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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 introduce you to these three buttons down here at the bottom of the Masks panel. Now I already showed you how Color Range behaves when you start with a blank layer mask, however, it behaves quite differently when the layer Mask is already filled in. Now I should warn you that this exercise is something of a cautionary tale; the summary of the exercise would be don't use these three buttons, because they don't really help you out that much and one of them can be dangerous. It can actually crash the program. But I'll go ahead and show them to you and you can decide. I've saved my changes as Bouncy midtones.psd, found inside the 09_layer_masks folder.
If you want to work along with me, make sure the Masks panel is up on screen. Go ahead and click on the layer Mask thumbnail for the midtones adjustment layer. We'll start off with the Invert button, because it's the simplest. All it does is invert the layer mask. So anything that was previously revealed becomes concealed, anything that was previously concealed becomes revealed. So it's just like pressing Ctrl+I or Command+I on the Mac. So I suppose it's handy, although we already have a handy keyboard shortcut. However, it's worth noting that inverting either a mask or any other form of channel inside of Photoshop is a nondestructive modification.
In other words, if I click the Invert button again, I restore my exact original mask. Now, the Mask Edge button up here at the top that's the same as the Refine mask command. So the command goes by the name Refine mask when applied to a layer mask and it goes by the name, Refine Edge when applied to a selection outline. Here we lose the word Refine and we get Mask Edge instead. And I'm sure why that is, but it goes ahead and brings up the Refine Mask dialog box which behaves just the same as it always does.
Now we saw this dialog box in action plenty of times back in Chapter 7. So I'm going to go ahead and cancel out of this dialog box. The one I want you to be aware of is Color Range. So as we've seen, great command for generating selection outlines, also a very helpful command for filling in a blank layer mask, but when you're working with an existing layer mask, it's kind of a puzzler; it's a little bit of a head-scratcher. To give you some perspective as to what's going on, I'm going to click on the Background layer to make it active here, and then I'm going to draw a selection outline using the Rectangular Marquee tool and now I'll go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command.
And notice that my Fuzziness value is still cranked up to 100. Let's say, I click in this fellow's forehead. Notice that I'm zoomed in on the mask and that's because Color Range can only see inside the existing selection outline. As soon as you click OK, it goes ahead and finds the intersection of its selection, the one it's just generated along with that original selection. So we're selecting inside the confines of that original Rectangular Marquee. Well, that's the same way it works when you start with an existing layer mask.
I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+ D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image, and then I'll click on the layer Mask for the midtones adjustment layer and I'll click on the Color Range button in order to bring up the Color Range command, and then if I click on, say, his forehead and then click on the OK button, then what I've done is I've revealed an area inside of the original reveal. So in other words, I built up the area that's concealed inside the layer Mask. Let me show you what I mean. I'm going to Alt+click or Option+click on that layer Mask thumbnail in order to make it active.
If I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac, you can see the original layer mask was much lighter; if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z again, you can see that that's second application of Color Range went ahead and intersected with the original mask and darkened up everything. So you're constantly selecting inside of the layer mask if you work this way. I'm not sure that I find that to be of any practical benefit, and, by the way, here's the warning. I was telling you that this button can crash things.
If you're viewing the layer Mask by itself and you click on Color Range, very, very strong chance that you'll crash the program. Known bug, by the way, so don't do it. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and Alt+ click or Option+click on that layer Mask to reveal the image once again. Now you may ask, okay, how do I get around this, because let's say what I want to do is I want to choose the Color Range command, choosing the Color Range command will do the same thing. It will essentially mess up the existing layer mask assuming a layer mask is selected.
So if what you really want to do is generate a selection outline for your next operation. Then make sure that no layer mask is active. Click on, for example, the thumbnail for this Adjustment layer. The Masks panel will tell you, No mask selected, so you can't click on the Color Range button, which is actually good thing where Color Range is concerned, because now you can go up to the Select menu, choose the Color Range command, define your selection as desired, and then go ahead and click OK and you will generate once again a selection outline, which is a lot more predictable way of working in my opinion.
So where Color Range is concerned, either apply it to a blank layer mask from the Masks panel, if you like, or click off the layer mask and go ahead and choose the Color Range command from the Select menu. All right! I'm going to click on the layer Mask thumbnail to once again line up the options inside the Masks panel. In the next exercise, I'll explain the good options inside of this panel, which are Density and Feather.
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