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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
Every now and then I have a situation where I essentially need multiple masks. For example with this image, I might want to apply some adjustments that only affect the sky. But I might also want those adjustments to affect the sky in a gradient fashion. So I essentially need a layer mask that defines the sky and I also need a layer mask that defines a gradient. And then I want to use both of those layer masks in order to constrain the effect of some adjustments. Let's take a look at how it can be done. I'll start by creating the selection of the sky.
So, I'll chose the Quick Selection tool, for example and then I can simply paint within the sky in order to define that selection. In this case, I need to clean things up a little bit, so I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh. In order to access the Subtract from Selection option. And then I'll paint along the area of the herron here that should not have been selected and remove it from that selection. We'll assume that this is a perfect selection at the moment and then we'll go about creating an environment where we can apply these focused adjustments.
And I'm going to use a Layer group for that. In fact, I'll use a couple of Layer groups. But one of which will be specific to the sky. I'll click on the Add Layer Group button, the folder icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. And then I'm going to add a layer mask based on this selection to that layer group. So I'll click on the Add Layer Mask button, and that will add a layer mask based on the selection to this layer group. I'll go ahead and rename this layer group by double clicking on the name and typing a new name. I'll just call it Sky and then press Enter or Return on the keyboard. So now, if I add an adjustment to this layer group, that adjustment will only affect the sky.
I'll go ahead and click on the Add Adjustment Layer button, for example. And I'll apply a Curves adjustment, and you can see that Curves adjustment is only effecting the sky. Of course, I specified right up front that I want my adjustments to only effect the sky in a gradient fashion. And so I need a gradient. But I don't want to add that gradient to the layer mask for my adjustment layer because I think I'm going to add additional adjustments as well. Instead, I want to utilize a layer group. So I'll click on the Sky Layer group, so that's the active layer and then I'll add an additional layer group that will appear above the sky layer.
I'll go ahead and rename this layer group to Gradient and then I'm going to add a layer mask to that layer group. I'll then chose a Gradient tool and I'm going to draw a Linear Gradient that goes from the foreground color to the background color. In this case, I want the gradient to cause the adjustment to affect the top of the image, but not the bottom of the image, with a smooth transition in between. So I'll draw a linear gradient going from near the top of the image to near the bottom of the image, something along these lines will work nicely I think. So you can see I've added a Gradient to the layer mask for my gradient layer group.
But it's not having any effect whatsoever. And that's because there's nothing inside my Gradient layer group. I could add an adjustment layer inside this layer group. But then that adjustment would only affect the image based on the gradient. Instead I want to combine this Sky layer mask with the Gradient layer mask. So that both of them weill constrain the behavior of my adjustments. To do that, I'll simply drag my Sky layer and drop it onto my Gradient layer so that now that sky layer group is inside my gradient layer group. So now, my curves adjustment is only affecting the sky. Because it is inside the sky layer group, with Which has a layer mask defining the sky.
But that curve's adjustment is also affecting that sky in a gradient fashion, because my sky layer group is inside my gradient group. So, I can go back to my adjustment and you'll see that I'm now only affecting the sky. And effecting the sky in a gradient fashion. So I'm able to combine multiple layer groups, each with their own layer mask, to constrain the behavior of adjustments in some very sophisticated ways.
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