What are some of the different ways to use masking techniques in digital painting?
Russ Bomford, England
There are various options for masking in Photoshop, with Layer, Vector and Clipping masks being the most common. These non-destructive techniques make it easy to apply changes to your painted elements. I often use the Clipping and Layer masks, because they’re both bitmap (pixel) based, which is the same as my paintings.
You can create a Clipping mask from any layer by holding down Alt (Option on older Macs), and by clicking between two layers you can link the two. This means anything painted on the second layer or sub-layer will only appear if there’s pixel information on your main layer. This can be helpful if, for example, you’re working with silhouettes. You can easily create a silhouette on one layer and paint only inside that silhouette on multiple sublayers, without having to lock the painted information on your main layer.
I use Layer masks when applying textures or other photo-based elements to my art, because I’m able to mask out part of the image without deleting anything. You can apply a Layer mask to your active layer or folder by clicking the Layer mask icon at the bottom of your layer palette.
Best of all, a Layer mask works with the complete range of grey values from black to white, where white is fully transparent and black is fully masked. This enables you to play around with various Opacity levels inside the same mask, even creating smooth gradients, which is perfect for masking adjustment layers.
Various masking methods help me to separate the most important parts in my paintings. Here I use them to paint the background and the character separately. I place a Clipping mask inside the silhouette of my figure (top image), and then apply a Layer mask to my adjustment layer to only affect parts of my image.