exercise, I'll show you how to use the Color Range command to directly generate a layer mask.
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