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In Photoshop CS4: Layer Masks in Depth, Jan Kabili takes an in-depth look at using layer masks to create professional-looking image composites and make targeted photo corrections. Jan examines some common situations in which layer masks are the key to creating convincing image composites. She demonstrates practical ways to enhance photos with layer masking, including masking adjustment layers and Smart Filters to affect part of a photo. She explains how to use layer masks to combine different exposures of the same scene, and teaches how to work with vector masks to achieve a clean, graphic look. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this movie, I'd like to show you a couple of ways in which vector masks and layer masks inter-relate. The first thing I want to tell you is that you can use both a layer mask and a vector mask on the very same layer. Why would you want to do that? Because there are some things you can do on a layer mask that you cannot do on a vector mask. For example, let's say that I want to hide some of the snowflakes here and I'd like to make the girl's white sweater somewhat translucent so we can see down through it, to the winter scene below. You've learned in other movies that you can do that using a layer mask to which you've added a gray-scale Gradient to gradually fade content.
But here on the girl layer, where I have a vector mask, I can't do that. If I select the vector mask and then I get the Gradient tool and I try to draw a Gradient, I end up drawing the Gradient on the image itself, rather than on the vector mask. I'm going to undo by pressing Command+Z on the Mac, Ctrl+Z on the PC. So, if I want to gradually fade those parts of the image out, I'm going to have to add a layer mask in addition to the vector mask. That's easy to do, all I have to do is make sure that girl layer is selected and then go down to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the Add Layer Mask icon as usual.
Now, there are three thumbnails on the girl layer. The image thumbnail on the left, the vector mask thumbnail on the right and the new layer mask thumbnail in between, that's filled with white pixels, so it's currently having no effect on the image. It doesn't matter whether the vector mask thumbnail is highlighted or not, I'm going to click on it, so that it's not highlighted, so that I don't have to look at the outline around the sweater and snowflakes. I still have the layer mask thumbnail targeted in the Layers panel and I'm now going to add a gray-scale Gradient to that layer mask, as I've showed you how to do earlier in other movies.
So I'll get the Gradient tool, I have black as my foreground color and white as my background color, and in this Options Bar, I have the Linear Gradient shape selected. I'll move into the image and I'm going to start down here at the bottom and I'll drag a Gradient line up. As you can see, the gray-scale Gradient on the layer mask is now hiding part of the content of the girl layer, including part of the content that lives on the vector mask. Like these snowflakes down here at the bottom. If I want to fine-tune that mask, I could paint on the mask, or I could make a selection and fill it with gray, or black, or white.
So that's how a layer mask and a vector mask can be used together. The layer mask to create a gradual fade, or a soft edge painted area, and the vector mask to create hard, crisp outlines. Now I'm going to delete that layer mask by clicking on it and dragging down to the Trash Can at the bottom of the Layers panel, and I'll click Delete. I'm doing that because I want to work only with the layer mask for now. Because what I'd like to show you is that there may be times when you need to do something to a mask that you can't do on a vector mask. For example, let's say that I wanted to filter this mask, or I wanted to paint on this mask.
I can't do it on the vector mask but I can do it if I convert the vector mask into a layer mask, and here's how you do that. I'll select the vector mask on the girl layer and then I'm going to go up to the Layer menu at the top of the screen, and I'm going to go down to Rasterize, which is a fancy word for converting to a pixel-based image. From there I'll choose Rasterize > Vector Mask, and that's all I have to do to turn that vector mask into a regular layer mask. With that layer mask highlighted in the Layers panel. You can tell it's a layer mask because it tells you that right up here in the Masks panel, where it says Pixel Mask.
Now that that's a regular layer mask, I can do anything I normally could do with a layer mask. So for example, I could run a filter on this layer mask. With the layer mask thumbnail selected, I'll go up to the Filter menu, and I'm going to go down to Pixelate and Color Halftone. I'll click OK, and as you can see, that filter is affecting the layer mask, not the image itself, because if I turn the layer mask off by holding the Shift key and clicking on the layer mask thumbnail, you don't see the effect of that filter.
And then I'll click on the layer mask thumbnail again to make it active. So those are a couple of ways in which layer masks and vector masks interrelate. You can use both the layer mask and a vector mask on the same layer, and if necessary, you can convert a vector mask into a layer mask so that you can paint on the mask, or filter the mask, or do other things that won't fly on a vector mask.
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