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Using masks in Photoshop

Masks are one of the most important features in photoshop. You can think of them like normal masks that people wear at carnivals. They cover your face with colourful designs but they leave your eyes uncovered allowing you to see through. In photoshop we can apply this simple idea to every layer, and where we uncover, the layer beneath will be revealed. It is important to note that if there is no layer underneath, the results will not be shown and you can get confused if the mask is actually working or not.

To start with we will take a picture and apply a mask on top of it. Please note that the layer below is filled with blue colour to make it easy to understand.

We have created 2 layers, one with a car picture on top and the background layer blue as you can see here.

To add a mask we select the first layer (Layer 1) and click on the small second icon at the bottom of the layers window.


Now in the layer window, a new mask will be created on the Layer 1 and it will look like this.

By default the mask will start off as white, (everything is masked) and we need to start drawing on top of it to create ‘holes’ inside the mask. To do this we need to draw with black, using a paintbrush or any other drawing tool. For demonstration we will use the paintbrush and paint on the mask with black.

Make sure that the foreground colour is set to black

And choose the paint brush tool. You can also adjust the brush size etc. I have set the brush size to 50 as shown.

As you can see below I have covered the headlights and the car front and the background was revealed.

Please note that the layer window will show the mask as black.

That will cover our basic mask tutorial. By the end of this little lesson you should understand how masks work. You should be able to use a layer as a mask to hide/reveal what you want from the background layer. Now that you have grasped the concept, we can try some fun stuff, like merging two photos using masks.



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