Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Using live Density and Feather, part of Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery.
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All right, I want to show you a couple more functions that are available to you in the Masks palette that have no corollaries in previous versions of Photoshop. They're absolutely brand new as you're about to see now. They're not necessarily the most essential functions in a program but I find them to be highly interesting and possible harbingers of wonderful things to come. So I've gone ahead and saved out my progress so far as this document called Maniacal despot.psd because he is indeed a maniacal despot with his sight set on our beloved earth right there. Just because I felt like he wasn't scary enough, I went ahead and gave him the teeth. Now he is just frightening I believe.
In the Layers palette, not only do I have the duckbill layer selected, but I also have its layer mask active. That's very important so that you have access to the functions that you need to have access to, here inside the Mask palette. But you may recall if the image itself is active, all you have to do is then click on this little icon right there in the Mask palette to switch over to the pixel-based mask. We've got these two sliders, Density and Feather, and they are altogether parametric. So these other guys make permanent modifications. They actually change the pixels inside the mask. But these guys here make no permanent modifications whatsoever.
So we have Density and what Density does is it reduces the opacity of the mask thereby increasing the opacity of the layer. Let me show you what I mean. So if I reduce the Density value to 50%, for example, I'm graying out the mask so that the black becomes gray, the white remains white and as a result, we're making the layer itself more opaque so that we can see through less of it. This is basically the antithesis of the standard opacity value.
So instead of making the layer more translucent, we're making the layer more opaque by making the mask itself more translucent because we have an inverse relationship between the image and its mask. This can be useful for previewing; sometimes I'll use it to get a sense of what my original edges look like, in case I'm trying to paint around the edges. For example, if I zoom in here, I'm able to see that I have some edges that go beyond the edge of my mask. So let's see if I take the Density value up a little bit, let's say to 70% and I can see that I have a little wiggle room left right there, then with the mask active, as it is of course, I press the B key in order to get my brush, reduce the size of my brush a little bit, make sure that's set to white, which it is, foreground color that is to say. Then I can paint some of these edges back into place.
So that's one use for that Density option here, as you can see where the real edges are. Now I've gone ahead and paint it too far as you can see in both cases, here and here. So I'll press the X key in order to switch the foreground color to black and then I would paint this away, paint this here away, and paint this region right there. I've gone too far. Once again, this is not uncommon they have to go back and forth and so I'll just go ahead and paint that back after pressing the X key, of course, to reinstate a foreground color of white. Anyway, so that's one way to work. Other things that you can do with Density if you want to be able to see through a mask and reinstate some of the original background, you can do it that way as well. All right, so I'm going to now reinstate the density back to 100% and the beauty, of course, is that was a non-destructive modification, totally parametric and I can change my mind any time I want.
This one's even more remarkable and it's very easy to get a sense of how you might use it. If you want to feather the edges of your mask, whether to create halos or to fudge a few transitions or to match the soft focus of the foreground image, then you can increase the feather value. Notice as I increase that feather value, I'm blurring the mask on the fly and so I could increase that value as much as I want, and of course, at this stage, I'm going to get some very blurry edges indeed which is great if I want ghost dinosaur, but I don't. But still, it is an entirely parametric modification and then I can change my mind later and you can see it reflected. If I Alt-click or Option-click on the layer mask, you can see that the layer mask is getting blurred on the fly and then I can un-blur it as well.
Now the reason I think this is so remarkable, in addition to the fact that it's just convenient, in case you want to apply mask blurs on the fly and by the way, both Density and Feather are applicable to either pixel-based masks or vector-based masks, meaning path outlines, which we'll examine in more detail in the later chapter. These three buttons right here are only applicable to pixel-based masks. Now the reason I think this is such a remarkable function is because where else can you apply on the fly blurring inside of Photoshop? With Glows. Without the Glows, Inner Glows, Drop Shadows, that kind of thing, you can apply blurs on the fly and you can come back and change your mind where layer effects are concerned. But where blurring imagery is concerned, you really don't have that option; you have to resort to smart object and then apply the Gaussian Blur filter and so on. Wouldn't it be great if we have this sort of Blur function or Sharpen function, a slider right there on the fly that was available for all of our layers? I think it might happen because this is here. They did it for masking. If they did it for a pixel-based mask, they can do it for a pixel-based layer. So I remain ever hopeful that one day that will be available to us.
Let's go ahead and Alt-click or Option- click to escape the mask and reinstate the Feather value of 0 in order to get those nice sharp edges right there. You know what I'm going to do? Press the F key a couple of times in order to hide all that interface fodder also. We're seeing the image by itself. This is the image as it appeared when we first got done masking it. Beautiful impeccable mask but a little light on the credibility, of course. This is the final version of our composition. Thanks to a couple of extra layers, of course, and that Gradient Overlay layer effect that really sells that composition, creates that sort of cast shadow effect. The entire process facilitated by the new Masks palette inside of Photoshop CS4.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, both part of the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
- Defining the essentials of masking
- Resizing images with content-aware scaling
- Adjusting perspective with Vanishing Point
- Applying Smart Filters to create complex effects
- Using the Auto-Align tool to build composite images