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In Photoshop CS6 for Photographers, author, photographer, and teacher Chris Orwig explores Photoshop from the perspective of the photographer.
The course details the features and techniques behind enhancing and retouching photos, preparing them for print and online publishing, and much more. Chris demonstrates how to make basic edits in Camera Raw, develop and save color profiles, work with layers and selections, tone and sharpen, and retouch images while retaining their natural character.
Chris also shares some creative tips and project ideas, such as converting a photo to black-and-white and enhancing a portrait with hand-painted masks. The course also covers workflow details, such as organizing images in Bridge and Mini Bridge, optimizing Photoshop preferences, and calibrating your monitor.
Here, in this movie I want to dig a little bit deeper into masking. In particular, I want to take a look at how we can select a subject and then remove that subject from their background. Well, in order to do this, though, let's first go back to some of the basics. One of the things that we know about masks in Photoshop is that they kind of work like a mask like you would wear on your face. It allows you to reveal or conceal different parts of your face. Yet what's different in Photoshop is that the selection that we create with a mask, well, it's editable, and we have two different elements with our Photoshop masks.
One is a white which reveals, and another one is black which conceals. So therefore, if we have a picture, say like this photograph here, what we can do is we can add a mask to this in order to conceal part of the photograph. In this case, we could conceal the background here so that we could see the subject by him or herself. Well, let's take a look at how we could do this. I'm going to go ahead and jump back to Photoshop. You'll notice that we have two layers. We have a Background layer, the original layer, and then a duplicate of that which says Mask this layer.
This is where we're going to do our masking. In order to create a good mask, let's first create a good selection. To do that, let's use quick select. Press the W key or click on the tool in the Tools panel. Now typically when you work with this tool, you want to have a small brush when you want to get near edges or small little details here. And then you may want to have a bigger brush, say on the shirt. So press the Right Bracket key and go ahead and make that bigger, and just click and drag across the image. This will build up your selection, and we'll go ahead and click and drag around all of the photograph.
You'll have to make a few passes with this tool in order to make sure you're selecting everything. Here, I'll zoom in a little bit more, by pressing Command+Plus on a Mac, Ctrl+Plus on Windows, and then I'll press the Left Bracket key to make my brush smaller, and I'll just go ahead and paint around the image with this tool. This allows me to select this. Select a little more hair there. To improve this mistake which I made, press Option on a Mac, Alt on Windows, and then just paint away. That allows you to subtract from the selected area.
And I want to do that because I want to make sure I have a nice tight selection here, just the subject, not any of the background. Press the Spacebar key, hold down Option or Alt to select or deselect those train tracks there in the background, and I think that's a decent selection. It's okay for starters. One of the things that we know that we can do is we can go to Refine Edge. Well, here with Refine Edge dialog, allows us to kind of clean up and fix some of our edges. Yet we can also access these same controls inside of the Mask panel.
Let me show you how we can do that. Let's go ahead and click Cancel here. Rather than going to Refine Edge, let's go straight to adding a layer mask. To do that, you can click on this icon here at the base of the Layers panel. We now have a mask, we've now removed the subject from the background, yet our edges, they aren't perfect, they need a little bit of work. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in on the image a little bit so we can focus in on this part of the photograph. Well, in order to change the edges, you can double-click the mask icon.
When you do that, you'll notice that you have a few options for the mask. One of them is Mask Edge. We can go ahead and click on that, and it will open up this dialog. Now we're working on a different type of a selection. We're working on a mask, an editable selection. What we can then do here is we can click on Smart Radius and then go ahead and click and drag the Radius up a little bit. As we do that, it analyzes those edges and it can help us work on those edges a little bit more efficiently or improve those.
Here, we can increase the contrast or maybe the smoothness of the edge just a little bit, and again, in order to just improve that mask in this case, rather than improving the selection. All those changes go right here. The output of course is just to the layer Mask itself. Well, let's go ahead and click OK in order to apply that. Well, this is looking really good, and the Quick Select tool in this latest version of Photoshop is a ton better than it was in the previous version, especially when it comes to selecting things like hair, in this case, looks great.
And what about the situations like down here along the arm, where it just didn't trim off these edges, and I need to get rid of some of the details that I've there. Well, you can always paint in your mask. Just click in it, grab one of your tools, in this case, we can go ahead and paint with black which will conceal, and I can go ahead and paint along this little edge here in order to remove that distracting element. These little edges may be tough to see in this movie once it becomes small. So let me exaggerate this for a moment, I'm going to make my brush bigger, and you can see here I can paint away a part of his shoulder or click and paint with white.
You can click on that icon to flip those two. Here I can just paint that back in. , So sometimes what you'll need to do is you'll need to paint one way, and then flip this and then paint the other way in order to get that mask just right. Well, because there's going to be so much flipping between black and white, because we use those two colors to reveal or conceal, you'll want to learn this valuable shortcut. It's the X key. The X key allows you to flip between black and white, and this is especially helpful when it comes to creating more complicated masks like this, or when it comes to just sweetening up or fixing your masks, as I needed to do here.
Now that we've extracted the subject from the background, really all that we would need to do is to simply close our Properties panel, and then we could move this subject into a different environment or change the background, or we could do whatever we needed to do, and the great thing about this is that we have this built-in flexibility. We can continually modify it as I've talked about, and we can also completely disable this mask. Let's say that we've decided we don't want to extract the subject from the background. Well, you can press the Shift key.
When you do that, you can then click on your mask icon. Notice there's a red X, which shows up on top of the mask. That will temporarily disable that. Hold down the Shift key and click on that again, and it will bring that mask back. So again, all of that data, all of the information, all those pixels are there. We're just controlling what we're able to see here by way of this mask.
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