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Question about level masks

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Old 12-24-2011, 08:07 AM
france996 france996 is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2009
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Question about level masks

Good morning to all and happy christmas to everyone!
I'm a totally newbie in retouching and i'm trying to do some test for a friend of mine.
I've found a site ( that is nothing (retouching) special but offers some psd for viewing his work. i've downloaded one and i don't understand a thing. if you open the file that i had uploaded you will find, bottom right, a circle highlighting my question.
in the "dodge" folder there is some level mask, they are composed by a white level plus a black one.
someone knows why did he choose this type of level? and what is it for?
Thanks for the help.
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File Type: jpg Level Mask_.jpg (73.9 KB, 38 views)
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Old 12-24-2011, 09:18 AM
John Wheeler's Avatar
John Wheeler John Wheeler is offline
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Join Date: May 2011
Location: Colorado
Posts: 559
Re: Question about level masks

Hi France and Happy Holidays

There are many many ways in Photoshop to get the same job done. I believe there are easier ways to get the job done than the approach this Artist took in his PSD file yet each Artist has their own workflow.

Before talking about the two Layers in the Dodge folder here are a couple basics.

The thumbnail on the left is that Layers Pixels to be applied.
When you highlight a given level and look at the top of the Layers panel, on the upper left is a dropdown box. The name in that shows in this box is the "Blend Mode" that is being applied to the Layer Pixels.

In this case it is the Overlay Blend Mode. There are many online resources that talk about the details of the blend modes. Specifically, if you apply the Overlay Blend mode with a pure white level, that multiples all pixel RGB values by 2X (basically increases their brightness). Any RGB value at 128 or over would be pegged to the maximum value of 255. By itself, that would blow out at the highlights while increasing the brightness of RGB values below 128 by 2X.

Looking at the Layer labeled "Layer 1", the Layer Mask (thumbnail on the right) controls how strongly the effects of this Layer are applied. Black means the effect is applied at 0% while White means the effect is applied at 100%. Values of gray in-between Black and White mean partially apply this effect.

What the artist did was start with a full Black mask and then painted with a lower Opacity brush set to white to slowly increase the effect of this While Layer that is set to Overlay onto the image below. As the artist was painting white on the ground and bushes, they were using this Layer to increase the brightness of the ground and plants.

Now for one more detail of the Layer labeled "Layer 1 copy". In this image, the Artist was focusing on increasing the brightness of the tree since that is the portion of the Layer Mask that is white. If you highlight this Layer and turn it on (click the eyeball icon on the left side of the Layer thumbnail) and look in the upper right corner of the Layers Panel, the overall Layer opacity is set to 5%. This sets the maximum overall effect this Layer can have.

Photoshop is like flying a jumbo jet where the there are hundreds of controls in the cockpit and they all do something. There is lots to learn about Photoshop. If you are just starting out, it would probably be useful to start with some basis tutorials through online, books, or other training resources. Photoshop is powerful yet when starting out, it can seem like a "beast." Hope this was helpful
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