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Adobe Photoshop CC - Essentials Training

How to create a layer mask in Adobe Photoshop CC

Daniel Walter Scott

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Hi there, in this video we're going to learn what a Layer Mask is, and how to create it. It's super simple, basically it's this black and white thing that goes on top of an image. The cool thing about it, it allows you to do cool stuff like this where I can move my image within the mask. I can disable the mask. It's really like copy and pasting but I have a few extra professional controls at my disposal. Let's learn how to do that now in Photoshop. 

So it's time to go back in time a little bit. We worked on a project, it is in your 'Exercise Files', under '05 Selections and Masking'. It was way back here, where we took 'Marquee Tool 01' and 'Marquee Tool 02'. I'm going to open up both of these. Before, we used our selection tool, which was really cool. We used the Rectangle Marquee Tool, and we held down 'Shift', and I got a nice big circle. It's in the right place, then I copied and pasted. 

From now on you're never allowed to copy and paste. We have to use something called Layer Mask, they're pretty easy to implement. So any sort of selection, you can use the Quick Selection Tool, the magic wand tool, or in our case, the Ellipse Marquee Tool. Instead of hitting copy, down here, it's this little icon here. So click on that, nothing really much changes, it kind of removes the background, but look at the layer structure over here. Can you see, the actual image is fine. What's happening is, there's a mask over the top, and you can see the black parts hide the background. The white hole in the middle shows us the image through. 

So there's a couple of perks for this, so we're going to use our Move Tool. Click, hold, and drag the center of it, up to our tab. Wait, wait, come down, here we go. So why is it cool? I'm going to transform this, remember, 'Command T' on a Mac, 'Control T' on a PC. I'm just going to scale it down to get it to where I want. So nothing much is different from when we did it, we're just copying and pasting. What ends up happening is, once I get the right shape, get it into the spot, hit 'Return' to get rid of my Transform. What's really nice about it is, a couple of things you can unlink. Watch this, see this little chain link here? So it means the image and the mask are actually separate. You can tell which one you're working on. Can you see the kind of dotted white line that appears when I click on them? 

So I want to work on the image. Watch this, I grab my 'Move Tool', I can move this around within my mask. To get it more aligned, I can work on the mask separately. So with the Mask Layer selected I can move the mask around. It's not what I want to do, I'm going to undo. I'm going to link them back together by clicking that empty area where that link icon was. So it gets better, we've done that change and what we can do is, with the Mask selected, you'll notice that our Properties Panel adjusts. The easiest one to start with, this is feather. Watch this, if I crank up the feather really high, can you see, over here it's kind of feathering the edge of my Mask, whereas before, when we used the Ellipse Marquee Tool, really kind of sharp edge, whereas now I've got a little bit more play here. 

I'm just going to kind of-- I don't want it to be super feathery but just a little bit more in tune with the rest of the image. It's the same basic principles as we've learnt except, we click on this button here and it gives us a few extra options. Let's double back to-- let's look at the Quick Selection Tool, so I'm going to grab 'Quick Select 01', and 'Quick Select 02'. Do the exact same thing as we did before, 'Quick Selection Tool'. Grab my shoes, I'm going to make my brush a little bigger. I'm going to drag across them all. Drag across them all. It's pretty good, it's missed a little bit of white there. It was a little bit over here too from the last time. 

Instead of copying and pasting, all we do, let's click this button, same net result but I can grab my 'Move Tool', click, hold, and drag them over to this tab. Let them go in here, and the same rules apply here. I can maybe feather this a little bit. As we go through this particular video series, where we got a Layer Mask, we're going to dive into some of the extra special bits where we can tidy up the edges in here using something called 'Select and Mask'. 

So that my friends is a Layer Mask; that is considered non-destructive editing. It would be something that I considered absolutely essential for a professional person in Photoshop. It means that I can do a really quick Mask before, say a client, just to get the-- maybe it's for my Creative Director, I just want to say "Hey, what do you think of this thing, real quick." "I haven't done a perfect mask but it's just a super quick one." Then you can go back into, later on, and you can do things like right clicking it and disabling the Mask to show the background, or you can right-click it and enable it. I can also go back and refine it, may be playing with feather. In the future video we'll look at Select and Mask. All right, so let's go now and look at some slightly more advanced Layer Masks.