Elements Creative Masking


Creative Masking

Before you proceed with this creative masking tutorial, you might like to check out your understanding of layers. The blending mode and opacity values change the way in which the pixels in the upper layer control the pixels in the lower layer.

In a similar fashion, masks change the way in which the pixels in the upper layer control the visibility of the pixels in the lower layer.

In this tutorial, we'll look at
  • What is a mask, exactly?
  • Different ways of making a mask.
  • How to use a mask.
  • Saving a mask to use later.
  • Other uses for the masks you might have saved.
I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 with the plugin Elements XXL 2.5 from The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com/products/elementsxxl/).

This plugin is fabulous and it allows you to access the powerful parts of the program which Adobe has to have in  place for the software to run but they’ve not given you the dialogue boxes to access them. Some other powerful stuff in there too. It’s worth a look to unleash the potential of Elements. We’ll not need it for the basic stuff in this tutorial. If you own Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 or older,

Elements XXL will allow you to access many aspects of layering and masking which are discussed in this tutorial.

For this tutorial you'll need ...

  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 or later (or an earlier version with access to Elements XXL).
  • Some ready-made masks or something to make them from (details in the tutorial).
  • Opaque or semi-opaque items and a flatbed scanner are useful for mask creation.
  • You can use images with a bit of manipulation; there are sites offering ready-made masks.

A few images which are sympathetic to each other and you’d like to blend together

Imagination

What Is A Mask?


A mask is part of a layer and is made from black and white pixels only.  You append or add a mask to the layer on which it is to operate, just like you'd add an adjustment layer like you’d do in the Layer menu or through the layers dialogue buttons.  An adjustment layer always includes a layer mask.

When you add a mask to a layer the mask is white in colour

The white part of the mask prevents any image information from the bottom layer showing
through into the top layer and the black part of the mask (painted onto the white) allows image information to show through from the lower layer, hence the digital editing rule "white conceals and black reaveals".

So in an image made from two image layers, you'd normally attach the mask to the top layer.
The black part of the mask prevents any image information showing from the top layer, but the
image directly below it in the bottom layer is visible. The white part of the mask shows image
information from the top layer, but the image directly below it in the bottom layer is not visible.

Things become a little more interesting when you paint shades of grey on the mask; the effect is just like setting the opacity of a blend mode to a value less than 100%.

How To Make A Mask

  1. By painting directly onto the mask layer.
  2. From a selection chosen by you.
  3. From a selection generated by the software.
  4. Imported from a third party.
  5. Imported from a file generated earlier by you.
  6. From scanned or photographed objects.
Making a simple frame as an introduction to creative masking


Load an image into Adobe Photoshop Elements - this one will do quite nicely ...

creative masking original image


 Now add an empty layer - Layer > New > Layer.

(Did you know you can make the Layers Thumbnails larger if you find them too small?    Go to the top right part of the layers palette (outlined in red) and click on it.  On the bottom of the panel select Panel Options and on the Panel Options screen choose the size of layer view you like.)  


creative masks panel options


A hatched thumbnail is shown in the layers palette (as above) to indicate a transparent layer has been added. Because the layer is transparent the bottom layer remains visible

With white as the foreground colour use the Paint Bucket to fill the layer with white.  Alternatively you can go to Edit > Fill and select Contents: White.

creative mask reveal mask
The image is covered by white paint and the image disappears

Make sure this top layer remains
selected and then Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All.

This adds a mask to the top layer hiding its contents so the background layer or lower layer is again revealed.



Load up a simple mask. I’ve chosen a free download mask from the web (perhaps some additional information on this if you've got it) and I’d advise that a simple search is the place to go for your first creative masking attempts.

creative masks pastedSelect > All and then Edit > Copy Select the image you are masking.ALT-left-mouse-click on the mask to activate it

CTRL-V to paste the mask image

To resize the mask image, click onto the move tool, then the mask image within the workspace
and use the handles to re-size it

A white centred mask is the ‘wrong’ configuration, so  handles - I got somewhat lost here

Click onto the mask

CTRL-I inverts the mask to ‘black on white’

When you’re happy with the result, the green ‘tick’ confirms. Then as you click on the background layer, the masked image is revealed as a picture on a white background. If you
want to have a different coloured background, simply add a coloured fill as you create the top
layer.

creative masking after applying mask

Painting directly and using other images to make the mask layer

Brush
creative masking heptagon mask
heptagon mask

You can make a painted mask very easily in Adobe Photoshop Elements, save it, edit it and use it many times. The brushes and polygon tool make this a simple task

The size of mask is important but not overly so. A 1000px 300ppi square is a good starting point. The ‘edge’ of the masked area needs thought. Brushed images can be hard or soft at the transition point between black and white; the polygon will give a hard edge which may need to be softened.

The angular configuration (rotation) of the mask and its horizontal and vertical location may need changing.

The Move Tool has all of these features which will allow perfect positioning.

Image > Size > Canvas Size will let you add to the mask should you need to make the surrounding larger. The best methodology is to make a white background and paint in black or grey in the locations in which you want to ‘punch a hole’ in the top layer to reveal the one below it.

The method to apply the mask is similar to the one described above.

Load the two images and the mask image

brush mask layer 1

brush mask layer 2

Drag one of the images onto the other image in the workspace. Make sure this top layer remains
selected.

Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All

This will add a mask to the top layer hiding its contents so the background layer or lower layer is again revealed.

Click onto the mask image you want to use.

Select > All

Edit > Copy

Select the image you are masking.  ALT-click on the mask to activate it and CTRL-V to paste the mask image.

brush mask layers

To resize the mask image, click onto the move tool, then the mask image within the workspace and use the handles to re-size it

A white centred mask is the ‘wrong’ configuration, so Click onto the mask CTRL-I inverts the mask to ‘black on white’

When you’re happy with the result, the green ‘tick’ confirms.

brush mask layer

I’ve chosen Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 with Elements XXL2.5 to make my illustration. Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 can’t achieve this on its own; Elements XXL allows you access to a finer

Black and White conversion.

The leaves were scanned on a flatbed scanner; in Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 with Elements XXL2.5 the mask was made from this image; the layers were created;  the layer mask was added.

I’d give Elements XXL2.5 from http://www.thepluginsite.com/index.html very serious consideration if I wanted to unleash the full potential of Adobe Photoshop Elements, especially early versions.


creative mask leaf for mask



creative mask paistshop 7 mask



creative mask masked image







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