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The first time I tried to understand the subtleties of Layers and masks in a book about PS7, I was a bit confused. Like anyone, I understood the analogy of layers as transparent sheets used to show part of the underlying background and to be painted to replace parts of the background or add something new: like adding people on a background scene for example. On the other hand, I had practiced darkroom and was acquainted with masking techniques such as moving a cardboard with a hole in it to add more light (burn) a part of the image. Reading that book made it look awfully complicated. The Help section of Elements was and still is a quick reference guide and certainly not a step by step tutorial:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/PhotoshopEl ... -7f88.html
After all, there are so many edits you can do in Elements without layers that you can live happy and get excellent results ignoring them. But... you keep hearing experienced users and all pros praising the extraordinary power and magic of layers and especially adjustment layers. (See last June Newsletter).
You also hear that one of the main shortcomings of Elements is the lack of masks, and that adding them from third parties or finding a workaround is not easy.
Today, my challenge is to show you that you can achieve very quickly an interesting result with an adjustment layer... and its integrated layer mask. More important, you'll see the advantages of such a procedure.

Your mission will be to transform a flower shot by turning the background into black and white (grayscale) while leaving the flower in color.
You know how to remove the colour by using the menu Enhance/Adjust Color/Hue saturation... and moving the saturation slider left to 0. The first idea will be to duplicate the background, either by the menu Layer/duplicate or by clicking on the background layer icon in the layers palette and dragging it on the small square left icon in the palette menu bar. Then remove colour as explained above. Third, choose the eraser tool to erase the flower on the duplicate, which shows the colours beneath on the background. That works, but you'll find erasing exactly is not so easy. And if you want to save your work with both layers in the Photoshop PSD format, you'll see that the second layer makes the file size much bigger.

Now, we'll use the adjustment layer way. Use the menu Layer/New adjustment layer and choose Hue/saturation. You find the same popup window you already got under the enhancement menu. So, what is the difference?
The duplicate layer contains all the background pixels and their values. The adjustment layer only contains the settings of the adjustment. It is represented as a standard layer in the layer palette because you can toggle its visibility on/off or change its opacity just like with the duplicate. Think of it as the recording of an editing step. One big advantage is that you can examine and alter the settings afterwards, changing hue or saturation if you wish. With the duplicate layer you cannot change it: only the result is shown, and if you don't take care in recording the settings by changing the layer name, you won't recall what was done. Of course, saving with an adjustment layer does not increase noticeably the file size.

However, we cannot erase in the adjustment layer like on the duplicate. As explained above, it only contains the type of adjustment used and its settings. But in the layers palette you can see that the adjustment layer comes with a blank rectangle at the right side of the icon. It is a mask. The purpose of this mask is to tell Elements which pixels should be subject to the adjustment and which should be protected. Click in this rectangle to make it active, and paint with black to protect the pixels, the flower in our example. If you go too far, paint with white. Painting with grey will hide partially... Main advantage compared to the eraser method: no fear of mistakes, of going too far, you can always fine tune your mask afterwards. And the mask does adds very little to the file size of the PSD.

A last note: while the Help section in Elements is not a tutorial, it can help you a lot, it would be a pity to ignore it totally.
Michel B
PSE6, 11,12,13.1 - LR 5.7 Windows 7 64 - OneOne Photo Perfect Suite - Canon 20D, Pana TZ6 - Fuji X100S
Most used add-ons: Elements+


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Here's one to get this rolling.

IMG_6510.jpg
IMG_6510.jpg (113.52 KiB) Viewed 2853 times
I'm playing. Here's one I did using a layer mask.
Layers-&-Mask-Exercise-#1.jpg
Layers-&-Mask-Exercise-#1.jpg (125.92 KiB) Viewed 2850 times


I have to admit, I normally just make a selection of the bit I want to keep in color, put the selection on its own layer and then convert the background to black & white, keeping the colored layer on top. Thanks for making me go about things a different way, Michel.
Sunny
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Good job Sunny!
There are generally different ways to do an edit, thank you for your contribution which is very interesting, not only because it is another good way to fulfill our mission, but because you can weigh the advantages of each method. The main problem I see is that it changes the background. It is a good habit of leaving it unchanged, which means starting with duplicating it, then proceeding like you did. The file size is heavily increased...
Your method involves a selection which may be the subject of many threads. With your selection active, activate the adjustment layer mask (alt click into the mask, which shows a blank screen with the 'marching ants' showing your selection). Menu Edit/Fill selection (with black) and your mask is ready... or nearly ready since you can still paint with black or white to fine tune.
Michel B
PSE6, 11,12,13.1 - LR 5.7 Windows 7 64 - OneOne Photo Perfect Suite - Canon 20D, Pana TZ6 - Fuji X100S
Most used add-ons: Elements+


Mes Galeries
I need to qualify my comments, Michel....when I said background, I meant background copy.....I always make a copy before doing any editing. What I didn't do is alt-click into the mask after making my selection.......I've got to go try that...it allows much more flexibility. Thank you!!!!!!! :thanks:
Sunny
My Galleries
Sunny's 12 OF 12
Canon 40D; EF 100mm f/2.8 macro USM; EF 50mm f/1.4 USM; Tamron 17-50 f/2.8; EF-S 55-250mm IS.
Believe in your heart that something wonderful is about to happen.
Thanks for taking this task on Michel! :thanks: I've used the 'spot color' technique before but never using an adjustment layer. And, I've never really thought about the impact that the method I used would have on file size. This technique (using it alone, that is) does have some limits. For example, I would have liked to have faded and blurred the B&W background a bit. But, in terms of file size, the adjustment layer approach is very effective. Thanks for sharing this technique and opening my eyes. I look forward to future 'lessons'.

I'll add my attempt to the list....

P6280033-Lesson1.jpg
P6280033-Lesson1.jpg (234.11 KiB) Viewed 2762 times
Amy

"If you do everything right the first time, you'll never learn anything new."

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I hijacked a levels adjustment layer for this

Layer-Mask-1.jpg
Layer-Mask-1.jpg (100.38 KiB) Viewed 2743 times


Rusty
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No flower...
I am still working on Colin pictures so I used him as my image.

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Used a trick I have where I created the first layer and Mask (Saturation Adjustment Layer), then created a Levels Layer to brighten up the resulting B&W image.

Did an Alt +click on the Saturation Layer Mask making it active. Select All, Edit copy, then Alt+click on the Levels Layer Mask and Edit, Paste the layer mask into the levels layer.

This produces an exact copy of the layer mask on the second layer. In CS3 you can ALt+Left CLick Drag a layer mask to copy it to another layer.

flowerb&w.jpg
flowerb&w.jpg (109.32 KiB) Viewed 2697 times
John
That really looks good, John. I'll have to try your trick.
Sunny
My Galleries
Sunny's 12 OF 12
Canon 40D; EF 100mm f/2.8 macro USM; EF 50mm f/1.4 USM; Tamron 17-50 f/2.8; EF-S 55-250mm IS.
Believe in your heart that something wonderful is about to happen.
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