Masks and Masking



Using masks and masking is a very powerful tool in Paint Shop Pro and understanding how to use them will take your photo editing and creativity to new levels.

A mask is a layer made from black and white pixels only. So, the mask can consist of shades of grey from pure white (value 255) through grey to pure black (value 0). Most times, they are pure white and pure black.

You append or add a mask above the layer on which it is to operate, just like you'd add an adjustment layer like you’d do in  Adjust > Hue/Saturation/Lightness.

The black part of the mask prevents any image information showing.

The white part of the mask allows image information to show through.

Before you proceed with this tutorial, you might like to checkout your understanding of layers.

Paint Shop Layers
Paint Shop Mask Layers

The Layer Blending Modes and Layer opacity values change the way in which the pixels in the upper layer control the pixels in the lower layer.  In a similar fashion, Mask Layers change the way in which the pixels in the upper layer control the pixels in the lower layer.

In this tutorial, we'll look at
  • What a mask is
  • Ways of making a mask
  • How to use a mask
  • Saving a mask to use later
  • Other uses for the masks you might have kept

A Graduated Mask

Apart from showing the principle of masking, this masking method lets you blend one idea into another.

So in an image made from two layers, you'd normally put the mask above 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 the mask has shades of grey; the effect is just like setting the opacity of a blend mode to a value less than 100%.

If you click onto the materials palette ...


masking materials palette


The materials properties dialogue box opens.  Clicking onto the gradients tab the gradient editor opens the Gradient Editor ...


masking gradient editor


This is the gradient I generated and then saved as a JPG file for later.  More details of how to do that bit later.


masking gradient


I wanted to show that wool


masking wool


Was turned into woollen jackets (the photo had already been edited) ...


masking wpp; kaclets


The two images were placed one above each other and the gradient black and white mask added above the top image.  Notice how there is a gradual transition of one image into the other because of the gradual transition in the mask from black through grey to white.


masking with gradient


Ways To Make A Mask


  • Painting directly onto the mask layer
  • From a selection chosen by you
  • From a selection generated by the software
  • Imported from a third party
  • Imported from a file generated earlier by you
  • From scanned or photographed objects


Painting On A Mask Layer


If you paste an image above another using Edit > Copy

Switch to the other image Edit > Paste As New Layer

The top layer, the image you've just pasted, hides the bottom layer completely.  Adding a mask, by Layers > Mask layer > Hide All hides the top layer and reveals the bottom layer.

Going to the materials palette; choosing white foreground; choosing a brush; selecting the mask layer in the layers palette; and painting with your Bamboo or Intuos pen (or mouse), reveals detail from the upper image layer.

OR

By adding a mask, by Layers > Mask Layers > Show All hides the bottom layer and reveals the top layer.

Going to the materials palette; choosing white foreground; choosing a brush; selecting the mask layer in the layers palette; and painting with your Bamboo or Intuos pen (or mouse), reveals detail from the lower image layer.
 
From the same two images, in this way I painted the mask directly.


masking painted


and this was the mask I painted by hand with my Wacom tablet ...


masking painted


From A Selection


The selection tools such as the Magic Wand Tool (this lives in the Tools Toolbar) enable you to trace the shape of objects in an image layer so that they might be replaced by items from another image layer.

When you've made your selection

Layers > New Mask Layer > Hide Selection or Layers > New Mask Layer > Show Selection makes a mask in the shape of the outline you've just made. It's important to remember to deselect the area once you've made the mask otherwise your working can become problematical; the simple method is CTRL-D.

When you have your mask, it should be sitting above the area you want to see, or the area you want to hide. In the image below, I used the middle suited dummy to make a mask. The option to "Hide Selection" was chosen. The image layer of the suits was above the image layer of the wool. So the wool shows through the "hole" made in the mask layer.

Should you get your mask the wrong way round, Layers > Invert Mask or adjustment
When using this method, there are some tool controls which need consideration;
  • Feathering which controls the hardness/softness of the edges of the mask;
  • Tolerance which sets how far the mask is drawn from the object; and whether the mask is drawn on the inside or outside of the edge;
  • Model and match mode are settings which control the way in which the magic wand decides on the edge of the object.


masking freehand selection


From A Selection Generated By Software


Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Threshold provides another interesting way of drawing a mask based on the brightness of objects in an image layer. The value for the brightness is chosen and then Layers > New Mask Layer > From Image ...


masking threshold


was generated this way

Imported From A Third Party


There are some really first-rate sites offering ready-made masks as JPG images.  If you choose to use one, load the image then Layers > New Mask Layer > From image and then Layers>Load/Save mask to disk 


masking third party


was such a mask and this image


masking from third party

was made using this mask.


Retrieving the mask later is simple,

Layers > Load/Save Mask > Load Mask from Disk.


From Earlier Images Or Scanned Objects


Any opaque or semi-translucent material when scanned, or image with bold areas and not too much fussy detail can make a mask. The image will need to ...
  • Be greyscale
  • Have adjustment made to contrast and brightness
  • Have possible changes made to it by means of painting in or out using black, white or grey
  • Be saved and recalled from disk when you're ready.

How To Use A Mask


Masks control the extent to which the image in any given layer is visible.  In a two-layer image, with the blend set to normal and the opacity set to 100%, the mask is usually the top in the stack; what is directly below the white areas in the top layer is visible; what is directly below the black areas in the top layer is not visible but what is in the bottom layer is visible.

With a multiple-layer image, the best plan is to put the image with the largest area at the bottom, and the image with the smallest area at the top.  It's very much a case of working out what covers what, and which masks which areas.

When you're painting onto a mask, there's only one way to achieve a good result, and that's using a WACOM tablet, giving yourself plenty of time, and saving your work regularly.  Using a mouse for this task could be likened to attempting to paint with a brick.

Other uses for the masks you might have kept

Masks with feathered or fluffy edges, where the black edge becomes grey before it becomes white, are useful as picture frames in work which is impressionistic.


masking frame


Masks with sharply defined edges are useful as displacement maps, but this is the topic for another tutorial.


masking displacement map




Page Links

Graduated Mask

Masking Methods

Painting On A Mask

Masking From A Selection

Masking From A Software Selection

Third Party Masks

Masking From Images Or Scanned Images

How To Use A Mask








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