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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 you create a composite image, you're essentially combining an image layer with a layer mask so that that image is only visible in certain areas. In this case, for example, I have a photo of a side of a building and I've added a photo of clouds, but that cloud layer is only visible through the window, in the upper window in this case, because I've created a layer mask that reflects the shape of that window. By default, a layer mask is linked with the layer that it's attached to. So, for example, the cloud layer and its layer mask are linked together. So that if, for example, I were to re-size one, the other would be re-sized as well. Or if I move one, the other moves with it.
And so, for example, if I were to move my cloud layer, I would be moving the layer mask with it so that I end up with a mismatch in this case, with clouds that are visible but not in the right spot. The whole point was to have them showing through the window. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z on Windows or Cmd+Z on Macintosh to undo that step so that the clouds are appearing right through the window. But what if I want to reveal a different portion of this cloud layer? You can see from the thumbnail that I have a relatively large image, but I'm only seeing a small portion of it.
What if I want to see a different portion of it? Well, if I want to move that layer around or even resize it, I need to do so independent of the layer mask. I need to leave the layer mask alone and modify only the image. To accomplish that I'll unlink the layer and the mask. So I'll simply click on the chain icon in between the two. And now, with that image layer active, I'll click on the thumbnail just to make sure, I can for example use the Move tool to simply drag that layer around. So I can move this layer, I'll just use the arrow keys on the keyboard in order to move the layer up, down, left, and right.
I need to make sure that I don't move that layer so much that I reveal the edge or completely take it out of the window frame in this case. And let's assume right about there seems to be pretty good. I can also though, resize this image layer. I'll go to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform, for example. I'll zoom out a little bit so I can see more of that bounding box, and then I'll hold the Shift key to constrain the aspect ratio to the original ratio. And I can resize that image layer and move it around a little bit more and just find the portion of this image that I think is the most interesting.
I'll continue resizing a little bit. Maybe reducing the size of this image a little bit more. Since I have enough room to work with there. And that looks to be pretty good, maybe move it over to the right a little bit more. Right around there. So now I can commit this transformation by pressing Enter or Return on the keyboard. Double-clicking inside the bounding box or clicking the commit button, that check mark icon on the options bar. And now I've moved and resized the image layer, independent of the layer mask, simply by unlinking the layer mask from the image layer.
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