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Understanding masking techniques
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Eddie Russell


Eddie Russell
In this lesson, we'll learn how to hide parts of our paintings, using a layer mask. All right, so at this point, I've got another blank document open here. And I want to talk you a little bit about masking because as you move forward into digital painting, understanding how a mask works and how you can really use in a mask to your advantage is really going to benefit you. Now when it comes to layer mask, we need to go ahead and create a new layer here. And the new layer mask button is right down here at the bottom of our layers panel. Now you can see it looks like a gray rectangle with a white circle in it. So let me go ahead and create a new layer mask so you can see what that looks like here. Now you can see that we've added basically a white layer mask here to our transparent layer. I'm going to go ahead and click over on the layer thumbnail. Notice that we can select either one of those thumbnails. We're actually targeting the layer or the mask, itself. So I'm going to go ahead and target my layer. And let me just go ahead and drop some color down here. Let me just go ahead and grab a blue color. And make my brush nice and large. And we'll just kind of come in paint in a color. There we go. Now with our layer mask, the way this works is a layer mask is going to either hide or reveal parts of what's shown on that layer here. So, now, if we were to paint into our layer mask here, notice that we can't choose any color other than black or white, or levels of gray in between pure black or pure white. Even if I checked that red color here in my color picker, because I have my mask selected, it's converting that to a gray scale value. So let me go ahead and reset my rush here so that I have pure white and black. And I'll go ahead and move black to my foreground color. And I'm going to simply select my mask, and we're going to paint in here. Let's go ahead and just paint right into this mask. Now what I'm doing is I'm just painting with my brush tool. Painting that black color right into the mask. And you can see that black is hiding what's on the layer here. So if we want to reveal what's on the layer, we're going to paint in pure white. So let me go ahead and hit X, bring white to my foreground color, and we'll just start revealing that again by painting some white into our mask. Now, notice, you can see a preview on the mask thumbnail over here where we've actually painted black values into here. So let me go ahead and try and reveal that entire thing again here. There we go. We've got pretty much that entire stroke revealed. Now, again, I mentioned that we're not restricted to just pure black or pure white when it comes to a mask. Let me go ahead and grab a gray value here. Let's go and grab this gray. And you can see here that we're hiding what's on the layer based on the gray. So we're not completely hiding it, and we're not completely revealing it. We're only partially hiding it here. So a mask is really a pretty versatile thing here. Let's come over here, and talk about how we can actually remove the mask. If we want to delete that mask, all we need to do is grab the mask, itself, drag it over, and drop it on the trash can. And you'll see the Photoshop prompts us to either apply the mask to the layer, or we're just going to delete the mask. We'll just say delete. And you can see that that goes away. Now let me undo that here because if we had multiple layers here, I'll just create a new one, we can actually drag our mask to a new layer just simply by clicking and dragging. And you can see that we can basically move that mask around from layer to layer. Now we can also copy that mask. Let me go ahead and select it here, and I'll Alt drag it to the layer below. You can see that I've made a duplicate of that mask. Now let me go ahead and get rid of both of these masks. Actually, let's go ahead and get rid of this entire layer right here. We're not going to need that. All right, so we're left with this one layer that we have our stroke on. I'm gonna grab my lasso tool, and I'm just going to make a selection. I want to select this part of the stroke right here. Now we can actually create a mask with pixels already selected on our screen, like I have here. Now we've done is we've told Photoshop essentially that, hey, these are the pixels that I want to reveal. And if we hit the mask button, the mask is going to hide every other pixel, except the ones that were in our selection. And you can see that the mask is mostly black now. Now let me come in here, and I want to show you how we can actually go in and enter into the mask, sort of dive into it, and see exactly the pixels that are painted in the mask. If we were to hold down the Alt button, and click on the mask here, you can see that my screen changes here. And we're actually viewing just the black and white values inside our mask. So if we wanted to come in and refine our mask, maybe we want to just paint in a little bit by hand here. Just paint in that area right there. And then go back by Alt clicking on the mask again, you can see what I've revealed here on the actual layer, itself. Now we can also hide masks by shift clicking on them. And you can see here that it gets hidden by applying a red X to it. The mask is still there. We could always bring it back by a shift clicking on that again. And then we have this link right here. Now let me come over and select my actual layer thumbnail here, and use my Move tool by hitting V. And I'm going to click and drag what's on that layer around. Notice what's happening here. The mask is actually moving with the pixels on the layer. They're linked together with this little chain link in the middle. Now if we deselect them, or actually unlink them by clicking on that little chain link, we can see it disappears. Now we can move the pixels independently of the mask. So if we want to reposition those within that mask, or if we wanted to just move the mask, we could do that, as well. All right, great. Now with that said, masks are a very, very powerful thing here in Photoshop. Let me go ahead and bounce over here. If you want to open this file up with me, feel free. This is the biker_layers file within your project files. And you can see here, I want to just run through how this file was created with you. Now if I hide that color group, you can see here that we had some line work. And that it looks like if we hide the line work, and bring back the colors, that he was painted based on those lines. Well I'll tell you what. Let's jump down into the color group here. And let's take a look here. What we got here is a mask. Let me Alt click on that, and we can go in and we can see here that a mask was created that masks everything except for what was on the inside of these lines. So if we Alt click on that mask again, and now instead of Alt clicking, let's hide the mask here. I'll Shift click on it. You can see here that the colors aren't near as clean. They're actually much, much more sloppy, and were laid down more quickly then it appeared when the mask was present. So really this is just one example of how a mask can be implemented in a digital painting. You can see here that by using this mask, we were able to kind of pull back those colors. We were able to lay those down a lot quicker and a lot less neat, and then use the mask to actually clean up the edges of them. Now if we ever wanted to come in and actually modify the mask, all we need to do is come in and, again, grab our white color, and we can begin revealing those colors. So if we wanted to come in here and reveal some of those around this head, you can see here that we can just add that to the mask, just like so. I'm going to go in and undo that here. This is really, like I said, just one example of how you can use a mask in a digital painting. Masks are very flexible. And I would encourage you, as you move forward in digital painting, to experiment with different ways, more creative ways, of utilizing the power of a mask. Now at this point we've talked a little bit about brushes but, we really haven't fully looked at the power of brushes here inside Photoshop. So in the next lesson I, want to go ahead and move forward, and I want to talk about brush dynamics, and how we can create custom brushes.
In this collection of lessons we will learn basic terms, definitions and workflows for digital painting in Photoshop CS5. We’ll start off by covering how to create and save new documents as well as how we can navigate around inside them. We'll then take a look at two of the most basic tools for digital painting being the brush tool and eraser tool so you begin creating artwork right away. After that, you’ll learn about several other features such as layers, selections and masks that will add a new dimension to your digital painting experience. And to wrap up this project, we'll go over one possible workflow for painting a digital image.