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The Masks panel, which you see here on my screen, is new in Photoshop CS4. If you use a mask on an adjustment layer to limit where an adjustment applies inside an image, as I showed you how to do earlier. Don't forget to pay a visit to the Masks panel because there you're going to find some really useful controls for softening the edge of the mask, for lowering the density or opacity of the mask and for otherwise refining the mask edge. I am going to use this image to introduce you to the features of the Masks panel and show you how to use it with an adjustment layer, to virtually paint with light. I'll start by adding a Levels adjustment and I'm going to use one of the presets to make things simple. So I'll click on the Adjustments tab here to open the Adjustments panel and then I go down to the presets area, click on the arrow to the left of Levels Presets and I'm going to select Lighten Shadows. That preset Levels adjustment, lightens the dark areas of the photo, revealing detail there.
If you take a look at the Layers panel, you'll see the new Levels adjustment layer, which like all adjustment layers has a thumbnail that represents a layer mask. By default, that layer mask is white, as you can see here, and where a layer mask on an adjustment layer is white, it's completely revealing the adjustment everywhere in the image. What I'd like to do is the opposite. I'd like to fill that adjustment layer mask with black. So that's completely hiding this Levels adjustment everywhere in the image and then, I'm just going to paint that adjustment back in where I wanted.
So, a quick way to fill that mask with black is to go to the Masks panel. My Masks panel is open on my screen. So I'm just going to click its tab. If your Masks panel isn't open, then go up to the Window menu and go down to Masks. At the top of the Masks panel, I see this message that I have a Pixel Mask. In other words, a regular mask, as opposed to a vector based mask, already selected in the Layers panel and by the way, if you don't have the mask selected, which is one of those things that's a gotcha in Photoshop can trip you up, then you'll see a different message here.
For example if I click on the adjustment thumbnail on this adjustment layer that deselects the mask and you can see up at the top of the Masks panel, this message that I don't have a mask selected and there is a quick way to select the mask, right from here in the Masks panel. With that adjustment layer selected in the Layers panel, all I have to do is click on this icon right here, and that selects the mask on the adjustment layer. Now I came to the Masks panel in order to fill that mask with black and to do that, all I have to do is to come down to this Invert button in the Masks panel and click. You can see that the layer mask thumbnail is just now completely black and the image is as it was before I added this Levels adjustment because that black layer mask is completely hiding the adjustment everywhere in the image. But the adjustment is still there and now I can paint it back where I wanted by using white paint.
So I'm going to go over to the Toolbox and I'm going to select my Brush tool, then I'll go down to the foreground color box and in order to make sure that that's white, I'm going to press the X key on my keyboard. I'll move the brush into the image and I'm going to make it a little bigger by pressing the right bracket key on my keyboard and then with that mask selected, I'm going to come in and I'm just going to paint with white. As you can see wherever I paint a stroke, the image looks lighter.
Why is that happening? Because wherever I put white paint on this layer mask, I'm revealing the Levels adjustment and you remember that that Levels adjustment that I added at the beginning of the lesson is one that lightens. Let me show you that layers mask by going over to the layer mask thumbnail, holding down the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC and clicking on the thumbnail and you can see where my streaks of white are. And then I'll Option-click or Alt-click again on that thumbnail to go back to the image for you. Back in the Masks panel, there's another really useful feature and that's the Feather slider. I can use this slider to soften the transition between the masked and unmasked areas on my layer mask and what I really like about this slider is that I have an interactive preview in my image. So I can see exactly how the image will look, as I feather the mask.
So I still have that mask selected as the Masks panel tells me. I'll click on the Feather slider and I'll drag it really far over to the right and you can see that that has really blurred those white strokes, so much so that one of them up here has even disappeared. So I'm going to go back the other way and I'm just going to blur these strokes a little bit to ease that transition from the white strokes over to the black part of the image and if I Option-click or Alt-click again on the layer mask thumbnail, you can see that the edges of those strokes aren't indeed blurry and that's what makes that transition so soft.
Now I'll go back and Option-click or alt-click again on the layer mask thumbnail, to show you something else in the Masks panel and that is the Mask Edge button. I'm going to click that button and that opens the Refine Mask dialog box. I'm not going to go through every feature here, but I do want to let you know what this dialog box does. It offers a number of sliders that you can use to refine the edge between the masked area and the unmasked area and if you want to know what each one of these sliders does, you can just move your mouse over one of them and it tells you down at the bottom of the dialog box in the description area.
Notice that there is a button on the right side that says Default. When if I open this dialog box, I click this button first to send all the sliders back to their defaults and then I'll go down to these icons and I'll decide which of the icons I want to use to view the mask. Right now I'm looking at the masked portions in white or I could look at the masked portions of the image in black, or in this red semitransparent color, or this is the view that I like the most, in standard view, with the unmasked portions outlined and the marching ants of a selection and by the way, that's because basically a selection and a mask are just the same thing displayed in different ways.
So when I use this view, I get an interactive preview in my image to see what happens when I move the sliders in the Refine Mask dialog box. I'm also going to hide those marching ants, so I get a better view and one way to do that is to go up to the View menu at the top of the screen and uncheck extras. So the selection is still there, it's still active. I just don't have to see the marching ants. So it's just one example of the sliders in the Refine Mask dialog box. I'll show you Contract/Expand. If I move this slider all the way over to the left, like this, you can see that those streaks of light contracted in on themselves because the edges of those streaks have been contracted. To show you another view, I'll click here on the white view again and you can see the streaks really have got narrower. If I go the other way and make the streaks really wide, and I'll show you another view like that.
So that's one way that you can refine the edge of a mask. I'm actually going to go somewhere in this neighborhood so that I can actually see some of the strokes in the image and I'll go back to the standard view. So I like it that way. And when I'm done in this dialog box, I can click OK and it closes. There is another new convenient slider for masks in the Masks panel and that's this Density slider right here. If I drag this slider to the left, I'll be making the black mask less dense. In other words, changing it from black to shades of gray. As you know where a mask is black, it completely conceals an adjustment. But if the mask were gray, it would only partially conceal the adjustment.
So here's what that looks like. I'll take that Density slider and I'm going to move it all the way over to about 50 percent and when I release my mouse, I see that there is some more light showing in the rocks. And if I Option-click or Alt-click on the layer mask thumbnail, you can see that I have changed the black of the mask to gray, so that it is partially revealing my Levels adjustment. I'm going to Option-click or Alt- click again to go back to the document view. So using the features in the Masks panel, the Feather slider, the Mask Edge button, the Invert button, the Density slider, I've managed to make the image more dramatic, I think by painting on it with light, and I've also introduced you to all those useful new features in the new Masks panel.
The Mask panel can be used with any kind of mask, a layer mask, a vector mask or a layer mask on an adjustment layer and it really makes working with masks so much easier than in previous versions of Photoshop because it offers all the controls in one location and it gives you easy to use sliders and it's there for you to come back to at any time so that you can tweak your masks.
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