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  • Create Layer Mask?

    Is it possible to create a layer mask from a grayscale image in PSE 2.0? I'm referring here to an actual layer mask which has a thumnail within the layer it affects. You can draw into layer masks and manipulate them in many ways, but I can't figure out how to "attach" a grayscale image to an adjustment layer so that it serves as a layer mask. Pasting into an "empty" layer mask doesn't work. Is this not possible in PSE?

    This would be a really nifty hidden power tool to have. I have a suspicion, though, that it can't be done - hence the reason for using curves, clearing, and layer grouping.

    BTW, the whole "reverse theory" aspect of that approach confused be for a while - i.e. that black areas mask in a true layer mask but are effectively "transparent" when grouping layers.

    Anyway, thanks for any insight.


  • #2
    Oh, I would not assume 'can't' first...not from what I've seen.

    First, you can get regular layer masks using the tools from the free tool set (HPAIII, available on the site). Pasting in a mask has been known to be a pain. The clumsy-but-effective work-around I have used is to make the grayscale into a pattern and use the pattern to fill.

    Another work-around is the following:
    1. Open the image you want to apply the mask to with the layer to mask already created.
    2. Gather the grayscale information you want to base the mask on in a new layer at the top of the stack; name the layer Mask Source.
    3. Click Highlight Mask in the free tools (Welcome menu). This will make a selection of the shadows.
    4. Hide the Mask Source (this really just gets it out of the way -- no need to shut it off, really).
    5. Choose the layer to be masked.
    6. Click Layer Mask in the free tools.
    7. Fill with Black.

    This will create a selection from the grayscale (3), create the layer mask (6), and apply the grayscale (7).

    Oh, sure, there could be other ways to do this, but I am not so sure that it warrants another tool. I am open to suggestions.

    That help?


    • #3

      Thanks for the info, Richard. I missed the Layer Mask tool. I'm not sure how it's useful, though, since it just seems to add a blank layer mask. Anyway, using a pattern worked great. Now I have to figure out how to delete a pattern after I create one. Anyway, I've got some new area to explore.

      Thanks for the info,


      • #4
        I think there is an easier way - a keyboard short cut allows you to paste anything into a layer mask in PE2 (these are Mac short cuts - my translation into windows might be off!)

        Add your adjustment layer

        Copy the image that you want to use in the layer mask.

        Then alt-click (option click for macs) on the mask thumbnail - screen then goes white....

        Then paste.

        alt-click mask thumbnail again so you can see what happened!.

        Before I had Richard's tools I then command clicked the layer mask icon to load the luminosity of the image as a selection.

        (I think this is one of Jay Arraich's tricks)
        Susan S.

        Susan S.


        • #5
          Oi! It worked!

          Not to pick, but, SS your step-by-step starts where my step 6 did. You still have to set something up, and have the image prepared.

          There are a number of ways to do the same thing...sometimes knowing several ways will help depending on where you are with an image.

          Sometimes detail looks like a lot of steps...and it's not.
          Last edited by Richard_Lynch; 11-25-2003, 07:57 PM.


          • #6
            Hmmm.....I'm not sure about that, Richard - I can create a mask which looks pretty much the same as your steps 1-6, - not identical but pretty much the same, simply by getting the image to use as a mask (in RGB - don't have to remove colour or anything) and going copy, alt click on layer mask and paste... no setting up required..

            Lots of ways to skin cats....!

            Susan S.


            • #7
              FWIW, the reason I asked the question about pasting into layer masks was because it turns out to be a much quicker way to adjust shadows and highlights for me. What I do is duplicate the original image into a layer, remove color, invert it (if opening shadows), and use levels on it to target just the darkest or lightest areas. I copy it and paste it into a levels layer mask, and adjust the levels. Often, applying some Gaussian blur to the mask helps smooth things out.

              When I want to target a very specific range of tones, such as to isolate a portion of an image, I use the blend mask tool. Eight times out of ten, though, I just want to open up shadows, and pasting into a layer mask is much more efficient workflow for me.

              And finally, why am I listed as the author of Richard's reply? And why is my reply to Susan missing? The message threading seems messed up.



              • #8
                Appologies, Shotster, for editing when I meant to post...not quite clear on how I managed that one! But I must have misclicked.

                Anyway, the steps could break down to:

                1. View and load the (grayscale or color) layer you want to use as a mask by clicking Highlight Mask in the free tools (Welcome menu). This will make a selection of the shadows.

                2. Activate the layer you are applying the mask to, click Layer Mask in the free tools and Fill with Black.

                Same steps, different layout. Does it seem easier because I wrote it in fewer steps?


                • #9
                  Richard - no doubt you are right - there isn't much to chose between the methods either for speed or result -(after a little experiment!) - often the steps I am used to using just*seem* faster! It's the stopping to think what comes next, 'cos it isn't familiar that slows me down...
                  - when I'm actually editing I tend to use clipping groups anyway, because having started off doing masking that way (before I got hold of the layer mask add-ons), I can do that without having to stop and think too hard.

                  Susan S.


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the simplified version, Richard. Yes, the process is quite simple, but I have a couple concerns:

                    1) What's the purpose of the "Fill with Black" step?

                    After clicking Highlight Mask and then Layer Mask, it creates an inverted grayscale mask just as I want. So I don't understand the need to fill with black. It just messes up the mask.

                    2) The only problem with that approach is tweaking the layer mask to further refine the areas to be affected. I often use a levels adjustment on the grayscale image (in order to target the darkest tones) before using it as a layer mask (which is usually for a levels adjustment layer). I might be able to group a levels adjustment above the levels layer with the mask, but then I don't get the visual feedback on how it's affecting the mask.

                    Anyway, it does seems like a quicker way to get a grayscale mask in some instances.

                    Thanks much,


                    • #11

                      I had forgotten what I had done! I was able to simplify things even further by clicking the Highlight Mask and then just creating the Levels layer with the selection active. It automatically adds a mask based on the selection. No need to fill with black.

                      I still can't adjust it like I want though. Anyway, just wanted to clarify.



                      • #12
                        Shotster - once you've got the greyscale into the layer mask, then you can do anything you like on it (it seems) , simply by activating the layer mask by alt-clicking it - you can then blur, adjust levels and run filters etc, and alt-clicking again allows you to judge the effect on the image.

                        Personally I find it a bit easier to see the effect of fiddling with the mask if you use clipping groups rather than layer masks - but it depends on what you are used to I guess.

                        Susan S.


                        • #13
                          One thing you can't do with a layer mask, I just learned, is Curves. Bummer! I get a message that the "Make" command isn't available.

                          By "clipping group", do you mean grouping layers?



                          • #14
                            Yes - that's what I meant. Sorry to be obscure!
                            - and you can use a curves adjustment layer to modify a grouped layer mask much more easily..I hadn't tried that one on real layer mask.
                            Susan S.


                            • #15
                              If I am understanding what is going on here, you can adjust the layer mask with Curves, but you have to make the adjustment in a different way--Curves will only function as adjustment layers which will not allow you to adjust the mask directly (I'd have to create a new tool to help you do more). the adjustment with Curves will have to be applied to a separate grayscale layer (which in my original steps was part of what I meant by assembling the gray content). to adjust afterwards, the tools must be applied directly to the mask which means you are limited to certain tools (such as levels), or the mask has to be copied, manipulated, and re-applied.

                              As Susan suggests, layer clipping would probably be my preference...but not everyone works the same. if the mask needed to be adjusted with a curve, why not adjust the curve before (pages 84-88)? if you need a preview, and can base on color, Hue/Sat masking would seem to be the right thing to use.

                              Perhaps it is time to have a look at the example? I am sure that I can come up with many different ways to mask, but would do better in targeting the technique if I could see the image. I have several unpublished tools, and there might be something I can dredge up as a solution...but usually what I have already provided can solve the problem. In this case, however, you really can't even apply a curve adjustment layer to a layer mask in Photoshop (one of the reasons I don't necessarily like Adobe's implementation of channels as a separate palette)...In other words, I'd have to see why you need to accomplish this, and then I may have an easier time seeing the needed result -- at the same time, everything may not be possible.

                              make sense?

                              Susan, it obviously often comes down to preference, and in fact i happen to like clipping myself -- or I'd have included the layer mask tool in the book. (My point was to try to stick with functionality that Adobe wouldn't probably remove for version 3 -- several things were actually removed between Elements 1 and 2). Lots of people requested it, though...

                              Lets see that picture!


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