Photoshop Tutorial- Mystery Masks


Masks can often be a source of confusion and mystery for people when you first set out on your Photoshop journey. However, once you get the hang of them they soon become a “can’t live without it” tool. In this tutorial we will go through some of the basics and how they can be used.

What is a Mask?

Putting it simply, a mask either shows or reveals parts of a layer or a layer effect. Where the mask is White, the layer or effect it is attached too will show through. When the mask is Black, the layer or effect it’s attached to will be invisible. A big plus with this is that we can make an adjustment to part of an image in a non destructive way so the original layer remains untouched.

Lets go through a few steps to demonstrate this. If you want to download the image I’m working on to follow step by step you can find it here by right clicking and “Save image as”. And as always clicking on an image in the tutorial will make it BIG 🙂

Lets Get stuck In

Once you’ve opened the image (Or your own) than the first step is to duplicate the layer, this can be done by selecting the background layer and pressing “Ctrl J” (or Cmnd J on Mac) or by going to the menu bar and clicking LAYER>>DUPLICATE LAYER . This is generally good practice whenever you work on an image. If things go wrong at any point you can always come back to the original.

Duplicating the background layer is good practice when editing just in case you make a mistake

What we are going to do is change the colour of one of the peppers by using a mask. To do this we will first add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. This is achieved by either clicking on the icon that is a circle coloured half black and half white at the bottom of the layers tab, then selecting HUE/SATURATION from the pop up menu. Or by clicking on the HUE/SATURATION button in the Adjustments tab. The image below shows the location of the button and the Adjustments Tab.

When you do this you should see a window pop open in the adjustments tab (The location will vary depending on what version of PS you are running and how you have your workspace set up) The window will have three sliders, Labelled “Hue” “Saturation” and “Lightness” as seen in the image below. You will also see that in the Layers Tab, an adjustment layer has been created, and it already has a mask attached.

This is where you will find the Adjustments Tab and the Add Adjustment layer Button
Notice that the new Hue/Saturation layer (in Blue) has a mask already attached

We are going to use the Adjustment layer to change the colour of the peppers. As Hue and saturation only affect colour, the background will remain white. So grab the top slider and move it left or right to change the colour. I went for a nice shade of purple found at -62 on the hue slider.

If you move the Hue Slider to a value of -62 you will see the peppers go purple. The adjustment effects the whole layer because the mask is set to white

The first thing you will notice is that all the peppers are now a pretty shade of purple but we only want one purple pepper. The reason the adjustment is effecting the whole image is because the mask on that layer is white. Remember that where the mask is white it lets the effects of the layer show through. The next step is to turn the layer mask black to hide the effect from the whole image. Single click on the mask so it is selected, then Invert it. To do this either press “Ctrl+i” (Cmnd+i) or make sure the mask is selected then on the menu bar click IMAGE>>ADJUSTMENTS>>INVERT .

Make sure the Layer mask is selected by left clicking it, then invert the mask.

You will now notice that the peppers have gone back to being red, and that the layer mask icon on the adjustment layer has turned black.

Paint the effect back in.

To make just one of the peppers purple, we need to tell the layer mask where the effect needs to be visible. We do this by simply painting the mask white. Select the brush tool by clicking this icon2013-08-04_205252

Alternatively press “B” on the keyboard and select a round brush with a hardness of around 60%. Select white as the foreground colour for the brush by pressing “D” on the keyboard which is the shortcut for selecting the default colours of white for foreground and Black for background. Now make sure you have the mask selected and just paint over the pepper that you want to make purple.

Paint WHITE on the layer mask to let the effect show through

The beauty of masks is that if you make a mistake you just change your brush colour to Black (If you press “X” on the keyboard this is the shortcut to swap background/foreground colours) and paint the mask black again to hide the effect.

If you want to change the colour of another pepper then just repeat the steps, The mask controls the effect it is applied to. Add another adjustment layer by selecting Layer 1 then clicking on the Adjustment layer button (Circle half black and half white at the bottom of the layers tab) and selecting Hue/Saturation. You can change the colour again with the slider (I went for a sickly green at +67 on the hue slider) Again the adjustment effects the whole image until we invert the layer mask by selecting it and pressing “ctrl (cmnd) + i “ Now just paint white on the mask where you want the pepper to be green.

You can use as many Adjustment layers as you like, each layer comes with its own mask that allows you to control where the effect will be seen

Now at any point you can click back on an adjustment layer and change the settings and the changes will only be visible where the mask is white.

Masks are capable of doing much MUCH more than this, but hopefully this tutorial will have helped you grasp some of the basics and get your mind round how they work. In the future we will look at some more complex ways of manipulating masks. Cheers for reading guys, and please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section 🙂

Photographing Black & White Landscapes


Final Image Processed in Lightroom

Landscapes often rely on colour for impact but they don’t have to and in many cases the absence of colour can improve the image. In this post we focus on Black & White landscapes,when they work and how to capture and process them.

Personally, I find black and white landscapes work best when there is texture, shape or tone to work with, colour can distract from the image in these cases but black and white removes the distractions and focuses the eye on the key elements of the image.

Let’s look at the original RAW file

RAW file Straight out of Camera

RAW file Straight out of Camera

I took this in early afternoon in mid summer, this has resulted in harsh light and washed out colours, so why did I take it?
I was attracted to the line that run across the scene and felt it would make a good candidate for black & white.
Once the image was captured, the next stage is processing and conversion of the RAW file. I use the following method:

  • Import image into Lightroom or an image editor of your choice which allows handling of RAW files.
  • Decide on crop – I cropped out roughly a 3rd from the bottom of the image to make a panoramic style image and place the horizon on the lower 3rd
  • I have a selection of Lightroom presets. I chose the one which was closest to the final image I had visualized.
  • Add a graduated filter to gradually darken the sky from the top of the image to the horizon.
  • Add a similar graduated filter from the bottom of the image to darken the foreground and enhance highlights.
  • The combination of these filters leaves a lighter area along the horizon helping to draw the eye to this area.
  • Using the brush tool, selectively darken areas of the image to deepen shadow and give depth.
  • Using the brush tool, selectively lighten areas; the path, cloud and grasses in foreground.
  • Using clone tool remove small cloud to the left of the image

In total the processing took less than 10 minutes and has transformed a bland, featureless image into a strong image highlighting the repeating lines of the path, horizon and grass and contrasting  light and shadow.

10 Must See Stargazing Events in 2013

Geminids Meteor

Geminids Meteor – Dec 14, 2012 – By Eje Gustafsson

Many of us enjoy going out at night and look up at the night sky and dream for a while looking at the stars.

If you are, like me, you probably will be bringing your camera, and tripod to capture the beautiful night skies. Not all night skies are the same for one reason or another. I’m not just talking about light pollution in different areas, cloudy or clear skies nor am I referring to skies with different phases of the moon.

No, I’m talking about more rare events. Some happens just once each year, every few years or just once in a lift time. Events such as comets, meteor showers, eclipse of the moon, eclipse of the sun or occasions where stars are in perfect alignment for excellent viewing opportunities.

10 Must See Stargazing Events in 2013

April 25 – Partial Lunar Eclipse
May 9 – Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)
May 24-30 – Dance of the Planets
June 23 – “Supermoon” The biggest Full Moon of 2013
August 12 – Perseid meteor shower
October 18 – Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon
November 3Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun
Mid November through DecemberComet ISON
All of December – Dazzling Venus
December 13-14 – Geminids meteor shower

Eclipse of the Moon or Sun

Eclipses happen each year, and 2013 is no different with three lunar and two solar eclipses. Unfortunately, due to the nature of an Eclipse where the moon, your location on earth and the sun line up in a perfect line these phenomena tend to be highly local and short-lived, but if you are lucky and in the right area or close to such an area, so it is worth researching further on these dates a head of time.

Located in North America, than write down “total solar eclipse” on Aug. 21, 2017, in your calendar, on this date a total solar eclipse will be visible across North America.

Dance of the Planets

Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury all fit within a 5° circle, the tightest three-planet grouping that will be visible without binoculars until 2026 On may 26 they will be within a 2.5° circle.

Super moon

A “Super moon” as it has become coined in the media in recent years, is when a full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth, this will happen in the morning of June 23, 2013. The precise time when the moon is at its fullest and at it is proximity is closest to Earth differs by merely 30 minutes. This happens not long after sunrise. The moon will be close to its largest size on the evening of the 22nd, so to get a super moon picture without having to get up at the crack of dawn this would be the time to head out. The super moon this year will be 30% brighter than a normal moon.

Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower should peak on 12th of August. A waxing crescent moon should help to keep the sky dark, so the meteor shower can be seen clearly. This will likely be your best opportunity to spot meteors this year. In 2011 and 2012 the estimation was that 100 meteors fell per hour during peak, which was down from 2009 and 2010 with 173 and 142 respectively.

Comet ISON

As recently as in September 2012 a pair of Russian amateur astronomers discover the Comet ISON. Comet ISON should be visible in late November.

Dazzling Venus

Although Venus is always one of the brightest stars in the night sky, in December, Venus will be at its brightest for 2013.

Geminids Meteor Shower

The Geminids’ meteor shower produced the most meteors in recent years, last year 117 meteors per hour  at the peak and an astonishing 198 meteors per hour in 2011. Unfortunately in 2013 the Geminids’ are not expected to match even the 2012′s show due to a near-full moon all night. Early riser could get a treat as the moon sets a few hours before sunrise and will be the best viewing opportunity to catch a lot of meteors.