Thursday, October 9, 2014

Graphic Design 101: Layer Masking

I was sharing this technique with a friend and thought it worth outlining here on the blog. I will not reveal the full cover I was working on, but enough that you can see what I was trying to do.



Question:  How did I put the cowboy over the text and still fade it into the background image?

Answer:  That was a matter of creative layer masking.  Here's the final stack of layers.




I am blending two separate images into one. Notice the order of the layers (ignore my wrong layer numbers). Going from bottom to top:

Layer 1: Solid background
Layer 2: Background image
Layer 3: Text
Layer 4: Text
Layer 5: Cowboy
Layer 6: Dust Overlay

If you've worked with layer masking at all, using the Gradient tool on your layer mask always fades everything in the image. I didn't want this. I wanted the cowboy's arm and shoulders to be unaffected by any masking I did.

Here's how I protected that area:

1.) I made a selection of the background (the entire area above the cowboy). I saved this as a selection, in case I needed it again, then saved the file as a PSD.

2.) I inverted the selection and made my layer mask, thus excluding the background from my final image. (The cowboy should be inside the selection for this.)

3.) I inverted the selection again. (Now, the sky is once again inside the selection.) Leaving this selection active, I used the Gradient tool to fade the sky I had previously removed in step 2, back into the selection. The cowboy was not affected at all, but is protected by my selection.

Here's what my final layer mask looks like.



You can see the cowboy is a hard, precise edge. I can now put him over the text or any other object, but the area around the horse is faded softer into my other layers.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, let me know.


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Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography 
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

1 comment:

Lynnette Bonner said...

Very fun technique! Nice job!

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