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In Photoshop CS4: Layer Masks in Depth, Jan Kabili takes an in-depth look at using layer masks to create professional-looking image composites and make targeted photo corrections. Jan examines some common situations in which layer masks are the key to creating convincing image composites. She demonstrates practical ways to enhance photos with layer masking, including masking adjustment layers and Smart Filters to affect part of a photo. She explains how to use layer masks to combine different exposures of the same scene, and teaches how to work with vector masks to achieve a clean, graphic look. Exercise files accompany the course.
The heart of layer masking is adding black, white and sometimes gray pixels to a layer mask, in order to hide and show different parts of the content of the layer to which the mask is attached. One way to add black, white, or gray to a layer mask is to paint it on using the Brush tool or another Photoshop painting tool. In this case, I'm using the same image that I used in the preceding movies, in which there are two layers. A photograph on the layer below, and this entire image that you see here, the paintbrush, the hand, and these white pixels around those items.
What I would like to do is to hide some of these white pixels in the shape of brush strokes, showing down through to the photo on the layer below. I could permanently erase parts of the paintbrush layer by getting the Eraser tool and drawing with that tool right on the image itself. But I don't want to do that, because I want to give myself room to change my mind, and work in a way that is non-destructive and reversible. So I'm going to paint on the layer mask that I have already added to the Paint Brush layer. I'll click on that layer mask which is right here, to make sure that I have the layer mask active.
You can see that the layer mask is filled with white pixels, which is the default state when you add a layer mask, as I explained in earlier movies in this chapter. The white pixels on the layer mask are revealing everything on the paintbrush layer right now. And I'm going to paint in the layer mask with some black and some gray pixels. So I'm going to go to the Toolbox and I'm going to select the Brush tool here. Then I'm going to go up to the Options bar for the Brush tool. I don't want to use a plain round brush. I would like to use a brush with an uneven edge.
So I'm going to click the arrow to the left of this first Brush field here and that opens the Brush preset picker. Here I can see a thumbnail for all of the brush tips that come with the default set of Photoshop brushes. I'll scroll down, and here I have some uneven looking brushes. I'm going to select this 48 pixel brush right here, and then I'm going to click in a blank area of the Options bar to close that brush preset picker. Then I'm going to look at the foreground color box here. I want to make sure that I have black as my color here.
Because I want to paint with black pixels in order to hide parts of the paintbrush layer. If I didn't have black pixels here, I would press D key on my keyboard to set the foreground color to white, and then the X key to switch it to black, or you can do the same thing by clicking these two little squares right here, and then the double pointed arrow. Now that I have paint and I have pixilated Brush tool ready to go and I have my layer mask thumbnail selected, I'm going to come in and I'm just going to drag a few strokes like this, hiding parts of the paintbrush layer.
You'll notice in the layer mask thumbnail that you can see the black paint that's hiding the corresponding pixels on the paintbrush layer. Now you'll notice that with one of my strokes, I have actually painted over the tip of this paintbrush, and I didn't mean to do that. But it's no problem. The beauty of using a layer mask is that I can come back in and paint with white, to bring that part of the image back. To switch my foreground color to white, I'm going to press the X key on my keyboard. And then I'll come in and I'm just going to paint around the bottom of the paintbrush there.
So this is one of the big benefits of using a layer mask, which is that you can reverse what you have done by painting with black and then coming back and painting over the same area with white. Now I also can also paint with gray on this layer mask. Doing that will partially hide the corresponding part of the image. So with the layer mask thumbnail still selected on the paintbrush layer. I'm going to go to the foreground color box here and I'm going to make sure that I have my foreground color set to black. I'll press the X key on my keyboard to do that.
Then I'm going to go up to the Options bar for the selected Brush tool and I'm going to lower the Opacity of the brush. That will allow me to paint with gray rather than black. I'll click-and-drag to the left and I'll put the brush Opacity at something like 50%. Now I'm going to come in and make some strokes with gray and you can see that what's happening here is that I'm partially hiding some white pixels on the Paint Brush layer, so that you can partially see down through the photo layer below. Another way to paint with gray is to come to the foreground color box, click in the foreground color box, and choose a shade of gray from the color picker.
But I think it's faster and easier to just reduce the Opacity of the Brush tool. Painting on a layer mask with black, white or gray is something that I do all the time when I'm making composites of multiple images, when I blending various exposures of a shot, when I'm adjusting part of an image, or when I'm making other special effects that I'll be showing in this course. But keep in mind that painting on a layer mask is just one way to add black white or gray pixels to a layer mask. I'll be showing you a couple of other ways to add those pixels to your layer masks in later movies in this course.
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