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It seems photographers tend to think of an image as being either black and white or color. However, as you'll see in this lesson, sometimes you can create a more interesting image by blending color and black and white in the same image. Here, I have an image that contains a fair amount of color. We have some bright oranges in the foreground with these rocks and the sky is a reasonably vibrant blue. In fact, in large part, this picture was taken because of the color. But I want to emphasize that texture in the rock without drawing so much attention to that color. I think it might be interesting to convert the rocks to black and white, but to leave the sky in color.
To get started, I'm going to create a selection of the rocks. So I'll choose my Quick Selection tool, and then, click and drag across the rocks in a variety of areas, sampling various portions of the rock so that Photoshop gets a sense of exactly what I want to create a selection of. If I drag around enough areas, Photoshop will be able to create a great selection of the rocks. I can then create an Adjustment Layer. Now, you might not have been aware that each Adjustment layer automatically includes a layer mask. That layer mask determines where the affect of the Adjustment layer takes effect.
By default, the Layer Mask is completely white, and in the context of a Layer Mask, black blocks, but white reveals. So a white layer mask causes the Adjustment Layer to be visible everywhere. If we have a selection active when we create our Adjustment layer, that layer mask will reflect the selection that was active at the time. So in this case, the layer mask will reflect white in the area for the rocks and black for the sky. White for the selected areas and black for the deselected areas. What that means is the adjustment I add will only effect the rocks. So I'll go ahead and add a black and white adjustment layer and that Adjustment Layer will automatically have its layer mask reflect this selection. Therefore, causing this Adjustment layer, in this case, the black and white adjustment, to only effect the rocks.
So now, when I apply an adjustment to the setting for my black and white adjustment, you can see that I'm only effecting the appearance of the rocks. I can finetune to my heart's content. In this case, the reds and the yellows are really the only colors I need to concern myself with, since the rocks were largely orange. But notice that the sky remains blue. Now, in some cases, with a selection that was not feathered, you may have a little bit of a harsh transition between the area that was affected and the area that's not affected. If you need to finetune that transition, you can use the Masks panel. If it's not visible, simply choose Window > Masks from the menu. You can then adjust the Feather setting.
Now, I'll increase the feather setting significantly and you can see that we start to see a transition between the area we're effecting, the rocks, and the area we're not effecting, the sky. So here, the transition has been made so large that we're starting to see a little bit of color at the edges of the rocks. In most cases, you'll only need to feather by one or two pixels to produce a nice transition between the areas you're affecting and those areas that you're not effecting. Layer masks provide tremendous creative potential in Photoshop.
As you've seen in this lesson, one potential use of Layer Masks is to produce an image that combines both black and white and color working together to produce a more interesting final result.
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