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Discover how to use Adobe Photoshop, without any added fine art skills, to modify artwork and turn the ordinary into extraordinary. Author and illustrator Bert Monroy takes an unexciting photo and transforms it into an amazing dream sequence by combining it with other photos and techniques. His process touches on compositing, digital painting, masking, and other key image editing techniques. All you need is Photoshop, some images that could use a boost, and your imagination!
Layer Masks is something that I use quite a bit throughout the series. So I am going to show you what a layer mask is. Now, this is the file I use to explain the Alpha Channel. Well, a Layer Mask is very much like an Alpha Channel, and that it uses the same concept of going from zero black to 255 white with the 254 levels of gray in between. Except in the Layer Mask, they are for a different purpose. They are also part of the image. Their very presence will affect the image, unlike an Alpha Channel whose presence is only there and does nothing to the image until you do something through that Alpha Channel.
This image before we created with the Alpha Channel to blur the shadow as it got further away, well, something else should happen to this shadow. It should get lighter as it gets further away, because it gets affected by ambient light. It should be darkest down here, and lightest up here. Now, it's blurry, but it's still just as equally dark all the way through. We need this shadow to get lighter as it gets further away. So basically, I need to start to hide it, gradually. And that's where the Layer Mask comes into play, because the Layer Mask allows me to control how something is going to be seen.
Where the Layer Mask is white, we will see it 100%, where it is black, it will be completely hidden. The level of gray will determine how much we see it, 50% gray, we will see the layer content by 50%. So, I am going to add a Layer Mask to my shadow. There it is It automatically came in white, because nothing was selected. Had something been selected, it would have come in with that selection as I will do in a second. But in that Layer Mask, I want this to get softer as it gets further away.
So, white is where it's going to be visible. I don't want it to completely disappear, because I am not going to use black, I am going to use a gray. Remember, the level of gray, level of visibility. So, I am going to draw a gradient right inside of my Layer Mask, which is currently selected like this. And you see that the shadow got lighter as it got further away because it's being hidden by the layer mask. I am going to Option-click on the mask to show you the mask. There is the mask.
It's going from white where it's visible to very light where it's gray. So, that's why it slowly disappeared. Now, I am going to go to this rod layer here, and if I had selected something like right here, if I go in there and select this and then say make a Layer Mask, notice that the Layer Mask automatically reflected what was selected. There it is. I did that in a couple of situations throughout the series where I can go in there, and select an area and then created the mask.
Now, if I want to turn off the mask slightly, I can easily hold down the Shift key and click on the mask, the mask will temporarily be disabled, Shift-click on it, it brings it back. Right there, you see that lock? If I took my little rod now and moved it over here, you notice that it moved just the way it was. If I unlink the mask from the layer itself, I can now move the layer around, and it's going to stay inside the area of the mask.
I could also move the mask around, which will give me a whole different feel of how I see the contents of that layer. So, the Layer Mask is just a way of going in there, and hiding parts of a layer in a controlled fashion, whether it's 100% or just gradually. But you have full control over what and how is being masked.
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