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Photoshop CC Logo  How to make a layer mask in Photoshop CC

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Photoshop CC tutorial 14: Best way to select trees & hair.

Advanced masking – channel masks


Channel masks are a great way to select some of the more impossible selections. Like grass & hair.

  1. File > Open > Photoshop Exercise Files > Masking Advanced > Channel Mask 1.jpg.
  2. File > Open > Photoshop Exercise Files > Masking Advanced > Background 1.jpg.
  3. Have the Channel Mask 1.jpg visible.
  4. Make sure you can see your channels panel (Window > Channels).

    Channels panel in Photoshop


  5. Decide on which channel has the most contrast between the background and foreground. Do this by click on the words ‘Red’, ‘Green’ & ‘Blue.

    Note: In this case it’s the blue channel.

  6. Duplicate the Blue channel by right clicking it (PC) or Ctrl clicking (Mac).


  7. Name it ‘My Temporary Mask’.

    Name duplicate layer


  8. Click OK.
  9. Turn off the eyes on all the layers except the new mask layer ‘My Temporary Mask’.

    Channel masks


    Note: The goal now is to get a good contrast between black & white around the edges of your object. To do this we can use a couple of options. Levels, the Paint Brush and the Quick selection tool can be handy.


  10. Image > Adjustments > Levels.

    Play with the levels until you get a good contrast. You will have to experiment as every image will be different.

    levels on a channel


  11. Click OK.

    Black on the channel


    Note: Now we can use the Brush Tool to paint in some of the white parts of the tree that aren’t meant to be white.


  12. Choose the Brush Tool .
  13. Make sure your foreground colour is black.

    foreground colour is black


  14. Choose a suitable brush size and hardness.

    Brush size in photoshop cc


  15. Zoom in and paint out the white parts in the middle of the tree.

    Note: If you leave these white areas in the middle of the tree trunk they will become holes in the mask. Make sure the trunk is completely black as per the screen shot below.

    paint in channel black


  16. Choose the Load Channel as Selection button at the bottom of the Channels Panel

    load channel as selection


    Your background is now selected.


  17. Invert your selection. Selection > Inverse.

    inverse selection


  18. Choose the RGB option at the top of the Channel list.

    rgb channels


    Note: That’s it for our ‘My Temporary Mask’ channel. It’s of no more use.


  19. Switch back to your layers panel (Window > Layers).

    You can’t add a mask to a layer named ‘Background’ because they are locked by default (a photoshop’ism!)


  20. Double click the words Background in the layers panel and rename it ‘Palm’.

    name photoshop layer


  21. Choose the Add Layer Mask layer mask button button from the bottom of the Layers Panel.

    Note: This will give you your mask.


    layer mask added


  22. Choose your Move tool.
  23. Click and drag your tree from the middle of the screen up into the Background 1.jpg tab.

    photoshop tabs


  24. The image will change to the Background 1.jpg image. Keep holding your mouse down and move the tree to the centre of the Background.
  25. Finished.

    finished layer mask


    Note: When working with your mask in Photoshop ensure you have the mask selected in your layers panel and not the image itself. The mask will have a small white frame around it.


    Mask frame in Photoshop CC




Refine mask


Once you have applied a mask to a layer you can adjust the edges.

  1. Double click on the mask in the Layers Panel.
    select the layer mask

  2. Up will pop the properties panel for refining your mask.
    photoshop mask panel

  3. Click Mask Edge.
  4. You can change the view mode to see the edges more clearly.
    redefine mask edge

  5. Play with the options in the Refine Mask Panel to achieve the best result. Choose Output To: New Layer with Layer Mask.
    Redefine mask edges

  6. Before / After
    before redefine mask after redefine mask







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