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Using Layer Masks Automatically

YOU CAN AUTOMATICALLY CREATE LAYER MASKS BY MAKING A SIMPLE SELECTION

The title to this tutorial definitely doesn’t do it justice, but I couldn’t think of a better name. It’s a way to automatically create layer masks simply by copying-and-pasting photos. The amount of flexibility you get helps out a lot when combining photos, so make sure you at least flip the page to see how cool an effect this is.

Step 1. FIND A PHOTO WITH AN AREA IN IT THAT YOU’D LIKE TO REPLACE

Open two photos that you’d like to combine in some way. In this example, I’d like to place the photo of the snowy mountains inside the man’s ski goggles. There’s a little secret to layer masks that makes this really simple.

04-36_usingmasks-1a.jpg

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©FOTOLIA/CHRISTOPHE SCHMID

04-37_usingmasks-1b.jpg

Click to view larger image

©FOTOLIA/CHRISTOPHE SCHMID

Step 2. SWITCH TO THE PHOTO YOU WANT TO REPLACE IT WITH, SELECT ALL, AND COPY THE PHOTO

Start off with the photo that you want to use as the replacement area. In this example, we’re using the photo of the mountain. Choose Select>All to select everything (or press Command-A [PC: Ctrl-A]), and then choose Edit>Copy (Command-C [PC: Ctrl-C]).

Step 3. MAKE A SELECTION OF THE AREA YOU WANT TO REPLACE

Now, switch over to the photo of the man with the ski goggles. We need to first make a selection of the area we want to replace. Here, I used the Quick Selection tool (W) to click-and-drag across the lens inside the goggles to select it. If the selection spills over onto the face or the surrounding areas, press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key and click on those areas to subtract them from the selection. Press Z to get the Zoom tool if you need a larger view.

Note: Don’t forget I created a selections video tutorial for you over at www.kelbytraining.com/books/layerscs5. So, if you need a selections primer, go watch the video first.

Step 4. USE PASTE INTO TO PASTE THE MOUNTAIN INTO THE SKI GOGGLES

Now click on the Edit menu and choose Paste Special>Paste Into (remember, we copied the mountain photo in Step 2). You’ve probably never used this one before, but it’s really cool. See, it pastes the photo you have copied (in this case, the mountain) into the active selection. It makes sure that the photo only appears in the selection by creating a layer mask automatically. See how the name of this tutorial fits in? You’ve created a layer mask automatically just by using Edit>Paste Special>Paste Into.

Step 5. USE THE MOVE TOOL TO REPOSITION THE PHOTO TO BETTER FIT INTO THE GOGGLES

Here’s where it gets really cool, though: Select the Move tool from the Toolbox (or press V). Then click-and-drag the photo of the mountain around. Photoshop lets you move the photo to reposition it, but still keeps it inside the original selection. That’s because the Paste Into command created that layer mask.

Step 6. RESIZE AND WARP THE PHOTO TO MAKE IT APPEAR MORE REALISTIC

Even better, you can resize the photo without changing anything, too. Click the Edit menu and choose Free Transform (or press Command-T [PC: Ctrl-T]). Press-and-hold the Shift key and drag one of the corner handles in to make the photo fit better. Click-and-drag inside the box to move it. Then, from the Edit menu, choose Transform>Warp. Choose Inflate from the Warp pop-up menu on the left of the Options Bar, and bend the photo to match the distorted (bulged) perspective you’d probably see in the reflection of someone’s goggles. Press Return (PC: Enter) when you’re done to commit the transformation.

Step 7. ADD A GRADIENT AND REDUCE THE OPACITY OF THE REFLECTION TO MAKE IT BLEND IN

Here’s one last finishing touch that adds some depth to the flat reflection: Get the Gradient tool (G), and up in the Options Bar, choose the default Black, White gradient from the Gradient Picker, click the Linear Gradient icon, and set the Mode to Soft Light. Then, click on the Lock Transparent Pixels icon near the top left of the Layers panel. Now, click-and-drag from the left side of the goggles to the far right, so the gradient darkens on the left and brightens on the right. If you look at the layer thumbnail, we did indeed add the gradient to the entire image, but because of the layer mask, you see it only over the goggles. I also reduced the layer’s opacity to about 90% to fade the reflection a bit.

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