DPP Home Technique Software Technique Masking Essentials II

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Masking Essentials II

A number of key concepts and strategies make selection and masking more efficient and precise

Quick Mask

It's easier to rough in a broad area with a selection. It's easier to refine a contour with a brush. You can use the Quick Mask mode (Q key or third icon from the bottom of the Toolbar) to move effortlessly back and forth between selection and mask states and create and refine a selection using any and all brush or selection tools. Start with a selection, press Q and refine with a brush, then press Q again and return to a selection. Just remember, a selection made in Quick Mask mode isn't saved until you return to Normal mode and save the selection (Select > Save Selection). Also, don't stay in Quick Mask mode when performing other activities in Photoshop; use it only for selecting and masking.

Layer Mask

A layer mask can look and work just like a quick mask, only you don't have to exit Quick Mask mode or save your changes because there's no mode to exit and your changes are automatically saved. To do this, create a layer mask, Shift Option/Alt-click the mask and begin painting. Work from the broad to the specific. If you want to affect all but a small portion of an image, start with a white mask (Reveal All) and paint black on the areas you don't want affected. If you want only a small portion of an image to be affected, start with a black mask (Hide All) and paint white on the areas you do want affected. Even though there's no active selection outline, when you do this, you can still use any of the selection tools to make a selection and fill the mask in the selected area.


The appearance of a brush will help you see your work better and make more precise masks. Normal Brush Tip (Preferences > Displays and Cursors) will show you the circumference of a brush, allowing you to see the placement of its edges precisely. You can hit the Caps Lock key to change the view to a crosshair that will pinpoint its center when necessary. For a majority of applications, paint with the edge of a brush. How hard or soft an edge should you use? 100 percent hard edge. You can always blur the mask later to soften it precisely and even locally by blurring the mask in a selected area, using either Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur or the Blur tool. Blurring a mask is the same as feathering a selection, but the preview is better, so you can determine the necessary settings more precisely.

When painting, certain key commands are extremely helpful. Use the X key to reverse foreground and background colors. Use the bracket keys to make a brush smaller ( [ ) or larger ( ] ). Use the Shift and bracket keys to make a brush softer ( [ ) or harder ( ] ).

Guard against using near black or near white, as it may seem you're using pure values when you're not. Use the default foreground and background colors to reset to pure black and white.

While black and white are the most common choices to paint with, you can paint with any shade of gray, which will function as a localized reduction opacity. When you're dealing with this type of scenario, keep the layer's global opacity set at 100 percent and control local opacity with the mask; this way, you'll always be able to achieve 100 percent opacity in some area of the layer where the mask is white. If you reduce the opacity of the layer, you won't be able to achieve 100 percent in any area, masked or unmasked. Use the number keys to change the opacity of the brush (1 = 10 percent, 2 = 20 percent, 3 = 30 percent and so on). If you're not sure what percentage reduction you'd like, instead of using a very low opacity and stroking repeatedly, stroke once with a brush set at 50 percent opacity and then fade the stroke (Edit > Fade) to modify the opacity of the brush. (You can only fade one stroke at a time—the last stroke you made.) This will enable you to preview the effect and determine opacity precisely.

You can use the Eraser tool on a mask, but there's no need, as when it's used on a mask, it simply paints with the background color.


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