How do I use masks to im­prove my Pho­to­shop work­flow?

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation | Artist Q & A -

Wayne Kemp, Poland

An­swer Paul replies

Masks can seem daunt­ing to a new artist, but once you start us­ing them you’ll never go back. They come in two flavours: Layer masks and Clip­ping masks. Think of the for­mer as the ul­ti­mate re­place­ment for the Eraser tool: while an Eraser serves one pur­pose (the re­moval of in­for­ma­tion on a layer), Clip­ping masks give you plenty of con­trol over the im­age, en­abling you to paint in­for­ma­tion out and back in us­ing your brushes. Clip­ping masks, on the other hand, are es­sen­tially stacks of linked lay­ers in which the bot­tom im­age de­fines the bound­aries for the rest. This is great for sep­a­rat­ing el­e­ments of your im­age, and means you can add tex­ture to a char­ac­ter and not her en­vi­ron­ment, for ex­am­ple.

To cre­ate a layer mask click the square icon with the cir­cle at the bot­tom of the Layer panel. You’ll no­tice that a small, white rec­tan­gle will ap­pear next to the layer. Click the white rec­tan­gle and you switch to Mask paint­ing mode. Now you can draw on the can­vas in black or white to ei­ther erase or add in­for­ma­tion. Layer masks are in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful for adding tex­ture to an im­age or tweak­ing ad­just­ments, es­pe­cially if you’re work­ing with lots of lay­ers at once.

Clip­ping masks are even sim­pler: cre­ate a new layer over your draw­ing, hold down Alt and hover the mouse be­tween the two; you’ll now see an icon ap­pear. Click and the lay­ers will be linked.

I used layer masks to ap­ply photo tex­tures to this tree. Masks are great for com­bin­ing mul­ti­ple lay­ers with dif­fer­ent layer modes like this. As well as adding tex­ture, Layer masks can be used to add ad­just­ments such as Hue/Sat­u­ra­tion to spe­cific ar­eas.

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