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Photoshop Elements > Layers >

Masking >

Masking a Layer

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A related tutorial is the Anything-you-want Brush.

When?

Mask a layer when you want to use only parts of the masked layer.

For example, let's say you're editing the above portrait.

You want to blur parts of the face.

You don't want to blur the flowers, eyes, tip of the nose, and mouth.

Be sure to check off as you go along.

Get Going

1) Edit the Background copy layer using, say, the Smooth Skin, Quickly tutorial.

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The smooth-skin effect is applied to all of the pixels on the Background copy layer.

But, you don't want the smoothing effect on the flowers, eyes, tip of the nose, or mouth.

2) Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

3) Click the Add layer mask icon at the top of the layers stack.

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The mask will appear in the Background copy layer.

The blue border around the mask thumbnail means it's selected.

By default, the mask is white.

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Because the mask is white, nothing changes.

All of the pixels in the Background copy layer are visible.

All of the smooth-skin effect on the Background copy layer is visible.

You can now remove the smooth-skin effect from the flowers, eyes, and mouth, by brushing with black.

4) Select the Brush tool.

5) Make sure it's feathered.

If you haven't already done so, go to Feathered Brush.

6) Make sure the foreground color is black.

If you haven't already, go to Foreground & Background Colors.

7) Brush the areas on the photograph (not the mask) where you don't want the smooth-skin effect.

Look at the mask.

Where you brushed with black on the photograph is visible on the mask.

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Fill with Black

In some situations, it may be easier to block the Background copy layer.

You fill the mask with black.

When you fill the mask with black, all of the pixels on the Background copy layer will be hidden.

The smooth-skin effect on the Background copy layer won't be visible.

Do the following.

1) If you did the above exercise, delete the Background copy layer.

2) Create a new Background copy layer and create a mask in the layer, as described above in step #3.

3) If the mask in the Background copy layer doesn't have a blue border, click the mask thumbnail.

4) Press Ctrl + i.

The mask thumbnail changes from white to black.

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All of the pixels in the Background copy layer are hidden.

The smooth-skin effect has disappeared.

You can now brush the smooth-skin effect on the forehead and elsewhere.

5) Select the Brush tool.

6) Make sure it's feathered.

If you haven't already done so, go to Feathered Brush.

7) Make sure the foreground color is white.

If you haven't already, go to Foreground & Background Colors.

8) Make sure the mask is selected in the Background copy layer (blue border).

9) Brush the areas on the photograph where you want the smooth skin effect.

Look at the mask.

Where you brushed with white is visible on the mask.

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Finer Control

Shades of Gray

White reveals the entire Background copy layer.

Black blocks the entire Background copy layer.

You can brush with shades of gray.

Lighter shades of gray reveal most of the Background copy layer.

Darker shades of gray block more of the Background copy layer.

Brush Opacity

Instead of changing to different shades of gray, you can change the opacity of the Brush tool in options bar/Tool Options.

Make sure you:

• Have black (mask is white) or white (mask is black) on the Brush tool.

• Are changing the opacity in options bar/Tool Options, not at the top of the layers stack.

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Yes

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No

Be sure to change the opacity of the Brush tool, in options bar/Tool Options, back to 100% when finished.