Deconstructing how masking works
Deconstructing how masking works
Let's begin to deconstruct how masking works in Photoshop, and in order to do that, let's work on this photograph that was captured by one of my former students, Sammy Olson. This is a great photo and Sammy, thanks a ton for contributing this one. What we're going to do here is create a little bit of an effect, and I want to do that in order to illustrate how masking works. Let's go ahead and double-click our other tabs in order to close them. I'm going to double-click Adjustments. That will close that panel group, so I can really focus in on my layers, and my other panel groups are already closed, so I'm good to go there.
You can see in the Layers panel that we have two layers. Click on the Eye icon on the top layer. You can see that that is a color photograph, and underneath we have a black-and-white photograph. One of the things that's interesting in regards to masking is what we can do is we can limit an area of an image that we're only seeing a portion of a photograph. This is actually quite fascinating, and incredibly powerful. Yet, let's start really simple. We're going to click on the Eye icon of the Color layer and click and target that layer, so you can see it's highlighted blue.
Next, I'm going to go ahead and choose one of my Selection tools; for example, I'll choose the Elliptical Marquee tool, and then I'll click and drag in order to create an elliptical shape around the wave here. Well, one of the things that we know about masking is that it limits portions of the image. What you want to begin to think about is that white will reveal and black will conceal. That kind of makes sense, because white is like light; black is like darkness. So whatever is going to be white is going to be revealed. Well, when we make a selection and target an area and then create a mask, it's going to know that that's going to be the area that we want to reveal.
So let's go ahead and click on the Layer Mask icon, which is located at the bottom of the Layers panel. So when we click on that, all of a sudden, really interesting, we have the shape which looks like a stencil here, white is revealing and black is concealing. The interesting thing about this is that this is completely editable. For example, let's say that what we really want to do is have a shape that's a rectangle. We don't necessarily like the circle. Well, one of the ways that we could change this would be to go to our Rectangular Marquee and then to make a rectangular selection.
Well, now that we have this area selected, what needs to happen is this area needs to be filled with white. In order to fill this with white, we could do a number of different things, but just to keep it simple, let's navigate to our Edit pulldown menu. Half-way down, we're going to select Fill. From this Fill menu, we can choose a number of different things. Let's go ahead and simply select White, because we know that white reveals. We want this entire rectangle to be in color, and we'll go ahead and click OK.
Now it is. Fascinating, right? Let's navigate to Select and choose Deselect. Well, what is exactly happening here? Well, if we turn off the visibility of the background layer, we can see that what's happening on this layer is it's only allowing us to see a portion of the image. Now we can modify the mask even further; for example, we could select the Brush tool and then paint with white. And if you had to guess what would happen if we painted with white, you would guess correctly that we're going to be able to reveal more of the image here, and you can see that as I'm painting around these edges.
Now, the interesting thing about this is because we have this underlying black-and-white layer, we can see that we're just bringing in more of the color image because we have these two layers stacked. Now do you always need to have two layers stacked together? No, not at all. That's not really the point here. The point though is sometimes having that underlying layer can help us visualize what's happening with masking. It can also help us visualize to begin to think about how we can use masking. Well, let's say that, for example, we want to reset this, and what we want to do is get rid of our mask.
Well, to do so, simply click on it and drag it to the Trashcan icon, and then it will ask us, do we want to apply this? In other words, do we want to cut this area out? Well, no, we don't want to apply this. We simply want to delete the mask, so we'll click Delete. Everything is back to normal. All right. Well, back our project. Let's say, for example, we grab the Rectangular Marquee. We make a rectangular selection of this portion of the image. Well then we go ahead and click on the Add Layer Mask icon. Well, we can take this further, right? We could then click on the fx icon and choose Drop Shadow.
That would then add a Drop Shadow around this area of the image, and let's bring the Distance down so that it's equally around all of the edges. Next, I'm going to click on Brush Stroke here. Click in the Brush Stroke option, and then I'll bring that inside, and I'm going to make it bright and white. All right. I'll click OK for that, go back to my Drop Shadow, and I'm going to increase that just a little bit here, actually my spread and my size, just so you can see that a little better. I'll click OK.
Again, let's deconstruct what we have. Well, if we click off our background layer, we simply have a limited area of the image being shown through, and we've also applied some layer style effects. Let's click back on this black-and-white layer. Well, let's say that we've decided that we kind of want to change this a little bit. How else can we work with masks? What you can do is you can click on the Link icon between these two, and when you do so, you can either target the image or you can target the mask. If you target the mask, you can select the Move tool and then go ahead and click and drag this around to change its position, or you could change its size, or its shape, or the way that it actually appears.
So you can see that we can do a couple of different things in regards to modifying this mask. Now, keep in mind, we don't always have to have layer style effects, and we don't always need to do things like this color, or black-and-white project. Yet what I'm hoping here is that this is beginning to get you to think about how a mask works, and also it's beginning to get you to realize that masks are completely editable, meaning we can make so many different changes with these masks. It's absolutely amazing, and this gives us a lot of creative flexibility because it's all nondestructive.
In other words, I haven't actually modified any pixels. If at any point, I want to undo this mask, I can delete it, and I can do the same with these layer style effects, for that matter. For example, if we want to delete the mask, again, click and drag to the Trashcan, choose Delete. Layers style effects, same thing. Click and drag to the Trashcan, and then those are now gone. So as you're starting to discover, masks are flexible, they're creative, and they're a ton of fun.
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