Photoshop Elements – use it right, and you could spend lots of timing painting on layer masks, right?
That’s why every time-saving tip helps!
When using layer masks, you know that white reveals and black conceals. So each part of a layer mask that is white corresponds to an area of the photo where the effect of this layer is showing. And every black part of a layer mask corresponds to an area of the photo where the effect is hidden.
Depending on the effect you are working on, most of your image could be white, or most of it could be black.
Take this photo, for example. I like the soft feeling it has and don’t want to sharpen it, except for the eyes.
So, I add a sharpening layer and want to constrain the effect to just the eyes. What color will most of my mask be?
Think about it. Stop reading until it clicks.
Got it? Most of your mask will be black, and only two small areas corresponding to the eyes will be white, just like this:
But wouldn’t it be quicker if you could start with a black mask and just paint over the eyes in white? Guess what? You can! A black mask is called an inverted mask.
There are a couple of ways to get a black mask. First off, if you have a recent version of PSE that has the layer mask button, you can add a black mask by holding down the alt or option button while clicking on the Add a Mask button.
If you’ve already added the mask, you can invert it by typing command/control + i while the mask is active for editing. Don’t know if your mask is active for editing? Click on it and ensure that it has an outline around it like the mask on the Sharpening layer in the shot above.
Now, you get extra credit if you remember from high school math that to invert something means to make it its opposite. Inverting a mask is the same thing. If I were to take the mask above (all black with the eyes showing through in white) and invert it, I would get a white mask with the eyes covered in black. This would be great if I wanted to soften everything in the image except the eyes. It would look like the Softening mask in the image below.
How did I do that? First, I copied the mask from the sharpening layer to a mask on the softening layer, and then I inverted it. Easy peasy, with only a minimum of painting involved.
So, just remember that inverting a mask makes it the opposite of what it was. If it’s all black, it will become all white. If it has both black and white areas, they will be flip flopped.
Now, do you see the red “Mask Not active” arrow in the screen shot above? What happens if you type the invert shortcut (control/command + i) when the mask isn’t active? See below.