The Masks

Layer Masks and Quick Mask mode can be the most useful thing in Photoshop. I believe too many don’t know how to use them, or see them as being more advanced than they actually are. They give you a lot of room for error when masking. Layer Masks are my best friends. Especially because I use a Wacom tablet and get a little twitchy after my 3 cups of coffee in the morning.

I’ll start off with Quick Mask mode. It’s a little more basic and a little easier to use. To get to Quick Mask mode, press [Q]. Did you press it? Did you see what happened? It’s pretty subtle what happens after you press Q. In your Tool palette, you see your colors go to the default (Black/White) and the little icon below the colors switches. You’ll also see in the title bar of your image it says “Quick Mask.” Good indication that you’re in Quick Mask mode.



So now we are in Quick Mask mode. The first thing you might want to do is select the Brush Tool (B) and choose a brush size appropriate for the job. Press (D) to set your colors to default, black in foreground, white in background. Now start painting. As you paint your image, you see it turns out red. The red area indicates the areas that WON’T be selected.


After painting the area around your object, you can press (Q) again to get out of Quick Mask mode. You are now left in normal mode with the selection dancing ants. And then you can treat it as any other selected objext.



Layer Masks

Layer Masks work under the same general idea. They just work in more of a “real-time” sort of way. We’ll start out by combining two images together. I dragged one image onto another, which created its own Layer. Go to the Layers Palette and click on the “Add Layer Mask” buttom at the bottom of the palette. You now have a Layer Mask on Layer 1. You can see the thumbnail to the right of the image thumbnail.


The Layer Mask works like this: any area that is white, you can see; any area that is black, you can’t see. The benefit to this is that you can have softer edges and ‘grey’ areas. So the first I’m going to do is create my own monster scene. This is actually just two images I happened to have on my computer that could almost fit together. Make sure that you have the Layer Mask selected, not just the layer. You can see this by the black box around the Layer Mask thumbnail. Also, your colors will be the default black/white.


I selected the Brush tool and the appropriate sized brush. I will now start paint the areas I DON’T want to see black. You can see the corresponding Layer Mask with the visible effects.


You can vary brush sizes, and even the color to get a more accurate masking effect. I chose a pretty bad example image, but you get the idea. And that’s all that counts, right?


Maybe in the future I’ll go into more detailed uses. Just remember the basic concept though, black you can’t see, white you can. Greys are in the middle.

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  1. November 10, 2008 7:21 am5 recommendations for designers who want to jump from Photo-Paint to Photoshop

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