Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Introducing the Masks panel, part of Photoshop CS4: Layer Masks in Depth.
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The Masks panel is a brand new panel in Photoshop CS4 that acts as a command center for working with layer masks. In this movie I'll give you an introductory tour of the Masks panel, and then in later movies I'll show you how to use some of its commands in context as they come up. The Masks panel is located in a panel group with the Adjustments panel right here. To bring the Masks panel to the front of this panel group, just click its tab. If the Masks panel isn't showing on your screen, you can bring it up by accessing the Masks Layer workspace that I showed you how to make in the introductory chapter, or you can just go to the Window menu and choose Masks.
One of the benefits of the Masks panel is that it brings together in one place many of the features that you will use most often when you are working with layer or vector masks. For example, the buttons up here on the top right of the Masks panel offer one way to create layer and vector masks and to switch between those masks and the image itself. So if I go to the Layers panel and I select the photo layer, which doesn't have a mask on it right now, I can then use those two buttons in the Masks panel to add either a layer mask like this or a vector mask like this.
I'll be showing you lots more about adding layer and vector masks in other movies. These two icons work a little bit differently when you already have a mask on a layer. So for example, on the brush copy layer, I do have a layer mask. I'm going to select that layer mask by clicking the rightmost thumbnail on the brush copy layer. The thumbnail on the left represents the image on that layer, the thumbnail on the right represents the layer mask on that layer, as I'll explain in lots more detail in other movies. So you don't have to worry too much about that for now, but I do want to show you that you can toggle between those two thumbnails by clicking the layer mask icon in the Masks panel, like this, and again like this.
There are also some useful buttons at the bottom of the Masks panel. I still have that layer mask thumbnail on the brush copy layer selected. If I decided I didn't want that layer mask, I could delete it from the bottom of the Masks panel by clicking the Trash icon like this. I'll bring it back by pressing Command+ Z on the Mac or Ctrl+Z on the PC, which is the shortcut for undo, so that I can show you the other icons here. With the layer mask still selected on the brush copy layer, I could make the layer mask temporarily invisible without deleting it by pressing this Eye icon.
You can see there is now a big red X on the brush copy layer, which means that it's temporarily invisible, as you can see here in the document window. If I click that Eye icon again, the mask comes back. The button to the left of the Eye icon is a button for applying a layer mask. So with that same layer mask thumbnail selected, if I click this button, the layer mask thumbnail disappears, but the mask has been permanently applied to the image. I'm going to undo that by pressing Command+Z on the Mac or Ctrl+Z on the PC, and I'll show you the leftmost button at the bottom of the Masks panel, which converts a layer mask to a selection.
I will click that and now I have a selection in the shape of my layer mask. A selection is basically just another way to represent a layer mask in Photoshop. Once you have a selection, then you can do all the things you would normally do to a selection, like fill the selection or delete the selected area and more. I'm going to get rid of this selection by pressing Command+D to deselect on the Mac or Ctrl+D to deselect on the PC. Another big advantage of the Masks panel is that it contains a couple of new controls that come in really handy as you are working with layer masks.
One of those is the Density slider here. With the layer mask thumbnail on the brush copy layer still selected, if I take that Density slider and drag it to the left, I'm reducing the effect of the layer mask on the brush copy layer. I'll be explaining more about what that means in a later movie, but I wanted to point out this Density slider, which is so easy to access and interactive here in the new Masks panel. I am going to drag the Density slider back over to the right to show you the Feather slider, which also is very useful when you want to soften the edge of a masked area.
So for example, keep your eye on the edge of this area, which is the masked area in this image, as I drag the Feather slider to the right, you can see that the edges of that area become softer. I will put the Feather slider back at 0, so I can show you another new feature that's accessible from the new Masks panel, and that is the Mask Edge button. With the brush copy layer mask thumbnail still selected, I'm going to click the Mask Edge button, and that opens the Refine Mask dialog box, a new dialog box in Photoshop CS4.
If you are familiar with the Refine Edge dialog box, it's been around for a few versions of Photoshop and is used for working with selections, then you will recognize many of the controls here in the Refine Mask dialog box. We will be looking at this dialog box in detail in another movie, but for now I'll just let you know that you can use the Refine Mask dialog box to soften and add more contrast and contract or expand the edge of a mask. I'm going to cancel out of this dialog box for now.
I will mention these other two buttons here on the Masks panel. The Color Range button is just a new way to access the existing Color Range Selection feature, which is one of many ways to make a selection in Photoshop. The Invert button is really handy when you want to invert the effect of a layer mask. So right now the layer mask on the brush copy layer is hiding the white pixels on that layer. So you can see through to these color pixels on the layer below. But with the layer mask thumbnail selected on the brush copy layer, if I click the Invert button in the Masks panel, I get exactly the opposite effect, now the image on the layer below is hidden in this area and is showing in the rest of the document.
I'll click Invert again to go back to the way the image originally was. Finally, the Masks panel has a panel menu, just like all panels, which you can access by clicking the panel menu icon at the top right of the Masks panel. From here you can access other commands that come in handy when you are working with layer masks. If you have been working with Photoshop for a while, you know that there are often multiple ways to get to a feature or command, and the same it true when you are working with commands for layer masks. Sometimes I like to come to the Masks panel to access a command, and as we work through the course I'll let you know when that's my preference, and I'll also let you know when I prefer another method.
But in general, I'll say that the new Masks panel offers convenient one-stop shopping for many of your layer mask and vector mask related commands.
- Adding grayscale pixels to layer masks to hide and show layer content
- Refining the edges of layer masks in the Refine Mask dialog box
- Using filters and adjustments to manipulate layer masks
- Blending photographs into composites by applying gradients to layer masks
- Using layer masks with Smart Objects and Adobe Camera Raw to combine different adjustments of the same photo
- Simulating shallow depth of field and targeting sharpening with Smart Filter masks