Exercise 1: Masking with a Selection

This exercise is based on a creative vision. A very common Photoshop task is to hide part of one image with a mask so that part of another image can be seen in its place. In this exercise we'll hide the dull grey sky next to Big Ben allowing for a warm topical sunset to shine through. A Big Ben make-over of sorts.

You will know how to:

  1. Create a mask based on a selection
  2. Invert a mask
  3. Adjust mask density (strength)
  4. Adjust mask feathering (softness)
  5. Refine a mask edge (fine-tune)
  6. and mask the effect of an adjustment layer

1. Open the image to be masked ...

  1. Open big-ben.jpg in Adobe Photoshop (image right)
  2. Tap the letter 'f' so you're working on a solid grey background
    • Note: Tapping 'f' a second time gives you a black background
    • Note: Tapping 'f' a third time takes you back to normal viewing mode
  3. From the Menu bar, go to File > Save As...
  4. Save your file as a .psd (download ZIPPED .psd of this step)
    • a .psd (Photoshop Document) will preserve ALL your layers and settings
1. Open the image to be masked ...

2. Select the sky ...

  1. In the Tool bar, select the Magic Wand Tool (image right)
  2. In the Options bar, reset the Magic Wand Tool
    • To reset a tool, right-click on the tool icon in Options bar (left end) and choose Reset Tool
  3. With the Magic Wand Tool, click the upper grey portion of the sky to to create an initial selection
  4. To select the remaining portions of the sky, hold down the SHIFT key
    and click the un-selected areas
    • Note: When you hold the SHIFT key down, a little + is added to the Magic Wand cursor
    • Note: If you need to start a new selection, from the Menu bar go to Select > Deselect
  5. When your final selection is in place, select the Move Tool from the Tool bar to avoid accidental selection or de-selection issues
    • Reality check: This is a VERY easy selection exercise because 1.) Big Ben is a hard edge object and 2.) there is a clear difference in contrast between Big Ben and the sky
2. Select the sky ...

3. Mask and invert ...

  1. Open the MASKS panel
  2. Click the [Add a pixel mask] button (image right)
    • Note: You have created a mask based on a selection
    • Note: The mask created is doing the exact opposite of what we want (Big Ben is hidden - the sky is visible)
  3. In the MASKS panel, click the [Invert] button
    • Note: The mask is now doing exactly what we want (Big Ben is visible - the sky hidden)
    • Note: Transparency in Photoshop is represented as a checkerboard pattern
    • DEMO: See what the mask looks like
  4. Save your file as a .psd (download ZIPPED .psd of this step)
  5. Tap the letter 'f' until you return to normal screen mode
3. Mask and invert ...

4. Open a second image ...

  1. Open sunset.jpg in Adobe Photoshop (image right)
4. Open a second image ...

5. Move and re-stack ...

  1. With the Move Tool, drag the sunset.jpg on top of the big-ben.jpg
    • Note: Adding SHIFT after you begin dragging, and letting SHIFT go after you drop, aligns the sunset.jpg to the center of big-ben.jpg
    • Reality check: Pixel counts
  2. If necessary, use the Move Tool to align the two layers
  3. In the Layers Panel, drag the sunset layer below the Big Ben layer (image right)
  4. Save your file (download ZIPPED .psd of this step)
  5. Close the sunset.jpg image (do not save)
  6. Tap the letter 'f' so you're working on a solid grey background
5. Move and re-stack ...

6. Mask density and feather ...

  1. In the Layers Panel, select the mask attached to the Big Ben layer
    • Note: There are 3 selectable thumbnails in the Layers panel
    • Note: When masking it is critical to be aware of which thumbnail is selected. Many masking errors and issues result from a user being unaware of which thumbnail is highlighted in the Layers panel
  2. Open the MASKS panel
  3. Experiment with the Density slider (image right)
    • The Density slider controls the strength of the mask
    • A Density value of 0% (slider left) reveals the hidden sky
  4. Experiment with the Feather slider
    • The Feather slider controls the softness of the mask edge
    • Note: Big Ben is a hard edge object (not feathered)
    • Demo: Feathering in action
  5. Return both sliders to the original values (Density 100%, Feather 0px)
6. Mask density and feather ...

7. Refine the mask edge ...

  1. Open the MASKS panel
  2. Click the [Mask Edge] button (image right)
    • Note: Clicking the [Mask Edge] button opens the Refine Mask dialogue box where you can fine-tune your mask
    • Note: The Refine Mask dialogue box is very useful and powerful. You should definitely learn more about this feature (study at home)
    • Demo: Refine Edge
  3. In the Refine Mask dialogue box, set the following:
    • View Mode: On Layers (so we can see changes happen to the image)
    • Output: Layer Mask (so changes are applied to our mask)
  4. Select the Zoom Tool in the Refine Mask dialogue box
  5. Zoom into the ornate upper edge of Big Ben
    • Note the fringe - we will eliminate this
  6. In the Edge Detection section:
    • For Radius, increase this value slightly to 1px
    • Note: By raising this value slightly you are asking Photoshop to go out in search of a better edge ... and it does
    • Note: The mask edge of Big Ben was very close to correct - the Magic Wand Tool did a great initial job of helping us find the edge. Other masks might require a higher Radius value (more help from Photoshop) - for example, hair
  7. In the Adjust Edge section:
    • Shift Edge: -35
    • Note: This value should remove the leftover fringe as the mask edge shifts
  8. Save your file (download ZIPPED .psd of this step)
7. Refine the mask edge ...

8. Adjust the sunset ...

  1. In the Layers Panel, select the sunset layer thumbnail
  2. Open the ADJUSTMENTS panel
  3. Click on the Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer icon (image right)
    • Note the effect: The adjustment layer was added above the sunset layer
    • Note: Added layers always come in above the layer currently selected
    • Note: Photoshop gives you a FREE mask when you add a fill or adjustment layer
  4. In the ADJUSTMENTS panel, experiment with the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders
  5. Save your file (download ZIPPED .psd of this step)
8. Adjust the sunset ...

9. Mask the sunset adjustment ...

  1. In the Layers Panel, select the mask attached to the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
    • Note: There are 5 selectable thumbnails in the Layers panel
    • Note: When masking it is critical to be aware of which thumbnail is selected. Many masking errors and issues result from a user being unaware of which thumbnail is highlighted in the Layers panel
  2. Use the skills acquired in Exercise 2 to create a linear gradient from top to bottom on the Hue/Saturation mask
  3. In the ADJUSTMENTS panel, experiment with the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders
  4. Save your file (download ZIPPED .psd of this step)
  5. Tap the letter 'f' until you return to normal screen mode
9. Mask the sunset adjustment ...