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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
When working with layer masks it's critically important that the mask properly reflect the area of the image that you want to reveal or apply an adjustment to. But that can be very tricky when it comes to subjects that are fuzzy. For example, here I have an image of a Lilac Breasted Roller And we've got some feather detail that can be a little bit challenging in terms of applying targeted adjustments. But let's take a look at how we can work with that. I'm going to start off by creating a selection for the sky. I'll utilize the Magic Wand tool in this case and I'll reduce my tolerance setting here, and then click into the sky. And it actually looks like that's worked pretty well. I think I have a very good selection for my sky. So now I can apply a targeted adjustment.
I'll go ahead and add an adjustment layer. I'll just add a curves layer in this case. And I'm going to apply an exaggerated adjustment so that we can get a better sense of what's going on. At first glance, it seems like everything's just fine. And that's because I haven't zoomed in very closely to get a better look at what's happening with this image. When I do zoom, in you'll notice right from the start that I have a little bit of a harsh transition between the area that's being adjusted and the area that's not being adjusted. But perhaps more problematic are these feathers underneath the beak. We have a very harsh transition and thus is a tricky area. So let's take a look at how we can clean this up. The best approach is the Refine Mask command.
Now, we actually have a Refine Edge option that is available when we're working with selections. But we have the exact same capabilities available for a mask. And that's great because I'd prefer not to refine the selection Because I'd rather wait until I can see the actual effect in the image. So I'll zoom out just a little bit so we can see more areas of the bird here. And get a better sense of the problems we have with this mask. And then I'll switch to the masks section of the properties panel. And we'll take a look at the various options that we have for refining this mask.
We can adjust the density, but that essentially just means that instead of having areas that are black, we'll have areas that are grey. Because we're reducing the overall density of that mask, it's not very often that you want to do that. We theoretically want the feather to smooth the transition along that edge, but I'm going to skip that for just a moment. We also have the ability to refine this mask based on the color range command. In other words using the same color inch command that we can use to create a selection in order to modify the layer mask.
And of course we can invert that mask as well, switching it so that in this case for example, the adjustment would be affecting the bird and the branch rather than the sky. But the most powerful tool of all here is Mask Edge. I'll go ahead and click the Mask Edge button and that will bring up the Refine Mask dialogue. You can see that I have initially a white mask option for my preview, so I'm going to change that view pop up to On Layers so that I can see the actual effect within the image... Then we can take a look at the various options.
And I'm going to start off with the Adjust Edge section. We can smooth the edge, and that will straighten out some of the jagged edges. The problem is that then our layer mask won't necessarily reflect the shape of the object that we're trying to adjust. So, I usually use a minimum value for smooth if I'm going to use it at all than often I won't use it. The feather option can be very helpful. This is obviously the same setting that we have available directly on the masks panel and all it does is essentially blur the edge of that mask. That provides us with some transition.
In this case between the areas we're adjusting, and the areas we're not adjusting. I can also adjust contrast, but I can only increase contrast. And what that effectively does is reverse the effect of feathering. So if I had a layer mask that was a little bit too fuzzy, I can tighten it up a little bit, or make it less fuzzy, by increasing contrast. In other words, in most cases, you're not going to need contrast. Because the only reason the layer mask would be fuzzy is because you added some feathering. So, instead of increasing contrast, you could reduce feathering.
In most cases, though, you'll need at least a little bit of feathering. But when you do feather, you may notice an effect sort like what we're seeing here. Specifically a bit of haloing, and that's because we're having a transition between the area being adjusted and the area that is not being adjusted by the specific adjustment. It's not that I don't want transition, And it's not that I need less of a transition, it's that that transition is now in the wrong place. And that's where the Shift Edge slider comes into play. I can drag the Shift Edge slider to move that adjustment outward or inward as needed.
In other words, the edge of that mask can be shifted inward or outward. So I'll try to find the perfect value for that Shift Edge, so that I can create a better result. And overall that has greatly improved my results especially considering the adjustment is very exaggerated at the moment. Once I tone down that adjustment the results will look even better. But I still have a bit of an issue here with those chin feathers. In theory, I could turn on the Smart Radius option so that the radius for edge detection will vary around various portions of the image, and I can also increase the size of that radius, and that will often help.
I'll go ahead and turn on the Show Radius check box, so that you can see which area of the image is being evaluated. And in those areas, Photoshop is attempting to find the edge so that it can automatically compensate with that layer mask, but that's still not quite providing the best results for the feathers underneath the beak there But fortunately I can paint in additional areas that I want PhotoShop to evaluate. So I'll click and hold my mouse on the Refine Radius Tool. You'll see that we can add areas that need to be evaluated or we can erase those areas.
I'll go ahead and use the Refine Radius Tool. And I'll paint over the area that is problematic. In this case the feathers below the beak, and perhaps some other areas of the image as well. And when I do that, Photoshop will reevaluate that portion of the image. And as you can see, it is blended in very, very nicely. So that looks to be a very good effect. I obviously would want to evaluate other portions of the image as well to make sure that my layer mask is perfect all the way around my subject. But I think we're off to a great start here.
I'll go ahead and click OK in order to apply those changes and I'll zoom out. And then I'll go back to my adjustment. And now as I fine tune this adjustment you'll see that I have a very good transition around that bird and the branch because I was able to refine that mask to produce a much better result.
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