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Clipping Masks

Lesson 5 from: How to Work Faster in Adobe Photoshop CC

Chris Knight

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Lesson Info

5. Clipping Masks

Next Lesson: Blend Modes

Lesson Info

Clipping Masks

including masks or something that changed. I don't use this lightly. They changed my life. It changed my life when I when I figured out how to use them and what they were. I remember going through and just making a mask upon a mask upon a mask when I had to bring in different elements compositing stuff together. And, man, was it just awful. It was awful. When when you when you spend a whole lot of time cutting something out and then you have to keep doing it over and over again, Um, maybe before you learn how to load things a selections and duplicate masks. But then what happens if you move the initial object and you have to move the next mask? And it's just it's a mess. Fortunately, there's a much easier way, and it's something called a clipping mask and a clipping mask. You can use this this three different ways. You can create a clipping mask. You can use the shortcut, which you mentioned earlier. Command option G on the Mac or control Alton G. On the PC. You can option click betwee...

n layers on Matt on a mask so you can optionally putting later on a Mac, or you can also click between layers on a PC, or you could just go to right click and create clipping mask, and I'm gonna show you how to do all of those. They all get you to the same place. And what makes a clipping mask so amazing is it allows you to take a layer or an adjustment and attach it to immediately what is below it. And that may be a layer, or it may be a group. It works for both. You can also stack clipping masks so you can have 10 different adjustment layers attached to one object down here and this one object. You may have spent 20 minutes on cutting out, and you don't have to do that again. And it's gonna be perfect every time. So let me show you how that works. Now, what I've got here is, uh, this man composited onto the background and the relatively close in tone, but they're not quite exact. So we want to match those to make that composite a little bit more realistic and to kind of give you an idea about what's actually happening in here. I've got three layers. Okay, so I've got my background layer, which is hello. I have the man, which is this guy here. And then right on top of it, I happen to have a layer where I created hair and it's very subtle. I'm going to show you this very quickly. What I have here it is I painted in here when you are. This guy's actually shot, not in a studio. He was pretty much where he waas was just up against the yellow railing and so I didn't want the yellow railing in the shot, so I took two cup pictures of him. And then after he got up, I went behind him and I took several plates of the background. He was actually in front of what was there, but there was a yellow railing. It was on a on the Staten Island ferry. And the way when you're compositing someone that has a lot of hair, I find very easy way to do. This is your first Make your pass where you come through and you cut your subject out the best as you can. But you're not really getting those little pieces of hair and So on a composite like this, I actually come in and I draw all these pieces of hair manually. And this is ah, a lot easier when you have a tablet versus a stylist or a mouse. Because the easiest way to do this just a za total aside, I'm gonna show you here real quick. It's gonna create a new layer, so you'll notice that by default. A brush kind of looks like this, right? It's broad Brunt on both ends. There we go. OK, but the second couple of brushes right here. So these are the first to the 2nd 2 were tapered and based off pressure. If I come and I do something like that, it's gonna make a point. Now if I have this brush really small starts to look like a hair, and you have to kind of figure out what it is based on your your subject and what color that hair is. And hair is different colors, so you have to constantly change and everything else but basically what I would do when I'm doing these composites. I just come through and I draw the hair all over the edge and they make brushes that make this a little bit easier. But all of this was done by hand. It only took me about five minutes, and it makes the composite a lot more realistic. So when you're doing these crazy composites or composites of any kind, one of most fundamentally important parts of a composite is going to be how good your selection is. And so, in this particular case, spent a lot of time using the pen tool and, you know, kind of brushing a lot of this end to make ah, good edge. And once I had that, then I made the hair, and that created both of those elements to create a singular object. Now, just cause I don't want to work destructively, I'm not gonna paint on the layer itself because I didn't know if it was gonna be successful or how how heavy handed I needed it to be. I created that hair on a different layer, and I find this is usually one of the more successful ways to do this particular step. Now, generally speaking, if I looked here and I was like, you know, the guy is a little bit too dark compared to the background. So if I wanted to come in and just make a curve adjustment layer and darken it down like I could come through here and I'd have to mask it in manually and this could be very time consuming and frustrating, and it may not be particularly good, that's frustrating, right? I could also take this this mask. I can load it as a selection, which is command click, and then I could create a curve adjustment layer and I could darken it down. And that's better because it uses the exact same shape that I already made, and that's great. But what happens if I decide? You know, I just I want to move him a little bit more. What now? It doesn't work. Now. I have to go move the other thing. And that's a pain. Fear not. There is an easier way. I said that you could make a clipping mask attach to a layer or a group because I have both of these objects in a group. I'm gonna apply it to group, but it doesn't matter. You can pretend this is one thing. I'm gonna critic curve adjustment layer, and I'm gonna make it brighter? Oh, no, it's on the whole image, but command option G makes it clip to the group. And it's gonna affect both of these objects in the group together is a singular object, and it's gonna make my cut out perfect. And if I want to move the man, it stays the same. If I want to resize it, it stays the same. Everything stays the same. Command option G. You can also option click between layers to turn it on and off. Just click right there, or you can right click and go to create clipping mask all three of those options. I like command option G. I find that's the quickest. But I do find that some people really like the option. Click in between layers and you can stack these. You're like, Oh, you know what? I want to adjust the color so I'll do another one. Another command option, G. Maybe you want to add a little bit more. You know, this or this or whatever the case may be. All of my changes air now just on him, and this is why we work non destructively so I can change all of this at any given time. Now let's say the opposite is true. You want to come and you want to make an adjustment to the background. The benefit of layers and layer hierarchy is that we can insert adjustments at any point in the process so I can create an adjustment when a dark in that background down no longer effects my guy. And then I have clipping masks to the top group, and I could do anything I want to him separately. And all I have to do is spend the time to cut him out once, and you don't have to cut him out again. The application for this is limitless. Let's say you bring in a face from one image into another image, and the lighting was just a little bit different. Equip it, change it very, very quick. Cut it out once and you're good. Clipping masks are one of the most useful things you can do to save yourself time when you need to make very specific changes, something you've already spent a lot of time cutting out

Ratings and Reviews


Amazing, thanks for share so many easy steps, that really can improve a photo. Thanks for share your knwoledge, and thanks for make a very productive 1 hour. Hope to see more of you.

Melville McLean

CreativeLive is wise to offer us a variety of approaches using teachers from several different backgrounds that can better cover the range of interests and background of its students. Chris Knight brings a lot to the table that distinguishes him. First of all he is exceptionally bright and has both a deep knowledge and appreciation of Art History that both informs his own fine art but also enriches his teaching for us. He is an exceptional teacher, very well organized and concise. He breaks his classes down into a logical succession of parts and appears to have a solid background in teaching as well as being IMO, a talented artist. They do not necessarily come together in the same individual but the combination produces an approach that I enjoy very much. I will continue to follow his class offerings and his career. Highly recommended.


Chris is in the league of most confident & accomplished instructors who is sharing his work flow in bits and pieces. He is brilliant. I wish he had longer and more classes.

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