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Whenever you create a layer mask, it's important that that mask be as accurate as possible. In the context of a composite image for example, that means making sure that you're blocking or revealing just the right pixels to create the intended effect, and that means that you want to set some time reviewing that layer mask to make sure that everything is as accurate as possible. Let's take a look a couple techniques we can use for evaluating a layer mask. The first thing we can do is to hide or reveal the entire layer that is being affected by the mask.
In this case for example, my clouds layer has been masked so that is only visible in the area of the sky for my background image layer. And so if I turn off the visibility for that layer I'll see the original image. By toggling back and forth--in other word clicking on the eye icon to hide this layer and then clicking on the empty box to reveal it again, you can probably get a pretty good sense of where things didn't go quite as planned. For example, you'll notice that as I toggle back and forth, portions of the branches in the tree are being cut off by the new layer.
And also, we can see pretty clearly that the blue sky through the tree is not changing. In other words the layer mask doesn't probably reflect that portion of the image. I also noticed that the top of the barn here is being cut off, and so that's another area that I'll need to clean up. So just by toggling layer off and then on again and reviewing various areas of the photo I'm able to get a pretty good sense of where my problem areas are. I can perform a similar task by disabling the layer mask temporarily. I'll hold the Shift key and then click on the thumbnail for the layer mask, and now the layer mask is no longer having an effect on the image so I see the clouds they are just covering up a portion of my photo.
So holding the Shift key, I can click and click on and off to disable and then reenable the layer mask. And in the process, once again, you'll get a sense of some of the changes within the image, and it can be helpful in terms of spotting mistakes. Finally, you can take a look at the actual layer mask. Of course we can see the layer mask right here on the Layers panel except it's a very small thumbnail. If I'd like to see the entire layer mask, I can hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on the thumbnail for that layer mask and that will reveal the actual layer mask.
So for example, here I can see that things are a little bit crisp in that tree. There's some areas that are sort of a fuzzy gray down here, but for the most part things are just a little bit too abrupt I thin,k and we can see very clearly that there are no gaps in the tree, even though we were able to see sky behind the tree. I can also see some clutter here and there. I can evaluate the overall hardness of that edge. You'll notice here for example I have some fuzziness, and that actually just needs to be replaced so that I can see the top of that barn.
You also can see some white areas in the barn itself, and an area where we don't quite have a good corner. By looking at the actual mask, we're able to find some errors here and there and we can actually work to clean those up directly here within the mask. For example I could grab the Brush tool and then paint with black in these areas in order to fill them with black and therefore block those portions in the layer mask. When I want to see the full image again, I can hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh once again and click on the thumbnail for that layer mask to get back to the full image.
So with these various techniques, we were able to evaluate our results and more importantly, find our mistakes so that we can clean those up. And so, by utilizing these various techniques, we can evaluate that mask and find areas where it's less than ideal so we can improve upon it in order to create a great composite.
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