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There is a brand-new panel in Photoshop CS4 called the Masks panel. You can use this panel to help you to create masks, to refine their edges and to control the density or the strength of the mask on an image. You can use the Masks panel with any kind of mask, a layer mask, a vector mask, but where it really shines is when you're using it with an adjustment layer mask to limit the area where the adjustment shows up in your image. I introduced this subject in an earlier movie. Now I want to add this additional piece, which is using the Masks panel with adjustment layer masks.
Take a look at this photo. It's a typical backlit photo. I shot it into the sun, so the camera exposed for the sky and now the foreground needs some tonal adjustments. It needs some whites, some blacks and a range of grays in between. But the background is probably okay as-is. So what I am going to want to do is apply a Levels adjustment layer to this image but prevent that adjustment from affecting the sky. I am going be using a Levels adjustment but the techniques I will show you using the Masks panel work with any adjustment layer.
The first step is to create a Levels adjustment layer, so I am going to go back to the Adjustments panel here and from there, I am going to click the Levels icon and then in the Levels Adjustment panel, I'm going to drag the white slider to the left. I will hold down the Option or Alt key so I can see where to stop dragging. Now notice all of these pixels that are showing up are in the sky. I am not really interested in them. I am going to let that blow out completely, and it's when I start to see bits of color in the grass that I am going to stop dragging. I am just adjusting for the foreground right now, and trying to ignore the sky.
Then I will hold Option key down, that's the Alt key on a PC, and click on the black slider and drag it to the right and right away, I start to see some pixels, so I am going to back off a little and release. And then I am going to take the gray slider and I am going to drag the left to make the foreground of the image a little bit brighter. Now it's time to visit the new Masks panel. I am going to click on the Masks tab here, and if your Masks panel isn't open, you can open it from the Window menu at the top of the screen.
The first thing I want to do is to create a masked area that will hide this adjustment from the sky. I can use any of the Selection tools or I could paint with black or make a gradient from black to white on the adjustment layer mask. But here in the Masks panel, I can click the Color Range button and make a mask directly from here. I showed you how to use the Color Range dialog box in another movie. As I showed you there, you used these eyedroppers to select an area. And you can change your Selection Preview down here from this menu.
I will leave this set to Black Matte, and I am going to get the Plus Eyedropper and I am going to click in the image on the other parts of the sky to try to select the entire sky. I think it will be easier to select the sky in this image then to try to select the land because there's less variation in the sky. Now, I noticed that I'm starting to see part of the land here, so I want to go up to my Fuzziness slider, and I am going to drag it to the left to decrease the range of tones around those I have clicked on that will be selected.
That doesn't look too bad, so I am going to click OK, and now if I go down to my adjustment layer mask, hold the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC, and click on it, I can see my mask, but this mask is upside down. I need the white part to be on the bottom to show the adjustment there, and the black part to be on the top to hide the adjustment in the sky. Let me get back to the regular view by Option or Alt+Clicking on this Levels adjustment layer mask, and then I am going to go back to the Masks panel and just click the Invert button there.
And you can see in the thumbnail that now black is on top and white is on the bottom, and in my image, the adjustment is in the foreground but the background is as it started. There is only one trouble here, and that is this transition between the area that's adjusted and the area that isn't. I need to soften that a lot. So I am going back to the Masks panel, where there are some other features that will help me. With the Levels adjustment layer mask selected in the Layers panel, I could try just dragging the Feather slider. And I can see the results right here in the image.
That doesn't look too bad. Just to show you, if I click on mask edge that opens the Refine Mask panel. I have shown you this panel in connection with selections in earlier movies. It's the same panel, with the same sliders. I can click on the first of these views to see the entire image and if I don't want to see the marching ants, I am going to hold down the Command+H keys. That's Ctrl+H on a PC. I haven't deselected the marching ants. I have just hidden them temporarily.
So here I could use these other sliders to try to smooth out the transition between the adjusted and non-adjusted area even more, but I actually think that I like the way it looks right now, so I am not going to use any of these, but I did want to show how easy it is to get to the Refined Mask panel directly from the Masks panel. I will click OK there and there is one slider in the Masks panel that I would like to show, and that's the Density slider. If I take that slider and drag to the left, I am making the entire mask a little bit see through.
So the adjustment partially affects the sky and if you look in the mask in the Levels 1 adjustment layer, I will Option or Alt+Click that. You can see that moving the Density slider has changed that mask from black to gray, and that's why it partially shows the adjustment. I will Option or Alt+Click that icon again to go back. So the new Masks panel in Photoshop CS4 really comes in handy when you are working with layer masks on an adjustment layer. It allows you to feather and adjust the density of the mask.
It helps you to create the mask by taking you right to the Color Range command, and it even will take you to the Refine Edges dialog, where you can refine the transition between the masked and the unmasked view of your adjustment layer.
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