tutorial: layer masks explained

AndyAndy BicameralNew YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
edited April 12, 2007 in Finishing School
there seems to be a lot of confustion on how to use layer masks, so let's try to clear it up, shall we? the main benefit of the layer mask is to be able to undo, in full or in part, the effect you are working on in a particular layer.

follow these steps exactly, and practice working with layer masks, you'll quickly see the benefits of this powerful tool!

layer>new adjustment layer>hue saturation layer

4843138-L.jpg

and you'll see that what happens is you get your normal hue/satuartion box and look over there in the layers pallette, there's a white rectangle next to the small version of the photo - that's the layer mask! go ahead and turn the saturation slider for master all the way to the left (desaturating)

4843139-L.jpg

now, go to your tools pallette, click on the brush tool, and select a fat soft edged brush from the brushes drop-down. size it big enough so that you can paint easily over the upper left hand of this pic, and that you can easily see the effect when you apply the brush on the pic. make sure that your foreground color is black.

4843140-L.jpg

now, use the brush, at full opacity (100% - that box is at the top of your screen)...and brush over the roses in the upper left of this pic. go ahead, don't be shy! now, notice the layer mask, in the layers pallette, now has a black area where you just brushed. and the color has returned to the roses. in effect, you are "undo-ing" the effect of this layer :D

4843141-L.jpg

okay, let's say you masked something you didn't mean to mask. how do you "undo the undo?" click on the eraser, make the brush soft edged and the size you want, and begin painting back on the roses again. you'll see that you are erasing part of the layer mask, and the color goes away again. look closely at the layer mask icon in the layers pallette.

4843142-L.jpg

let's try another way to get a layer mask. here, i've added a toning layer to this pic. the layer is called "experiment." notice, there's no layer mask there, so let's add one.

4843144-L.jpg

click on the layer mask icon (circle in the square at the bottom of the layers pallette). voila, a mask icon appears..

4843145-L.jpg

now use the same technique as before, to undo the effect of this red toning layer. fat soft brush, foreground color black, and paint away the red. experiment here with different opacities of the brush, you can see that you can paint away some or all of the mask.

4843146-L.jpg

if you right click on the layer mask icon in the layers pallette, you'll see that there are some things you can do. i often will disable the mask, too see what the overall effect is doing to my pic. then i enable it again. sort of like an "eyeball" for the mask only.

4843136-L.jpg

and that's it. practice with layer masks, they are indeed our friends!

Comments

  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited June 5, 2004
    Andy, there's the other easy way to get a mask going.

    On the Layers palette, on the bottom, there's a circle that's half light and half dark. If you put your cursor over it, it says "Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer."

    If you click on it, you get the same options as if you had gone to the top of the screen and hit layer>new adjustment layer> levels (or whatever.)

    The beauty of this way is that it's one click to get your options for levels, hue/staturation, curves etc. And if you have the little boxes set to black and white on the toolbar, you automatically have a mask. Just hit the paintbrush tool and swipe away.
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 5, 2004
    wxwax wrote:
    Andy, there's the other easy way to get a mask going.

    On the Layers palette, on the bottom, there's a circle that's half light and half dark. If you put your cursor over it, it says "Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer."

    If you click on it, you get the same options as if you had gone to the top of the screen and hit layer>new adjustment layer> levels (or whatever.)

    The beauty of this way is that it's one click to get your options for levels, hue/staturation, curves etc. And if you have the little boxes set to black and white on the toolbar, you automatically have a mask. Just hit the paintbrush tool and swipe away.

    been meanin' to thank you for this tip, sid. i now use it all the time.
  • ginger_55ginger_55 Crazy Creek Babe Registered Users Posts: 8,416 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    re this layers business
    Andy wrote:
    been meanin' to thank you for this tip, sid. i now use it all the time.
    I use layers all the time. But each time I create and work on a background layer, or duplicate, or whatever, I have to flatten those before I can go to the next layer. I mean I can only have the original picture and one to work on, before the next layer will not work for me. There are locks or something stopping it.

    I was too busy one day to get books to search this stuff out, so I thought, well computer, if that is what you want I will do it, just to get this stuff done. But I know the rest of the world of photography has multiple layers going. They are called layer (s).

    Would, you, Andy, or anyone know what I am doing wrong.

    thanks for the layers mask thing, I have that printed out already, meant to study it and also meant to study a thing you did, Andy, right after i Joined, called "sweet light", then Sid posted something, but I can't get past the layers not wanting me to go to another layer. I work around it, but......

    ginger
    After all is said and done, it is the sweet tea.
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    ginger_55 wrote:
    I use layers all the time. But each time I create and work on a background layer, or duplicate, or whatever, I have to flatten those before I can go to the next layer. I mean I can only have the original picture and one to work on, before the next layer will not work for me. There are locks or something stopping it.

    I was too busy one day to get books to search this stuff out, so I thought, well computer, if that is what you want I will do it, just to get this stuff done. But I know the rest of the world of photography has multiple layers going. They are called layer (s).

    Would, you, Andy, or anyone know what I am doing wrong.

    thanks for the layers mask thing, I have that printed out already, meant to study it and also meant to study a thing you did, Andy, right after i Joined, called "sweet light", then Sid posted something, but I can't get past the layers not wanting me to go to another layer. I work around it, but......

    ginger

    g,

    what version of photoshop do you use?
  • ginger_55ginger_55 Crazy Creek Babe Registered Users Posts: 8,416 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    Photoshop Adobe 7 and Elements 2, I use the ps 7
    Andy wrote:
    g,

    what version of photoshop do you use?
    I am using Photoshop 7. I have Elements 2 on my computer, too. I never used layers before joining here, now I use them, but I have this glitch, I am sure it is something I don't know to do.

    I have only had ps 7 on my computer a few months, it was a "gift", and I accepted it, but saw no reason to use it, now I have no desire to go back to elements.

    ginger
    After all is said and done, it is the sweet tea.
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    Lynn, there are two posts here offering different solutions to unlocking Layers. The first is simply renaming the background layer. The second post has a series of suggestions.
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • ginger_55ginger_55 Crazy Creek Babe Registered Users Posts: 8,416 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    Don't chastise Lynn, c'est moi, ginger
    wxwax wrote:
    Lynn, there are two posts here offering different solutions to unlocking Layers. The first is simply renaming the background layer. The second post has a series of suggestions.
    who was whining about the layer lock. If there are two posts about it, then others must have the problem at some time.

    Am running out the door, NOW.

    will look, copy, keep, later,
    thanks, Sid,

    ginger
    After all is said and done, it is the sweet tea.
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    Oops, sorry, I meant Ginger, not Lynn. And don't worry, the links are to other forums, not here. I hope they help. And anyway, I heard that Lynn enjoys a good chastising. :D
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 6, 2004
    wxwax wrote:
    Oops, sorry, I meant Ginger, not Lynn. And don't worry, the links are to other forums, not here. I hope they help. And anyway, I heard that Lynn enjoys a good chastising. :D

    i heard the same thing! word gets around, eh? mwink.gif
  • lynnmalynnma Moddess Emeritus Homosassa, Florida (Paradise)Registered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 5,163
    edited July 6, 2004
    Andy wrote:
    i heard the same thing! word gets around, eh? mwink.gif
    Huh??ne_nau.gif me? eek7.gif ... nah you must be thinkin of someone else..headscratch.gif
  • ginger_55ginger_55 Crazy Creek Babe Registered Users Posts: 8,416 Major grins
    edited July 7, 2004
    blk/white boxes, brush tool, and swiping away?
    The beauty of this way is that it's one click to get your options for levels, hue/staturation, curves etc. And if you have the little boxes set to black and white on the toolbar, you automatically have a mask. Just hit the paintbrush tool and swipe away.[/QUOTE]___________________________

    Sid, if you get a chance could you expand on what you mean by having the boxes set to black and white, then swiping away .............etc.

    Or is it already somewhere else handy. I can't search for it, as I don't know what it is called.

    ginger
    After all is said and done, it is the sweet tea.
  • cletuscletus Master of Craposition Registered Users Posts: 1,929 Major grins
    edited July 7, 2004
    ginger_55 wrote:
    wxwax wrote:
    The beauty of this way is that it's one click to get your options for levels, hue/staturation, curves etc. And if you have the little boxes set to black and white on the toolbar, you automatically have a mask. Just hit the paintbrush tool and swipe away.
    Sid, if you get a chance could you expand on what you mean by having the boxes set to black and white, then swiping away .............etc.

    Or is it already somewhere else handy. I can't search for it, as I don't know what it is called.

    ginger
    Ginger,

    The boxes sid is talking about are the foreground and background color boxes in the tool palette:
    5893785-M.jpg
    In this picture the foreground color is set to white, and the background is set to black. Typically when you start working with a mask you're going to want the foreground color set to black and the background set to white.

    Here's a handy-dandy way to get black for foreground and white for background:

    • Press D (this will set the foreground white and the background black)
    • Press X (this will swap the foreground and background colors)
    Once you have your colors set up, you can use the paintbrush and start mask away. If you need to correct something, just grab the eraser and unmask away!
  • ginger_55ginger_55 Crazy Creek Babe Registered Users Posts: 8,416 Major grins
    edited July 7, 2004
    cletus wrote:
    Ginger,





    The boxes sid is talking about are the foreground and background color boxes in the tool pallette.

    ________________________ In this picture the foreground color is set to white, and the background is set to black. Typically when you start working with a mask you're going to want the foreground color set to black and the background set to white.

    Here's a handy-dandy way to get black for foreground and white for background:
    • Press D (this will set the foreground white and the background black)
    • Press X (this will swap the foreground and background colors)
    Once you have your colors set up, you can use the paintbrush and start mask away. If you need to correct something, just grab the eraser and unmask away!
    ___________________________________

    Eric, I know where the boxes are, I use them all the time for another purpose, those aweful frames. I switch them, I do all sorts of things. I use them for a few other things too.

    I just don't know what you mean when you say "mask away" or "colors set up", either.

    Thanks, ginger
    After all is said and done, it is the sweet tea.
  • cletuscletus Master of Craposition Registered Users Posts: 1,929 Major grins
    edited July 8, 2004
    ginger_55 wrote:
    I just don't know what you mean when you say "mask away" or "colors set up", either.

    Thanks, ginger
    I realized that "mask away" wasn't the best term to use. I had inteneded for it to mean something like "go ahead and start painting on the layer mask with the paintbrush tool and see how the masking works". The fourth image in Andy's original post really shows what I mean.

    The talk about setting up the "colors" for working with a layer mask refers to setting up the foreground and background colors (those little boxes) so that you can use tools like the paintbrush and eraser to change (change meaning paint, erase, fill, etc.) the layer mask. Where a layer mask is white, the contents or effect of the layer are visible. Where the layer mask is black, the contents are hidden and the layer(s) underneath will show through. Thats why Andy is painting on the layer mask using black.

    Hope this helps. If it doesn't or if you still have questions, just let us know!
  • I SimoniusI Simonius WeatherSealedPhotographer Registered Users Posts: 1,034 Major grins
    edited April 12, 2007
    cletus wrote:
    I realized that "mask away" wasn't the best term to use. I had inteneded for it to mean something like "go ahead and start painting on the layer mask with the paintbrush tool and see how the masking works". The fourth image in Andy's original post really shows what I mean.

    The talk about setting up the "colors" for working with a layer mask refers to setting up the foreground and background colors (those little boxes) so that you can use tools like the paintbrush and eraser to change (change meaning paint, erase, fill, etc.) the layer mask. Where a layer mask is white, the contents or effect of the layer are visible. Where the layer mask is black, the contents are hidden and the layer(s) underneath will show through. Thats why Andy is painting on the layer mask using black.

    Hope this helps. If it doesn't or if you still have questions, just let us know!

    Is it "Black reveals and White conceals" - did I read that somewhere? ( I hope my memory isn't off)

    The reason I ask it that I thougt I also remember reading somewhere that if you are painting with black and want to undo a portion of what you have done you could hit 'D' and paint with white to 'undo' selective portions of what was painted with Black

    Am I right or waaay off?
    Veni-Vidi-Snappii
    ...pics..
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,542 moderator
    edited April 12, 2007
    Simon King wrote:
    Is it "Black reveals and White conceals" - did I read that somewhere? ( I hope my memory isn't off)

    The reason I ask it that I thougt I also remember reading somewhere that if you are painting with black and want to undo a portion of what you have done you could hit 'D' and paint with white to 'undo' selective portions of what was painted with Black

    Am I right or waaay off?

    Nope!!

    And Yup!!

    Black conceals and white reveals, so you can use white on the mask to correct too much black on the mask, or you can use the Eraser on the mask, but I rarely use the Eraser because typing 'x' switches between black and white ink IF you have previously typed 'd' for the default colors which are black and white. ( hence typing 'x' switches back and forth between white and black or whatever colors the brush palette is set to)

    Edited after correction by DavidTO
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Thousand Oaks, CARegistered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 19,160 Major grins
    edited April 12, 2007
    pathfinder wrote:
    Nope!!

    And Yup!!

    Black conceals and white reveals, so you can use white on the mask to correct too much black on the mask, or you can use the Eraser on the mask, but I rarely use the Eraser because ctrl-x ( or Cmd-x on a MAC) switches between black and white ink IF you have previously typed ctrl-d for the default colors which are black and white ( hence ctrl-x switches back and forth between white and black or whatever colors the brush palette is set to)


    A simple "x" switches the foreground/background colors.
    Moderator Emeritus
    Dgrin FAQ | Me | Workshops
  • I SimoniusI Simonius WeatherSealedPhotographer Registered Users Posts: 1,034 Major grins
    edited April 12, 2007
    pathfinder wrote:
    Nope!!

    And Yup!!

    Black conceals and white reveals, so you can use white on the mask to correct too much black on the mask, or you can use the Eraser on the mask, but I rarely use the Eraser because ctrl-x ( or Cmd-x on a MAC) switches between black and white ink IF you have previously typed ctrl-d for the default colors which are black and white ( hence ctrl-x switches back and forth between white and black or whatever colors the brush palette is set to)

    Yes I notice that just pressing D or X does it with no modifier needed

    Does anyone have the time or inclination to explain WHY and HOW Black conceals and white reveals?

    Does it depend which way round (up?) you have the layers or does it always work the same?

    I just seem to get the hang of it then when I try to do more than one layer find myself as baffled as ever e.g. here
    Veni-Vidi-Snappii
    ...pics..
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,542 moderator
    edited April 12, 2007
    Simon King wrote:
    Yes I notice that just pressing D or X does it with no modifier needed

    Does anyone have the time or inclination to explain WHY and HOW Black conceals and white reveals?

    Does it depend which way round (up?) you have the layers or does it always work the same?

    I just seem to get the hang of it then when I try to do more than one layer find myself as baffled as ever e.g. here

    Yup - I stand corrected - typing 'd' sets the color palette to the default colors which are Black and White. 'x' then switches them back and forth - Not Cmmd-CTRL needed. I know that, and sometimes typing is easier than thinking thorugh the steps in my head to explainne_nau.gif
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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