Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
Here, I want to take a look at a really common way to work with a mask and that is to be able to use a mask to paint in an adjustment just to a specific area of your photograph, say, like we're sharpening. How can we selectively sharpen just a certain area of our picture? Well, you notice here in my Layers panel that I have two layers. We have the background layer, and I also have this layer which I've named sharpen and mask. Clicking this top layer and then navigate to your Filter pulldown menu, go all the way down to Sharpen and then next choose Smart Sharpen.
We'll be talking about sharpening later, but for now let's go ahead and just apply a medium amount of sharpening. Here we have an Amount, probably about 120 Radius, because it this is a relatively low-res file, let's leave this at about 0.3 and then click OK. Well, by doing that, we've sharpened this entire layer, yet there are some elements like the background here and his hand which are out of focus. I don't want to sharpen something which is out of focus; I just want to sharpen the eyes and maybe a little bit of the face in this area.
Well, what you can do is you can create a mask. Let's click on the Add layer Mask icon. Currently it's white. It's revealing all. I can see all the sharpening. Well, I want to invert that to conceal all the sharpening that I've done. So double-click on your mask icon. This will open up the Properties panel. In the Properties panel, down at the bottom, there's a button. We've seen this before, it's called Invert. If you click on that, it will flip the logic here so your mask is now black.
You can also do this by pressing Command+I, or Ctrl+I--Command+I on a Mac, Ctrl+I on Windows--and that allows you to invert that mask as well. Well, now that this is concealed, that's hiding all of the sharpening, I'll then select my Brush tool. Here, we'll go ahead and choose our brush. We want to make sure to choose a brush which has a really nice soft edge. We may want to decrease the size a little bit so we have a nice small brush here, and then we want to paint with white. So, we want to make sure we're choosing white here in our color picker.
Then we'll go ahead and paint, say, over the eyes in this area of the image. I want to exaggerate this just a little bit so you can see what I mean. Let's zoom in on this so you can see this is a little bit more closely. And now on this layer, I just have that sharpening effect applied to this part of the image. If I turn off the background layer, what we'll see is I can just see this area of the image, because what's white is just revealing this here. I could go ahead and paint this in, and I'm going to paint again too much and exaggerate a little bit.
I'm bringing in too much of the skin. You can see I have the eyes, but I also brought in some other elements. Well, just press the X key and go ahead and paint those other areas out. Another way that you can do this to create some smooth transitions is you can lower the opacity of your brush. Here, I'll go down to 50% or so. Now when I paint, you won't even really be able to see it that much, but it's just going to be subtly take this back. In other words, it's kind of erasing, I'm saying that in quotes, it a less intensity, because it's painting with lower opacity.
Well, let's turn back on our background layer and zoom out a little bit, and here you can see at this 100% zoom rate. We now have the sharpening begin painted into this area. Well, as I mentioned before, I brought in too much. So I want to paint it away on the eyelashes there. I don't need any sharpening there, I really just want it on the eyes. And this technique of applying a filter or an adjustment and then creating a mask and inverting it and painting that adjustment into the exact area where you want it, well, it's one of those techniques which is really foundational.
It's one that you'll use on a lot of your photographs because this allows us to have precise control to set our photographs apart.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
164 Video lessons · 47862 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 84101 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 54070 Viewers
148 Video lessons · 90950 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.