Photoshop Foundations is for the Photoshop beginner. I created this blog series for all those just learning what Photoshop is capable of. It is important to have a good foundation knowledge of the program, because with that knowledge, you can free your mind to dream and stay inspired without the nagging fear of not being able to accomplish those dreams. I have been using Photoshop for 20 years and trust me when I say, this program can handle just about any effect you throw at it. It is a wonderful medium for any artist.
For my blog series, Photoshop Foundations, I have been sharing how to set-up and prepare files for a new project in Photoshop. I always go through these same steps when starting a new project. I call it my “Project-Prep Ritual”. For the last post I covered how I create and save clipping paths for all the project’s components. This is such a huge time saver for me. It never fails, if I forget to save a clipping path I will need it and I will have to go through the selection process all over again. Don’t learn it the hard way like I have. LOL! If you missed the last few posts in this series, you can go back and catch up on them here:
- Photoshop Foundations: Setting up a new project in Photoshop: Part I (Document Settings)
- Photoshop Foundations: Setting up a new project in Photoshop, Part II (Smart Objects)
- Photoshop Foundations: Project-Prep Ritual, Part III – Using work paths to make your life simpler (no pen tool needed!)
Now that we have created and saved our paths, the last part in my project preparation ritual is applying masks to my object layers. In keeping with the theme, Photoshop Foundations, I would like to take a little time and share with you some foundation knowledge on masks. What are they? How do they work? Why should we care?
Layer masks are, hands down, my most used tool in Photoshop. I cannot create any of my artworks without them. I created a little photo demonstration so we can more easily visualize how masks work. Think of PS layers as separate sheets of paper. In this image, we are essentially working with three layers. One layer is the concrete sidewalk. One layer is the white brick wall and the top layer are models.
If this were an actual physical project, then each layer would be separate sheets of paper, stacked one upon the other. Like this…
However we have run into a little problem. We want the models to show, but not the garage doors behind them and they are on the same piece of paper ( or in PS terms, the same layer). How do we accomplish that? In order to get rid of the garage doors you need to create a mask for it. A mask that conceals the doors but allows your models to show through. The concept of a mask in PS is exactly like a mask you would use to cover your face. It literally works exactly the same way. The black conceals your face while the white (holes) reveal it.
In PS the mask is something that is placed on the actual layer itself in order to reveal or conceal parts of your layer. The black parts of the mask cover up and the white parts of the mask work like windows. You can remember how it works with little rhyme: Black conceals. White reveals. If our mask were “real” it would look like this… with a hole cut for the models to show through and the mask would cover up the rest…
Now that we have a basic understanding of masks, we can continue with our project prep by creating masks for all of our individual project layers. Here’s how…
1. Open your Path’s panel. You can do this by clicking Windows>Paths. When the panel opens all of your saved paths should be listed. (To learn how to create and save these paths you can view a previous post on that topic here…) In this case, we are going to create a mask for the model layer. Select your saved path and make it a selection by clicking the round dotted circle in the pathss panel called “Load path as selection”. When you do, you will notice the “marching ants” surrounding your path selection…
2. Next, select the layer on which you would like to create the mask and then click the mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel. The icon is called “Add vector mask”.
Once you click that icon you will notice another thumbnail has been added to your layer. That is the newly created mask. As you can see the black parts of the mask conceal the parts we don’t want to use and the white part reveals what we want to keep.
Now that you have your mask applied to your layer, you can actually go in and edit that mask using the paint brush tool. You use black to conceal and white to reveal. When you do this, make sure you have the actual mask selected and not the image. There will be a little white boarder around the thumbnail you have selected. If you don’t have the mask selected you will end up coloring white and black on your actual image and not your mask. I’ve done that. It’s a pain in the rear to fix. Ha!
Once I complete this portion of the project-prep, I will then move on to the tasks that are project specific. This Project-Prep Ritual is standard workflow for every conceptual artwork I complete. It helps me keep things organized and easily accessible and saves me a ton of time.
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