One of the most common tasks in Photoshop is creating a mask on a layer. There are many ways to do this. However, I was speaking to a customer this week, and it reminded me of a great way to create a mask and also see what’s happening to the underlying layers.
This feature can be very handy to see exactly what areas of the mask are being concealed or revealed.
To do this, the ‘\’ key can be pressed when the mask itself has been created and selected. The ‘\\ key will show the mask ruby-lith as well as the underlying image, allowing you to see what’s happening to the mask as it’s being applied (This shortcut is also handy when you need to see varying levels of opaqueness in the mask).
The objective of this example in this blog will show how the mask can be created to reveal the underlying layer, and also use opacity to control the cut away sections. The mask combined with opacity will be used to control how much of the underlying layer will be shown through.
The example below includes a black to transparent gradient on the background, and a white layer above it. The numbers above the white background are the levels of opaqueness that will be used for the mask. Essentially, to revel the layer/contents underneath the white layer, a mask will need applying to it and parts of it cut away with a black brush.
Without the mask overlay
When the mask of the layer is selected and a black brush stroke is applied (notice the foreground colour below), the contents under the white layer will be revealed (each brush stroke will also have opacity amount applied (the blue number on the left), which will control how much will be revealed from the underlying layer. If a Wacom tablet/pen is used in combination with the mask, the pressure sensitivity on the nib will control the opacity of the mask reveal).
When areas of the mask are modified and the underlying contents are revealed, it can be difficult to see what’s been removed and what hasn’t. This can be tricky when working with and creating a complex mask.To see what is happening with the mask in isolation, the ALT key and a click on the mask, will show the mask in isolation (as shown below).
With the mask overlay
However, it would be handy to see the reveal and the mask at the same time . To be able to see the mask that is being created inline with the underlying layers, select the mask, then press the ‘\’ (back slash key) on the keyboard. Now when the mask is painted on using the brush, the mask will be seen along with the pixels it is revealing / concealing (the pink area below).
Once all masks have been painted (as below) the areas can easily be seen, including any feathering that has been applied and used.
You can see below in a practical example below, that when the mask is shown and the layers below are revealed at the same time. A potentially better mask with more control can be achieved.