Photoshop: Basic Masking I

Hello everyone,

My last article explained how I processed daffodils in Adobe Lightroom.  Now I would like to talk about one of the main tools that I use in Photoshop, “Masking”. Today’s example is an easy fix to the background of the example image. I can later write about more detailed masking but I thought since this is my first post about masking let’s make it easy.

Since Macro photography is a style of photography that puts the subject right up in your face kind of thing, a little change will make a big difference to the image. When I photograph for customers, they have a vision of what they want and sometimes during the process, their vision changes.  So we work together to make the project perfect for both of us and to do this many times, I need to mask areas to make changes.  You really need to learn a variety of Photoshop skills but for me masking is a huge asset for my customers and me.

Basically, think of Layer Masking as masking tape.  If you want to paint on something, you can mask the area that you want to paint on or not paint on.  There are many ways to mask and if you have read my blog before, I like it short and simple, so here is one easy way to mask.

What I did:

I went to my levels and curves to change the background to what I wanted.  It will change the whole photograph but don’t freak out; you are going to mask out some of the changes 🙂

If you noticed the right bottom side had a shadow,  I wanted that out of the frame so I change this area with the curves.  (Just a side note)

Now to mask:

Pick a brush size – this is what you’re going to use to make/paint the mask.  You will paint black to mask/hide what you just did to the photograph and use white to erase the mask.  Black is the tape; white is removing the tape.

As you can see, there are a variety of brushes and sizes.  The more you work with this the more you will learn what is best for your project.  Also, you will need to change the opacity (how much you want masked) and flow (how fast you want it to paint) because 100% may be too much change for you.

Mask – Now start painting…

Mask Inverted (side note)

Push Command “I” on your keyboard to revert what you did.  You can work this way too.

Once I completed my basic mask, I went to the channels mode to make detailed masking changes.

Double click on the mask in your channel pallet.  You will see a command of how much red (mask) you want to view.  I fluctuate the percentage as I work.

In this area use your eraser tool to erase the mask and use your paintbrush to add mask.

My basic mask:

Mask view using a less % amount:

Close-up of my mask:

Now for a couple of shortcuts:

  • I hold my space bar and click my mouse to move the photograph around for easier viewing.
  • I also change my brush size a lot by using the  [   ]  keys.
  • And if you mess up on something and want to get rid of the last thing you did, use the command Z keys, it has saved me from making some crucial mistakes in the past.

A word of advice…while you’re working on the photograph, toggle back and forth from full view to at least 100%.  I actually view my percentages larger because many of my photographs are printed large…don’t want an oopsy’s on the final photo!

Hope this helps you with some basic masking.  You can also select an area to mask and use quick mask, but I’ll talk about that on a later post.



Take care and happy Masking!



5 Comments on “Photoshop: Basic Masking I”

  1. […] usually do, so save it!  FYI… I wrote about basic masking several postings ago so check it out here for more info.  In Figure 8 you can see my mask; I always do a bit more refining in this area […]

  2. Robbi says:

    Definitely a good place to start. Love the way you show how lighter reds in the quick mask lead to more transparency in the mask. … Next step would be to show this in channels too. Good job Janice!

  3. Stancia says:

    Photoshop is an amazing tool for altering reality, but it’s only really great when you’re aware of its effects. There are several tools existing to help people detect Photoshopped images. Of them site Photoshopped Image Killer offers the best result. Unlike other forensic analysis tool, analyzes image integrity in the content level, which is more accurate and reliable.

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