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Need help with masking

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  • Need help with masking

    Hi all,

    I need help understanding what masks actually do. I've been given instructions but can't seem to grasp what they're telling me. I don't really understand what masking is supposed to create in the end.

    Problem 1--I've retouched a photo but am not satisfied with with facial tones. I want to make the face more "peachy" . I've been given instructions to create an adjustment layer, I assume in the "peachY" color. THen create the mask, with white and black being foreground and background colors.

    Then I'm supposed to PAINT the photo to REVEAL the "peachY" color?
    Am I understanding this correctly? I've tried it and I don't see a visible difference in the photo. What am I doing wrong?

    I'm sorry, this Photoshop is a real booger!!!!


  • #2
    A mask is essentially a saved selection. After the selection is saved, the white areas of the mask allow the layer it's on to show through and the black areas of the mask hide the areas it covers. You can use any shade of gray as well and the darker the gray, the less of that layer that shows through.

    An easy way to see what a mask looks like is to
    - Go to the Channels Palette.
    - Alt+Click the composite channel.
    - You will see the selection ants.
    - Go to the Layers Palette and click the square with the circle in the middle icon at the bottom of the palette.
    - You will get a mask thumbnail in the active layer.
    - To view just the mask, alt+click the mask icon.

    For your issue.
    - Make a selection of the face.
    - Click the half black, half white circle icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette.
    - Select Solid Colors from the list of adjustment layers.
    - You will have a Solid Color adjustment layer with your selection as the mask.
    - Change the blending mode of that layer to color with the drop down at the top left of the Layers Palette.
    - Choose a color with the adjustment layer by double clicking the color thumbnail.

    An easier way
    - Select a color adjustment layer without a selection made.
    - Change the background color of the mask to black to cover all the color up.
    - Change the blending mode as above.
    - Use a brush with different shades of gray and the mask thumbnail selected to paint the color into the image.
    - You can make as many color adjustment layers as needed to paint in some definition.

    It helps to use a soft brush when doing this.

    You can also combine the two methods I have described by making the selection and then painting within that to cover or open an area within the selected area.

    Hope this helps. I wrote it kind of fast.


    • #3
      Oh, you can save a selection by clicking the mask icon in the channels palette as well. This is actually better than what I first described as it will save the selection for further use. Simply Alt+click it whenever you need it and use my first example to make a mask of a layer as you need.


      • #4
        Hi Debbie

        Here is a video I made about using masks. It is made for Elements and the video quailty is not the best but the basics are the same in Photoshop. It may help you understand masks in general.

        Just remember you can add masks directly to a layer while in Elements you need to hijack masks from adjustment layers.

        Don't mean to confuse you but try the video and see if it helps you.



        • #5

          welcome to RP.

          masks by themselves are NOT part of your image. they are a tool for working on only a portion of your image. think of a mask that you might wear. it covers certain areas and doesnt other areas. it's the same in photoshop. the darker the mask, the more that is covered or wont show through. the lighter the area, the more that will show through. the biggest difference between a mask you wear and a photoshop mask is the opacity. in a mask you wear, it's entirely opaque. in a mask in photoshop it varies. so, the way they vary the opacity is by how light or dark the mask is. so a middle gray will allow some of your real image to show through, but not all. a complete black will 'mask' it entirely and a complete white will not mask at all.

          masks are somewhat similar to selections, but not quite the same. they are often used for the same purpose, however. if you make a selection you get the marching ants line around the area you selected and any filter or action you do will only effect the selection. masks are the same way but because they can vary in opacity, they tend to have a bit more flexibility in what you can do with them. so if you had a gradient mask that was completely black on the left side and went all the way over to the right in steps of grays till it got to the right and was completely white on the right, whatver you did using that mask would show a varying opacity from completely opaque on the left to completely transparent on the right and varying in stages as you went.

          the other tricky thing is, on the image you are applying the mask and filter to, you wont SEE the mask on the final produced image. you ONLY see the filter effects as regulated by the mask. the mask itself isnt going to show up.

          here's another way to think of it. if you've ever done silkscreening or something of that nature, your screen is your mask. it acts like a filtering system and blocks some or all of what you are applying. so, if you had a screen that you applying paint through onto another image and this screen had the abiility to allow more or less paint through, that is your mask. the mask is just the filtering agent or screen through which other things pass or dont pass based on the whiteness or blackness of the mask. but the mask itself does not end up as part of the final image, just as the screen wouldnt end up as part of a silkscreening.

          and yet another way to think of masks is if you had a photograph laying on a table and you had a piece of glass sitting above it a few inches or so and this glass was painted going from completely black on one side and no paint on the other side and a varying amount between the two sides and you had a light sitting above this glass shining down on the photo, wherever the glass has paint is going to block the light based on the amount of paint is on the glass from coming through onto the photo. in other words, you are 'masking' the light, keeping some portion of the light from shining through. it's the same in photoshop. you are simply 'masking' some effect you are applying from completely 'shining through' onto the image.

          so, all a mask does is alllow or not allow other effects to be applied to your image. that's all.

          and for those using paint shop pro, a mask and a selection are now intertwinable. you can convert any mask to a selection and any selection to a mask using the 'edit selection' function. very handy at times!



          • #6
            I managed to wrap my brain around the concept of masks by thinking in terms of a silk screen (tee shirt) imprinter. They start with a solid screen covered with a waxy substance that blocks the ink from coming through. Where sections of the waxy substance is removed the ink is then allowed to flow through the screen and imprint the fabric. They will use a different screen for each color of the imprint.

            To translate that to masks in Photoshop. Think in terms of running an adjustment layer above your photo. Do something like a real strong levels or curve to lighten the entire picture. Then fill the resulting mask with Black (the silkscreens waxy substance)... poof the adjustment disappears. Then you can take a brush with white and selectively paint the adjustment back to areas where you want to have the adjustment show.

            If you have a selection (marqueed area for example) before you run the adjustment the mask will be created for you when you actually do the adjustment. You can always go back into the mask and tweak it with a black or white brush if you want to.


            • #7
              Masking lessons

              Many thanks to all who replied about the masking techniques. I have a better understanding about what I'm doing with it now! I actulaly opened a photo and tried to apply what you were telling me to it, and although it TOOK A FEW TRIES, I got it to work!

              I will have to work with it a lot more to get confortable with it, but I think I'm going to like it. I just need to get better with it.

              Thank you all so much, and when I get the nerve, I will post something for you to see and critique!



              • #8
                Hi Debbie,

                welcome to RP!!
                Originally posted by Debra Perrin
                I need help understanding what masks actually do
                ... Took me a while to understand what Masks are and how to use them ... but since 'the penny dropped' Masks are The feature I use most...

                Masks are nothing more than very controllable and flexible selections... Masks can be created for any Layer (adjustment or not) but the Background..

                Adjustment Layers usually come with a white Layer Mask by default ... talking about which, by (PS) default, they are either white (reveal all) or black (hide all) and they reveal or hide from view details/corrections of the Layer they are attached to only ....

                Swampy describes Masks as "solid screen covered with a waxy substance that blocks the ink from coming through. Where sections of the waxy substance is removed the ink is then allowed to flow through the screen and imprint the fabric. They will use a different screen for each color of the imprint."

                ... I see them more as sheets you place on your image ... If the sheet is black it becomes opaque and covers everything underneath, if the sheet is white it becomes completely transparent so you can see the underlying image perfectly ... Starting from black (opaque) to white (transparent), gradations of grey will gradually reveal the image underneath ....

                Anyway, you could have a look at these Tutorials on Layer Masks and their usage..

                1) Understanding Layer Masks
                2) The Awesome Power of Layer Masks

                Hope this helps...


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