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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.
When you want to work with just a certain area of pixels here in a particular image, it's often better to use a mask instead of start deleting pixels. Because once those pixels are gone, you can't get them back. So, let's say we want to create a vignette effect for this particular image. We want to basically end up cropping the image in the end. But we're not quite sure we want to commit to a specific crop yet. So, I just drag my Marquee tool. I pressed M for the Marquee tool, and dragged out a rectangular marquee. I can kind of position it by clicking it in the middle here and dragging it around to a different location. And this is where I thing I want the majority of my image to be shown, and I want to create a nice soft edged falloff effect or a vignette effect.
So, to do that, you typically would either use the Feather command or use my technique. I'm going to Quick Mask mode. I'm going to press Q to go to Quick Mask. I'm going to go to Filter menu, down to Blur, over to Gaussian Blur. And if I click there in the corner in the image with that little square cursor, that puts that preview up here in the Gaussian Blur dialog box. Okay, a radius of 15 looks good. I'm going to go ahead and click OK, and if I press the letter Q, that takes me back to the Normal mode. Now if I were to hit the Delete key or the Backspace key, since I'm on a background layer, that's going to bring up the Fill dialog.
I'm going to go ahead and do that. That's not what I want. I don't want to fill the selected area with white. I want to mask this off to transparency instead. So, anytime I want transparency, I can't work on a background layer. I need to convert this background layer. I'm going to Option+Double-click or Alt+Double-click on the name of background. That converts it to a layer that supports transparency, which is any layer but the background layer. Now instead of hitting Delete here or Backspace, right-- I don't want to delete those pixels-- so, I'm going to undo it, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. I'm going to go down to the Layers panel at the very bottom, and there is a Convert Selection to Layer Mask button, or Add Layer Mask.
I'm going to go ahead and click that button, and that's exactly what's happens. The end result appears to be the same as deleting everything but the selected area of pixels. And that transparent area is represented by that checkerboard, but you can see in my Layers panel now, I've added an additional icon. This is the Layer Mask icon. Everything that's black is protected, and everything that's white is selected, or black hides and white reveals. Now the advantage of using the layer mask instead of actually deleting those pixels is that the original information is still around, which means I can change the position of the image within this feathered edge here.
If I press the V key on my keyboard to switch to the Move tool, you'll notice that in the Layers panel, between the thumbnail and the layer mask thumbnail-- so the layer thumbnail and layer mask thumbnail--there's a lot of link icon, which means they will both move together if I have any one of them selected. So, right now, the layer mask it has the dashed line around its thumbnail. If I click and drag anywhere in the image in the image window here, you'll see both the mask and the image will move together. If I want to move just the image around within the mask, to kind of reposition it, I'm going to go ahead and click the Layer Mask icon, the link between the two.
Now I can select the image layer and move that freely around within the mask. So, I can really get that position perfect. Now I want to have this trail off into a white background instead of a transparent background, then I'm going to add a new layer. I'm going to click the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. That adds a new layer at to the top of your selected layer, or the active layer. I'm going to go ahead and click on that thumbnail and drag it below the other layer there, Layer 0, and so there it is. It's repositioned. And I want to fill that with white. I can bring up the Edit > Fill command to do that.
Edit > Fill, and then choose white and click OK, and now I've got that completed look. When I'm fine and happy with where it's positioned within the mask, I then may want to crop this down to just see the pixel area here and get rid of the extra white stuff. A couple tricks for that. I'm going to go ahead and hold down the Command key, or the Ctrl key on Windows, and click on the layer mask thumbnail, and what that does is that loads that layer mask as a selection, which then I can then use to crop the image down. So, if I go over to the Image menu and choose Crop, I'll end up with my final result.
Go ahead and deselect, Command+D, Ctrl+D, and there I have it. So, I have the flexibility of not committing to an actual crop until I was really satisfied with where that image was within that vignette area, by using the benefit of a layer mask, instead of simply deleting pixels. And the tieback to the background layer here is that you are going to start out with the background layer. You need to convert that to a layer that supports transparency, and that's as simple as just double- clicking on the layer name.
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