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2.3 How to Use Layer Masks

Layer Masks are one of the most essential tools in Photoshop as they allow us to edit images while keeping their integrity. In this lesson, you'll learn how to mask images and use the Refine Edges option to create smooth transitions.

2.3 How to Use Layer Masks

Hi there, welcome back. Cleaning up your images before using them is a key step in working in design. Using non-destructive tools are essential to keep the integrity of an image. In this lesson, we will take a look at layer masks, which can be used to hide and reveal portions of an image on a layer below. This is helpful if you're using a file outside of Photoshop, let's say Illustrator or InDesign. Let's take a look. We mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial that we could try having the fish overlay the type. For that, we need to mask out all the fish images. In this case we will choose a few images. And we'll start dropping them on our Photoshop file. You will notice that I have a few more images than the ones that we started with. And I've highlighted these, and downloaded a few more, because we need more options. So for example, I believe these images will work better for our poster since the main topic of our poster is motion and color. So if we're talking about motion, I'll highlight these three images. These are great, but they're not the best for a poster, because the fish are moving only left to right. As opposed to these other images, they're moving upwards and diagonally, so we'll start with these images. So let's go into our Photoshop file, and don't forget to save your file. So I'll save mine under Downloads. Typographic poster for my Photoshop and Save and then we can continue to save later with command s. Because you don't want to lose the file to your computer shut down or if it freezes. So let's head over back to here. And we'll drop this image here. You will notice that this will open camera raw. And camera raw is a tool from Photoshop that will allow you to change a few settings before you even go into Photoshop. But we'll just click OK for this. Press Enter. And we have our image on a layer. So we want to create a layer mask so we can delete the background here. Head over to your Layers panel, to the bottom and click on Layer Mask. And that will create another layer linked to our main layer. So this is your layer mask. There are two ways of masking an image, and the first one is by using the brush tool. So head over to the toolbar and select the brush tool or B on your keyboard. Right click on the document and set the hardness to 100. So this is setting the brush to be more like this one over here, rather than a softer edge. And that's better to work on the edges of the fish. Click on the document to exit and then you will see that there is nothing happening yet. That's because we need to make sure that the foreground and background color are in black and white, but that we're using black as a foreground color. You can do that by clicking here or by pressing X on your keyboard. So now that we have X on our keyboard, we're selecting our layer mask and now we can start working on the image. You will notice that are these small ridges on the brush and that's because the brush is too far apart from the next stroke, so head over to the window on menu bar and select brush. And here we can play with the spacing so if we want the brush to be farther apart, so for example like that, or if we want it to be closer together and that will give us a more seamless look. So for this coarse we need it to be at 1%. And we can go and mask our image. We can use the zoom tool command z that, and click to get closer into the details. You can go into the edges. You can make the brush smaller or bigger by using the opening and closing brackets. So the opening brackets will make the brush smaller and the closing bracket will make the brush bigger. So let's zoom out. So that's one way of doing this. The second way of masking an image is by using the Wand tool. So you can hit W on your keyboard. Or head over to the Toolbar and hold the click if you're using a quick selection tool and just select the Magic Wand Tool. And what you want to do is click on the big areas of color. So, we're lucky that we have this image with a black background so we can click anywhere and it will select all around the fish. If you want to add to the selection, so for example, these two spaces, hold down Shift until you see the plus sign come up, and click in those two areas. And then you want to hit command I on your keyboard, and what this will do is it will invert what we have selected and then hit command D to deselect. And using the zoom tool again going closer. And here you have the option to use again, the Wand Tool. Hold down shift and select the smaller spaces. And again command I and command D to deselect. Now this is not perfect. But it is a step closer to what we need. You can also use the brush so change the brush tool and let's make the brush smaller and then we can start brushing away here for the details. You can get as detailed as you want. There is no right or wrong. Of course the more detail that you get the better the image that you will be able to work with. Also keep in consideration that we can reveal the parts that we have hidden. So for example, let's go to the brush tool, but this time we need to have white as a foreground selected and we can reveal, again, a few places that way. So if we deleted something by accident, don't panic because we will be able to bring those back. So let's select another image. Let's hide this layer. You can do so by clicking there on the eye. And let's select another image. Click OK, Enter, and let's do the same thing. Add a layer mask, use the Wand Tool, and we can select this. Now I will show you how we can refine the edges. You see that there is this slightly dark line around the fish and that's because of the dark background and we can try and get rid of this. Head over to the layers and on the layer mask right click and select refine mask. Under View, you can select different backgrounds. Whichever you prefer to work on, you can select it. I prefer overlay, so that way I see the edges better. So what I like to do is going to shift edge first, but we can select the zoom tool so we can get a little bit closer. Hold down Space to move the board. And here we will start, you can see a slight difference already right there to there. So I will leave it minus 60, and then I might want to smooth things out a little bit. Let's see how it looks. That makes the edges a little bit smooth and maybe feather just a touch. But just a touch, don't do it too much because then you will get something like that. You will lose some of the definition. So you just want maybe seven pixels seems like a bit too much. So let's see 0.3. That's perfect. And then contrast, we'll just leave it at zero. And I'm happy with that. That's not too bad, especially because we have a black background. We don't need to work too much on this, but we will have the type going behind it. So there will be places where we will need to go back and maybe use the brush tool to just work on the details. So click OK. So I will hide this layer, and we can move on to another image. So I'll bring this one in. And you'll see we are not getting the camera raw for this one, which is totally fine. And again, let's add a layer mask. Use the Wand Tool and press Command I. Now you'll notice that this is missing. So that's because that part was probably too dark. And the Magic Wand Tool also selected it. So let's get the brush. Select the Brush tool with a white as a foreground. And we can go on working on that detail a little bit better. Same over here. And then also this line so let's change the foreground to black. And we have a pretty good image here. We can work on the details a little bit later, when we have the letters going behind it. Then we will know if we want to work, for example, on this detail or this detail here. Or maybe we won't need to because maybe the letters might be here. So, We have all of our images here. We have three fish, and yeah, see, you can see that there's some black there so we can always go back, And work on that, because it won't delete the actual pixels. You just have to make sure that you're working on the layer mask and not on the original images. Now we have three maxed out images. And we can decide later on when we're composing the poster if we either need a fourth image or if we need to exchange one of this for another. Now it's time to play with typography. In the next lesson, we will dive into typography and how to use the character in paragraph panels. I'll see you there.

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