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The Masks panel

From: Photoshop CS4 New Features

Video: The Masks panel

The other new panel inside the Photoshop CS4 is the Masks panel and in this case you just use masks, of course. Really the Masks panel ought to be called Layer Masks because that is what it does. It allows to create and modify layer specific masks, meaning that you have to have a layer selected, and these might be pixel based layer masks or vector masks. The panel serves no purpose when working with alpha channels or the Quick Mask Mode, just something to bear in mind. So I have this wacky composition that I'm working on here and I have got this picture of me that I'm going ahead and turn on and this was captured against a green screen obviously, by photographer Marc Harris. And I want to get rid of that green screen, so that I blend in with the composition.

The Masks panel

The other new panel inside the Photoshop CS4 is the Masks panel and in this case you just use masks, of course. Really the Masks panel ought to be called Layer Masks because that is what it does. It allows to create and modify layer specific masks, meaning that you have to have a layer selected, and these might be pixel based layer masks or vector masks. The panel serves no purpose when working with alpha channels or the Quick Mask Mode, just something to bear in mind. So I have this wacky composition that I'm working on here and I have got this picture of me that I'm going ahead and turn on and this was captured against a green screen obviously, by photographer Marc Harris. And I want to get rid of that green screen, so that I blend in with the composition.

So after selecting and turning on the Me layer, I will go up to this icon right there, Add Pixel Mask, which allows me to add a layer mask. Now all these other options become available to me. For example, I can go ahead and use the Color Range command in order to drop out that green screen. And I'm going to do that like so. Just so that I'm less confused about what I'm seeing here, I'm going to change the Selection Preview to Grayscale and then I'm going to change the in-dialog box preview here to Image. In that way I can see the layers that I'm working on. And the nice thing about the Color Range command, when you access it via the Masks panel here, is that it is not seeing the composite image the way it normally does; it is seeing just the active layer, which is actually really great. So I'm going to go ahead and click inside the green in order to sample that color as the base color for my selection, for my mask. I'm going to go ahead and lift this Fuzziness value to about 130, so that I'm covering all of the green area.

Now I could choose this Localized Clusters check box, which is new to Photoshop CS4 as well. Allows you to just isolate the greens that are adjacent to the green that you sampled, but we do not need it in this case. So I'm going to go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. Now I have done exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I went ahead and selected and therefore kept the green, and I made me go away. So I have created a hole where I used to be. I could have turned on that Invert check box which is inside the Color Range dialog box or I could just click this Invert button that is available here inside the Masks panel, and that takes care of that problem.

Now, if I were to zoom-in on this image and albeit, it's amazing that I was able to mask away that green screen so easily. But if a zoom-in you can see that I still have a little bit of green around the edges, inside the hair for example. Now we are not going to entirely get rid of this color fringing, but we can diminish it significantly. So I'll click on the Mask Edge button and this is the same Refine Edge command that was available to us inside Photoshop CS3. It is just re-worked here for working on layer Masks. And I'm going to go ahead and keep the Radius value at 1. I'm going to get rid of Smooth, get rid of Feather, and I'm going to take this Contract/Expand value down to -100% so that we are contracting the selection inward and getting rid of some of that fringing. Again I'm not getting rid of all of it, but I'm getting rid of a lot of it. And then I will click OK in order to accept that modification, and it looks great! Especially if I start zooming-out, that green is really going away. And to make it go away even more, I'm going to go ahead and add an Adjustment layer to make me brighter because if you look at this composition, it is fairy vivid. A lot of totally over saturated colors -- and I want it that way. That is obviously on purpose. And I'm going to do the same for me, using an empty Adjustment layer set to a Blend mode. So I'll go over to the Adjustments panel and I'm going to add just a Brightness/Contrast layer. Because it's a dead layer, I'm not doing anything with it.

I'm not going to change the Brightness or Contrast values. Instead, I'm just going to change the Blend mode to Hard Light, so that I make the colors inside of me much more vivid, but I'm also exaggerating the colors back here in this aquatic background. So I want to clip this Adjustment layer inside of Me and I will do this using this option right here, this little button at the bottom of the Adjustments panel, that allows me to clip the adjustment to the layer below it, and now I'm just over saturating me and not over, over saturating anything else inside the image.

Alright, finally I have got some Shape layers right here and I have got, for example, this White Bird layer down here and I will go ahead and zoom-in on it so that we can see it a little more clearly. And notice that, of course, it is hard-edged, sharp-edged vector mask that we are working with here. I can actually affect that vector mask from the Masks panel. So I can apply this Density value to it if I wanted to, which is going to reduce the opacity of the mask effectively, thereby allowing more of the white to show through. I do not want that but that is what you can do with the Density value. Instead, I want to go ahead and apply a Feather. So notice you can blur a vector now.

On the fly these are dynamic controls, so I can change them anytime I like. Inside Photoshop CS4, that is something we have never been able to do before. I'm going ahead and change this value to 3 and then I'm going to do the same thing for the Black Bird, which is in the upper left corner of the image, which I will get to just by pressing the Home key there and I will take this up to 3 as well. And that is basically our composition, people. I'm going to go ahead and zoom-out here so that we can take in more of the image and I will turn on this Text layer, which kind of finishes things off. Of course, I'm talking about the apple! That is, in a nutshell, the Masks panel, new to Photoshop CS4.

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Photoshop CS4 New Features

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Deke McClelland
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