Flight Lessons… Basic Masking and Extractions in PS!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! This week, we’ll be discussing basic masking and extractions using a mask in Photoshop only. Just a quick work about masks:

I know that masks are very intimidating until you use them, but I swear that once you do you won’t go back! Many people have actually used masks before, it’s just that they probably didn’t know that they were using them. If you’ve ever added an adjustment layer such as curves, levels, saturation, color balance, etc. then you have already used a masking layer! You can use this exact same concept and apply it to any of those other adjustment layers as well, or anything using a mask. See the very bottom of this post for more about that aspect of masking. :o)

Here is my basic screen. I’m using PSCS2, but it’s similar in all versions. I have my photo, which is of course layer 1. Here we’re using Andrea’s photo of lovely Caroline and lovely Steve, because that’s what I had open. Thanks Andrea! :o)

You don’t HAVE to do this step, but I always do it. Add another layer, and paint it white with the paint bucket. Then move this layer underneath layer 1.

Now you want to add the making layer. Make sure that your photo layer is highlighted now in the palette, then click on the ‘add a layer mask’ button underneath. Now you have a little white box next to your photo in the layers palette. The white box is your mask.

You’ll notice that there’s another box around your white layer mask box. This means that the mask is highlighted, and therefore you’re working ON the mask, NOT ON THE PHOTO. This is the whole point of using a layer mask. Your photo remains untouched, but we’re just ‘masking’ parts of it that we want to. Make sure that your little highlight box is around the layer mask, meaning that the mask is selected and not the photo itself. Now select the BRUSH tool, NOT THE ERASER. BRUSH TOOL. BRUSH BRUSH BRUSH. This was the hardest thing for me to let go of, the eraser! NO ERASER FOR YOU! LOL! Once you’ve selected the brush tool, select a round brush to use. You can play around with the sizing and what you’re comfortable with using, as well as what the part of the photo calls for. You can also decide how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ you want your round brush to be, again this is a matter of preference. I like to set mine around size 15 to start, and at about 92% hardness level.

Now we’re ready to start cutting out the photo. Look at your colors palette, it should have automatically switched itself to having black in the foreground. If not, just hit the little switchy arrows thingy so that black is the foreground, white is the background. Now start ‘painting’ on the canvas, and you’ll see the the photo (layer 1) disappears and your layer 2 is showing through. YAY! Here are what your settings should look like, and then a close up of what’s happening. You see that on the mask layer in the layer palette, the part that you’ve painted over is black. That’s how it should be. :o)

Now say that you make a mistake, and erase part of sweet Caroline’s arm. Just hit the switchy arrows in the color palette so that you have white as your foreground, then paint over the part that you messed up. Voila! The photo comes back again! You can do this no matter how far along you are in the process. Say that you cut off part of a finger, or chop into someone’s ear, and you don’t notice it until you’re completely done. Just go back to your layer mask, make sure white is your foreground color, and paint back over it to make it reappear.

The benefit of this is that you can go back and fix a mistake or change something around that you want to FAR later on in the process, as opposed to having to go back through your history and dump everything that you’ve done up to this point. When you’re done cutting out your image and you’re ready to edit your photo, just go to your layers palette and highlight the photo instead of the layer mask. You’ll know that the photo itself is selected because that little box will now be around the tiny little photo instead of the mask.

Now you’re done! YAY! You can add images like scrapbooking elements or anything that you want behind the photo, and they will show through just like if you had erased it instead. You can move it all around, turn it in circles, make it jump up and down, and not have to worry because the mask is connected to the photo. Any questions, feel free to ask! :o)

***Here’s my little add-on about masks:

You can use a mask to alter anything on the photo. Say that your photo is taken at the beach, and you want to make the sky more blue. Just add an adjustment layer of color balance, and raise the blue amount. But, now your child is blue too, and we don’t want blue children. Select your little mask on the palette, and then make sure you have the BRUSH tool selected, and the foreground color is black. Now ‘paint’ over the children, and leave the sky blue. Ta-da! Blue sky, no blue children. And if you erase part of the blue that you WANT there, just switch the paint colors to white instead of black, and go back over the part that you want to change. It will come back again. You can use this same process no matter what the mask is. If you want part of a face to be lighter than the rest (say there’s a shadow on part of a face), use a curves adjustment layer, and do the same steps, leaving the part that you want highlighted and erasing around it.

We’ll be going over other ways of extracting and using masking in future posts, but if anyone would like to show off their work, please link us up! See you all again next week!

Signing off for now,

Heather (heatherbird)

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