The Art Of Selections & Masking

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Mastering selections and masking will help you take your images to the next level.

 

1. Local Adjustments In Lightroom and Camera Raw | Coming Soon

2. When To Use Lightroom’s Local Adjustment Tools | Coming Soon

3. Why Photoshop’s Local Adjustment Capabilities Are Superior To Lightroom’s | Coming Soon

4. Photoshop’s Marquee Tools 
Quick rectangular and elliptical selections.

5. Photoshop’s Lasso Selection Tools 
Go to drawing tools for irregular selections.

6. Photoshop’s Magic Wand & Quick Selection Tools 
Let Photoshop do the work for you.

7. Two Keys To Combine All Of Photoshop’s Tools 
Easily add or subtract from selections.

8. Viewing Masks 
You can see a mask in a number of ways.

9. Mask Key Commands
Key commands make masking and selections faster and easier.

10. Painting The Simplest & Most Useful Masks In Photoshop 

11. Photoshop’s Quick Mask Combines All Selection And Brush Tools

12. Eight Useful Tips For Brushing Masks In Photoshop 

13. How To Make Masking Easier With Photoshop 

14. Gradient Masks

15. Fine Tuning Gradients 
Fine tune your gradients with masking techniques.

16. Masking Hue 

17. Masking Saturation 

18. Masking Luminosity 

19. Contour Masks 

21. Edge Masks

22  Combining Masks | Coming Soon

23  Frame (11/10) | .99
Make your images stronger by locally adjusting the frame.

24  Points (11/10) | .99
Make your images stronger by locally adjusting points.

25  Lines (11/10) | .99
Make your images stronger by locally adjusting lines.

26  Planes (11/10) | .99
Make your images stronger by locally adjusting planes.

 

27. Video – Photoshop Masking Key Commands

28. Video – Photoshop Making 2 Masks For 1 Layer

29. Video – Photoshop Feathering Selections  & Masks

30. Video – Photoshop Combining Gradient Masks 

 

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Photoshop’s Need To Know Lasso Selection Tools

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The Lasso tool is best for defining highly irregular selections manually.

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The Polygonal Lasso tool is best for defining rectilinear shapes.

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The Magnetic Lasso tool uses pattern recognition to define existing contours.

Photoshop’s Lassos (Lasso, Polygonal Lasso, and Magnetic Lasso) are go to tools for drawing irregular selections.
Which Lasso tool you choose depends on the job you need to get done.
The Lasso tool is best for defining highly irregular selections manually.
Just click, hold and drag to define a selection. Draw selections in closed loops from beginning to end; if you let go of a selection half way through a shape you’re drawing a straight line will automatically be drawn from where you let go to where you started; on rare occasions this can be useful.
The Polygonal Lasso tool is best for defining rectilinear shapes.
The Polygonal lasso tool differs in that it only draws straight lines. Click, don’t hold, drag to the point you’d like to draw a straight line to and click again, then repeat until you define a closed shape. While drawing a selection, you can alternate between the Lasso and Polygonal Lasso tools by holding the Option key.
The Magnetic Lasso tool is best for taking advantage of pattern recognition to define existing contours.
The Magnetic Lasso tool is different; it uses edge detection to draw. You simply guide it roughly along a contour you’d like to define and if the contour has enough contrast the tool will find it. (Using an adjustment layer, you can temporarily boost the image’s contrast, while making a selection to help the Magnetic Lasso tool find edges more easily … and then delete the adjustment layer after the selection is complete.) If you draw too quickly with the Magnetic Lasso tool it becomes less accurate. If you find you’d like to refine the line it defines you can press the Delete key to eliminate the anchor points it makes along the way, one at a time, in the order they were made.
Remember, if you plan to feather a selection substantially you don’t need to be precise; close enough will do, so don’t waste your time making perfect selections for very general applications.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Two Powerful Keys That Will Help You Combine Photoshop’s Selection Tools

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A simple Rectangular Marquee selection.
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A second selection is added using the Shift key.
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A second selection is subtracted using the Option key.
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The intersection of two selections is created using both Option and Shift keys.
There are so many times when you make a selection in Photoshop and it’s not quite right. But if the selection just needs a little more here and/or a little less there, there’s an easy fix.
You can press the Shift key to add or the Option key to subtract a new selection to any existing selection, no matter how the existing selection was made or what tool you’re making the new selection with (Lasso, Marquee, Magic Wand, Quick Selection). Hold both the Shift and Option keys at the same time and you’ll get the intersection of the new and old selections. You can do this as many times as you like.
It’s that simple.
Sure, you can use the Add to selection, Subtract from selection, or Intersect with selection options in the top toolbar, but these key commands are easier.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Photoshop’s Marquee Tools Make Surprisingly Useful Geometric Selections

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Photoshop offers two Marquee tools (Rectangular or Elliptical) for making simple geometric selections. They’re easy to use.
Click hold and drag to define a selection.
Hold the Option key to draw from the center of the shape.
Hold the Shift key to constrain the shape to a perfect square or circle.
You might question how often you’ll use simple geometric selections, particularly in complex photographs, but you’ll be surprised. They’re excellent for quickly selecting large areas of a canvas, which can be further refined with any of the other selection tools. They’re extremely useful if you feather them heavily; targeting the center of an area then fading off gradually to create vignetting effects, either for the entire image frame or a small portion within it.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Easily Refine Any Photoshop Mask With A Brush

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You can refine any mask in Photoshop with a brush. How? Choose any Brush tool and paint on it. The Brush, Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, Eraser, Gradient, Blur, Smudge, Dodge and Burn tools all have their uses. Whether simple or complex, layer masks are just black and white images; you can do anything to a mask that you can do to a black and white image.
It’s important to remember this because you might not realized just how much you can refine a selection or mask. Sometimes tools like Quick Selection do an amazingly fast job of selecting specific image areas, but their results can be improved further with a brush. Many times the sophisticated selections made with tools like Select By Color Range (which will allow you to quickly select Shadows, Highlights, or single colors like Red, etc) end up selecting too many areas and you may want to remove some of those areas from the selected regions in a mask. Painting over those areas with a black brush is one way to do this. (By contrast painting over areas with white will remove any gray values and let the effect of a layer pass through unimpeded.) While there are many brushes you can refine them with, more often than not you’ll find yourself using a simple soft-edged brush to paint black and/or white at varying opacities. It’s a simple but powerful technique, making it extraordinarily useful.
There are many times you’ll want to manually refine a mask with a brush.
Here are a few examples.
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The edge of a contour made with the Quick Selection tool can be refined.

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A gradient can be removed from an area.

Here a gradient only affects the sky but not the mountain.

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Specific areas of a luminance mask can be removed.

Only the highlights of the lower portion of this image are affected.


Mask_Red_After

Mask_Red_Before

Specific areas of a selection made with Select By Color range can be removed.

One orange area is removed from the selection of other orange areas.

Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

How To Choose Which Photoshop Mask Color To Start With

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Image before selective adjustment.

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Image after selective adjustment (dodging).

Mask

It takes fewer white strokes than black strokes to make this mask.

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So, instead of starting with a white mask, start with a black mask.

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The layer stack.

When you’re making masks in Photoshop, you can get the job done more quickly and easily by starting with the right color mask. When you make a mask, you can start with one of two colors – white or black. What’s the difference? A white mask shows everything on a layer as if it were at 100% opacity. A black mask hides everything on a layer as if it were at 0% opacity.
So use this simple strategy when you’re brushing in image adjustments with masks.
If you want to affect most of the image, start with a white mask and add a few black brush strokes to reduce the effect in smaller areas.
If you want to affect just a few areas of an image, start with a black mask and add a few white brush strokes to show the effect in only the areas you paint on.
For even more control, you can vary the opacity of the brush strokes you make to reveal or reduce effects partially. (Keep the Opacity of the layer being masked at 100% and then you can make the opacity of different areas vary based on the brush strokes you make.)
How do you make choose the color of the mask when you make it?
You can get a white mask when you target a layer and go to the menu Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Or, simply click the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette.
Alternately, you can get a black mask when you target a layer and go to the menu Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Or, hold the option/alt key before you click the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette.
A mask is automatically created when you make an adjustment layer. By default an adjustment layer mask is white. If you want to start with at black mask instead, hold the option/alt key before you make an adjustment layer.
To make masking even more efficient, you can start with a simple selection (made with any selection tool, including the Lasso, Marquee, Magic Wand, or Quick Selection tools) and then, while the selection is still active, make a mask. If you do this, the selected areas will appear in white and everything else will be blacked out on the mask. You can then brush the mask to refine it further.
But wait, there’s more! Remember, you can always invert a mask (making black white and vice versa) by going to the menu Image > Adjustments > Invert or pressing the keys Command I. So if you forget to start with the right color mask, just invert it.
These simple techniques will save you a great deal of time.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Photoshop’s Quick Mask Combines All Selection And Brush Tools

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Edit In Standard Mode (Press Q) shows selected areas inside an active selection outline.

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Edit In Quick Mask Mode (Press Q) shows masked areas with a red overlay.

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Quick Mask Options can be activated double-clicking it.

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Quick Masks appear temporarily in the Channels palette.

Consider Photoshop’s Quick Mask feature as an easy to access nexus point that allows you to make and modify selections by efficiently moving between all selection and brush tools.
In addition to being fast and flexible, Quick Mask makes it easy to see both the image and the mask at the same time – and this view can make it easier for you to make more precise selections and masks. When you’re in mask mode, you’ll see the mask as a transparent red overlaying the image. You can change the color of the overlay and its opacity with the window activated by double-clicking on the Quick Mask icon. This is particularly useful when masking images with red colors.
When you use Quick Mask you can start with either a selection or a mask.
To start with a brush tool, click on the Quick Mask icon and you’ll see a temporary (It’s title will be in italics.) alpha-channel appear in the Channels palette. Use a black brush and you’ll see the masked areas appear over the image in a transparent color. When you’re finished brushing, click once again on the Quick Mask icon and the mask will become a selection; the temporary alpha-channel will disappear, so if you want to save your work click the Save selection as channel icon or use the menu item Select > Save Selection; you can tell the resulting alpha-channel is permanent because its title is not italicized.
Or, you can start with a selection before clicking on the Quick Mask icon and using a brush to make modifications. When you’re done click on the icon again to return to selection mode and save the results.
You can move back and forth as many times as you like between selection tools and brush tools to create any result you desire. That’s the beauty of Quick Mask feature. When you hit the limits of one tool you can move to another.
Just remember, after you finish refining a selection, if you want to use it later, save it. And if you save many results along the way to a final solution, delete the ones you don’t plan on using again, so that you don’t get confused with too many choices.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

8 Useful Tips For Brushing Masks In Photoshop

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Some tools in Photoshop make the marks for you, like the Gradient Tool and Paths.

When it comes to masking, there’s no reason to fear drawing in Photoshop. Often, it amounts to little more than tracing. Plus, the History palette gives you an unlimited number of undo’s and redo’s. Still, there a number of painting strategies that can help you make masks more efficiently and precisely.
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Use colors other than true black and white only when you want to reduce opacity.

Keep it black and white.
Before you start painting masks, use the reset icon to make sure you’re painting with a true black and a true white. It’s not uncommon to find out too late that you’ve been painting with some other shade of gray. If you find out too late, you may be able to modify the contrast of the mask by applying an adjustment like Levels or Curves.
Illustrate
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Watch for unevenness created by scrubbing with too small a brush.

Check for uniformity.
It’s a good idea to check masks (Option click the mask to see it. Do that again to hide it.) for uniformity and to eliminate (Fill, brush, or filter.) unintended gaps between brush strokes (black specks in a white field, white specks in a black field) and unintended unevenness when brushing with opacities lower than 100%. Remember, this speckled appearance can happen not only when brushing but also when the Magic Wand Tool or Color Range has been used as the foundation for a selection.
Fill broad areas.
Avoid painting broad areas. Instead, select and fill them. Filling an area ensures that it will be uniform, where building up multiple overlapping brush strokes sometimes leads to uneven results. You don’t have to precisely select the edges of broad area you’d like to fill; after the lion’s share of the work is done, you can refine areas that require more care with a brush.
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Paint with the edge of the brush except for those rare occasions you need to paint with its center, then use the caps lock cross hair .

Be mindful of the edge of a brush.
The appearance of a brush will help you better see the marks you make. Normal Brush Tip (Preferences > Displays and Cursors) will show you the circumference of a brush allowing you to see the placement of its edges. You can press the Caps Lock key to change this to a cross hair that will pinpoint its center when necessary.
Use soft-edged brushes when you’re painting general areas. The feathered edges will blend into one another. Use hard-edge brushes when painting along specific contours. You’ll see the accuracy of your marks as you make them. When you’ve finished, you can soften them more precisely (Favor using Properties > Feather; you can reset the values at any time. Use the Blur tool for local effects.)
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Key commands make repetitive actions quicker and easier.

Use key commands.
Key commands make repetitive tasks easier. You’ll use these a lot. Use the X key to reverse foreground and background colors. Use the bracket keys to make a brush smaller ( [ ) or larger ( ] ). Use the Shift and bracket keys to make a brush softer ( [ ) or harder ( ] ). Use the number keys to change the opacity of a brush; press 1 for 10%, 2 for 20%, 3 for 30%, etc.
Get a list of useful masking key commands here.
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The History palette is great for multiple global undos.

The History Brush tool is great for undoing just one portion of an image.

Use the History Brush for local undos.
The History Brush tool can be very helpful when you want to undo changes in one area only. In the History palette, step back in history states to find a state you’d like to return to in one area; check the icon to the left of that state to set the source for the brush; return to the most current state; and use the History brush to paint back to a desired state in your file’s timeline.
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Painting masks with a series of successive straight lines yields surprisingly good results quickly, even for contours that aren’t straight.

Start rough, then refine.
Draftsmen often “block in” a contour, using a series of straight marks that cut around a contour in progressively finer increments rather than trying to draw it perfectly the first time. It’s highly efficient. It also takes the wobble out of handmade marks. You can draw a straight line with any brush by clicking once, letting go, moving to another point, holding the Shift key, and clicking a second time.
Illustrate

Mask_Corner_425 Three strokes can fill a corner precisely; start by overpainting with the first stroke, then erase the excess with two more strokes.

Paint over corners, not into them.
Avoid painting yourself into a corner; instead, paint over a corner. It’s challenging and inefficient to paint into corners with a series of increasingly smaller brushes.
Instead, you can cut a corner with three strokes; with the first stroke paint over the area broadly; using the edge of an eraser (or a brush with the inverse color), make a second stroke to paint away the overspill on one side of the corner and finish the job with a third stroke for the overspill on the second side of the corner.
Adopt these simple practices and you’ll find that you’ll make better masks and make them faster too.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Painting The Simplest & Most Useful Masks In Photoshop

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So often, it’s the simplest things that are the most often used and so the most useful. You may find that you use this very simple three-step technique for a majority of the masks you make in Photoshop. (I do.)
1 In the Layers palette, highlight the layer you want to affect.
2 Click on the mask icon. (It looks like a Japanese flag.)
3 Use a brush to paint over the areas you want to remove an effect from.
The marks you make with a brush will determine how broad or precise your mask becomes. While you can use any brush tool, a simple round feathered brush is the most useful. Vary the brush size as needed. (You can use the square bracket keys to quickly make your brush smaller or larger.) Zoom in or out as needed.
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Brush marks can vary in size and shape.

To partially mask areas vary the opacity of the brush (You can use the number keys to quickly change a brush’s opacity.) You can stroke an area multiple times to build up a desired effect.
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You can control the opacity of any brush.

If you make a mistake, step back in history with the History palette. Or, switch the foreground and background colors (Use the X key to quickly toggle them.) and paint with the opposite color; the Eraser tool, a brush, essentially paints with the current background color. Masks can be made of any shade of gray between black and white but they cannot contain saturated color; while you’re painting, if you see a foreground color that is a saturated hue you’re painting on a layer not a mask. Again, stepping back in time with the History palette will provide you with an easy do over.
While you’re brushing, favor soft-edged brushes; hard-edged brushes may introduce unwanted contours.

Mask_Brush_HardnessThe edges of brushes can be hard or soft.

If you plan to make a mask that eliminates a layer’s effect for a majority of an image’s area, it’s faster to start with a black mask and use a white brush to paint the layer’s effect into the other smaller areas. You can start with a black mask by holding the Option key when you click the mask icon. Or, you can use the menu command Layer > Add A Layer > Hide All. Or, you can fill a mask with any color – in this case black. All of these methods will achieve the same result.
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Masks can start with a white or black base.

While there are many methods that can be used to modify a mask after it has been created brushing remains the most common and is often the most effective way.
You might be tempted to think that this technique is too easy and only for beginners – don’t. Simple is not simplistic. This is a go to technique everyone uses, beginner and master alike. Remember, you can achieve much greater precision with a mask and a brush than anything you can achieve in the analog darkroom.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.