to Layer Masks and Blending in Photoshop
Layer masks are an amazing tool to make changes and blend layers without actually altering the layer pixels directly. They're very versatile and completely editable. Elements does not have layer masks, but it's easy to mimic the effect using the masks included with Adjustment and Fill layers. In this tutorial we will learn to use Adjustment Layers, Grouping Layers, Brushes, and the Layers Palette.
1. Open a new document, at least 200 dpi for good printing. Open two or more photographs and drag and drop with the Move tool onto your new document. Arrange and size the images in preparation to start blending them. (In the example, the flag on Layer 4 has lowered opacity from 100% to 50% to create an overlayer. Or the same effect could be achieved by changing the Blending Mode from Normal to Overlay.)
2. Add a new Adjustment Layer under the main photo. Either click Layer>New Adjustment Layer, or click the half white/half black circle on the bottom of the Layers Palette and choose any of the options. It doesn't matter which type of Adjustment Layer, they all have a mask linked to them, and that's what is important. Make sure you don't choose a Fill Layer. Just choose Levels or Brightness and click OK in the dialog box without making any setting changes. If the Adjustment Layer is not underneath the photo, drag and drop the thumbnail in the Layers Palette so it is under the photo.
3. Click Layer>Group with Previous, or Alt-Click the line separating the two thumbnails in the Layers Palette (while holding Alt, move the cursor over the separating line: a small double circle icon will appear, then click). A downward pointing arrow will then appear next to the indented photo. Now the photo is grouped with the mask layer, so anything you do to the mask will affect the photo layer.
4. Choose a brush, Airbrush, Soft Round 300, color black. Select the mask on the Adjustment Layer, denoted by the double border surrounding the mask thumbnail and the circle icon between the Layer thumbnail and the Eye icon. It is very important to brush ON the mask, not another layer!
5. Now remove the hard edges from the photo using the black airbrush. The mask thumbnail will show where you have painted.
6. Now make the brush smaller by clicking "More Options" at the top in the Options Bar, and continue to paint to cover any portions of the photo you want to blend. Also lower the opacity of the brush to cover less of the photo.
7. Now change the brush color to white, or type "X" to toggle foreground and background colors. In the example, too much of the boy's head is covered, so lets uncover some of that. Click "More Options" again to raise the Hardness of the brush to about 10-20% to give a harder edge to the brush and paint with white over the boy's head to reveal it. This is the beauty of masks! Anything can be altered! In the example there is another Adjustment Layer under the Flag overlay to mask off the portions covering the boy's face. Continue painting with white or black to cover and uncover the images until you're finished!
Notes: Layer masks are a
function of opacity. Imagine putting a piece of paper over a photograph:
the photo is hidden, and only the paper, or “mask” is visible.
Use scissors to cut a hole in the mask paper, and reveal the photo