Need to rearrange the model to a different background? Change the color of the sky, eyes, hair, skin? Do you want to sharpen only on the hero’s face, but not touch the environment?
As soon as you need to correct part of the image, and not the whole thing, masks come into play. We tell in detail what masks are, how to use them and how to set up tools for working with them.
What is a mask and what can be done with them
A mask is essentially a stencil that is applied to a layer, making parts of it invisible. At the same time, you yourself, manually, choose what will be visible and what is hidden.
With masks, you can:
- Cut out an object or background
With the help of a mask, you can cut out any element of the photo, and “hide” everything else or, in professional slang, mask it.
For example, you put a mask on a portrait photo and hide the background (more on how to work with the mask in the next section). Then you, as a viewer, will only see the model on a transparent background.
Why is it better to cut with a mask? Why, if there is an eraser? The mask does not remove pixels, but only “hides” them. At any time, you can redo the result, modify it.
The simplest analogy is the invisibility cloak that Harry Potter had. Being under it, a person did not disintegrate into atoms, he only became invisible to others. The mask also works.
- Selectively change color, contrast, saturation, tint, sharpness
Let’s say you want to change the model’s eye color from green to blue. If you add a layer that changes color, then you will achieve your goal, but, except for the eyes, the skin, hair, background and all objects in the picture will also become blue. With the help of a mask, you can show the effect only where you need it. In this case, on the irises.
Using a mask, you can only affect part of the image. For example, sharpen only the face, or increase the contrast only on the model, or make only the background less saturated so that it is less conspicuous, and the emphasis is on the hero. Or all together — the mask can be applied to each layer, and the number of layers is not limited.
Effects that can be done with a mask and adjustment layers
A short algorithm for any of the effects (more on how to use masks and edit them, where to find adjustment layers — in the sections below):
- Add an adjustment layer, created automatically with masks (Layer — New Adjustment Layer);
- We pass to the mask;
- We erase the effect from those parts of the picture where it is not needed.
— Add Curveto increase contrast, tone, lighten, or darken the subject in the frame. About what curves are capable of and what you can do with them, read the text.
— Change color with adjustment layers Hue/Saturation (Hue/Saturation) or Selective color correction (Selective Color).
— To get the effect in the style of the noir action movie “Sin City”, when the entire photo is black and white, but only one detail is colored, add an adjustment layer Black & White.
— Make the object richer with adjustment layers Juiciness (Vibrance)or Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation).
— Shade the background or object with Color balance (Color Balance), Photo Filter or Color search (Color Lookup).
How to use masks
How to add a mask
A mask can be added to any layer. Enough in the palette Layers (if you do not have it, call it with the F7 key, or find it in the menu Window / Window) click on the rectangle with a circle in the center, and it will attach to the layer you are on.
There are layers that are created immediately with masks. These are adjustment layers, which can be found in the palette. Layersif you click on the black and white circle, or in the palette Correction / Adjustments (if not, you can find it in the menu Window /window). For them, it is pointless to create another mask — it automatically comes with the kit.
How to work with a mask
- To start working with a mask, be sure to click on it by clicking on the corresponding square with the mouse. So you show the program where you are currently working.
- Work with a mask happens one tool. The most common brush, which can be found on the left of the toolbar, or called with the hot key B (short for Brush).
- When you switch to the mask and select a brush, the colors in the palette on the left will automatically switch to black and white (if not, click on the black and white box above the palette).
- The most important thing to remember when working with a mask is that the black color “erases”, hides pixels or correction (if it’s hard to remember, you can build an associative series: black = darkness, and nothing is visible in the dark), and white color shows a correction, leaves its visible (same analogy: white = bright sunny day, everything can be seen perfectly during the day).
If you want to speed up your work in Photoshop, you need a graphics tablet. Any, the most budget option of the smallest size will do. For example, Wacom Intuos S. Even with it, you will work many times faster, and your hand will not hurt from the mouse. The main thing is that the tablet pen should be light. By the way, we have put together a guide on how to choose a graphics tablet.
How to edit a mask
When working with a mask, you simply paint over it with a brush, switching between black and white (you can quickly do this using the hotkey X). To make the mask neat, use the following tricks: adjust the brush, change the opacity of the mask, and refine it in the Properties palette.
How to adjust the brush when working with a mask
After selecting a brush, a line will appear at the top of the program, allowing you to change the parameters of the tool. Three of them are important:
If you remove the background, set the size to a larger one so that the work goes faster. If you cut out an object, draw details, for example, by changing the color, it is better to work with small brushes and at a large approximation.
You can quickly enlarge or reduce brushes using hotkeys [ (буква Х в русской раскладке) или ] (hard sign).
- Brush hardness
If the brush is too soft, then you will inevitably touch unnecessary details in the photo. But working with 100% brush hardness can also give sloppy results — the outline will be too sharp and rough.
There are no exact recommendations, you have to sort it out manually. But, if you change the color, raise the contrast, sharpen, then the hardness of the brush is usually softer. If you cut out an object — harder. At the same time, start from how sharp the object or model being cut out is — the sharper the contour, the higher the stiffness of the brush.
The same brush size looks completely different depending on the hardness. You can change the hardness by clicking on the drop-down box at the top or by pressing the left mouse button while working.
- Brush Opacity
Allows you to make the impact more gradual. Relevant if you work with adjustment layers (change color, contrast, brightness, etc.). If you are cutting, then set the parameter to 100% to work faster.
The Properties palette when working with a mask
You can also refine the mask and make it more accurate in the palette Properties (find it in the menu) Window / Windowif it is not in your workspace):
- Density. Makes the black areas of the mask visible. In fact, this is the opacity of the black elements of the mask.
- Feathering. Makes the outline of the mask more blurry. It can help if you worked with a too hard brush.
- The Refine menu consists of three options:
- Selection and mask / Select and Mask. Opens a separate window where you can refine the outline, make it harder, smoother, select fleecy elements of the picture (hair, fur) using the Refine Edges brush or the Edge Detection button.
- Color Range / Color Range. Allows you to add or remove pixels from the mask based on their color. For example, you can select the skin in a couple of clicks to change its color.
- Invert / Invert. Swaps the black and white colors on the mask in places. You can also do this with the Ctrl + I keys.
- The mask hides part of the image or adjustment layer, making it temporarily invisible. This allows you to change and modify the result at any time.
- Work with the mask is done with a regular black or white brush.
- Black hides the correction, white shows it.
- Refine the mask, not only by hand. This requires the Properties palette. There you can change the opacity, feather the edges and refine the outline of the mask if you click the Select and Mask button.
- If you need to quickly select pixels of a certain color in order to correct them later by changing their tone, saturation, in the Properties palette, press the Color range button. This way you can quickly change the color of the sky, refine the color of the skin, etc.