Clipping Masks Revealed! An easy way to understand and use clipping masks in Photoshop CC

July 23, 2014  •  1 Comment

Wedding photo editing must be fast because there are sooooooo many pictures!  But it also has to be stunning.   We need to stand out from the crowd of cell phone imagery if we want to stay in business, right?  Lightroom alone won't cut it.  We need to learn Photoshop. Fast Photoshop.


Here is a very beautiful moment that my second shooter captured of the bride looking at her friends, who were setting up the chuppa before the wedding.  There are two things that grabbed my attention away from the subject, and I'm going to show you very, very fast ways to deal with them. I could fiddle with a bunch of sliders and eyedroppers and lassos and stuff, but that is not fast.  I took this straight from the Photo Mechanic sort to Photoshop for a sneak peek to the couple.  Zero Lightroom adjusting required.  



The first thing I see is green and purple fringing, which drives me batty, because I am terrible at getting rid of it.  

So after selecting 'remove chromatic aberration' in the Camera Raw Filter, and I still see fringe, the photo becomes a black and white. 


Problem One solved by doing nothing about it!  That's my favorite solution.  But I'm going to do the B&W conversion last.   There are a few things I like to do using all the color data in the file.  First, I want to crop (c) the exit sign so it's not recognizable. Even though it's very blurry, I don't like it.



Easy!  But this creates the second problem:  a giant white rectangle in the lower left. Very distracting.  Here's where the clipping mask comes in.  If you don't know what a clipping mask is that's OK.  I didn't figure them out for years.  I kept thinking the word 'clipping' had something to do with snipping something out of the mask or the image, like clipping a coupon, heh heh.  What it could be called is 'paper clip tool', because that's exactly what a clipping mask is.  It 'paper clips' one layer to another, and says: "any adjustment on the top layer will only show up where these two are the same".  It will be clearer in a minute.  Back to this big white rectangle:  I make a copy of the original image, (command-j), then grab the rectangle with the quick selection brush (w), feather the edges 8 pixels ('shift' &' fn' together, then 'f6'), and then make a copy of the selection on its own layer (command-j):

I sandwich this selection layer between the two copies of the original image by just grabbing and moving Layer 1 copy up, and then I clip the top copy to the middle layer.  I will let you figure out the fast way by researching it, but the slow way is to right-click on the top layer and choose 'create clipping mask'..

Do you notice anything?  The top layer doesn't have a white rectangle.  Why? 

Because I used a soft brush (b) with sampled colors from the area (option-click on the color you want in the photo), filled it in, and it took about 3 seconds. The top layer is 'paper-clipped' to the next, the one of just the white area.  So the paint will only show up in the top layer within that space.  I don't have to worry about getting any brown on her arm or anywhere else.  It will only show on top wherever it matches the layer below.  I can paint fast and messy, and not worry.  Problem solved FAST.  But now there's a new problem.  The painted area is flat and smooth on the left- no grain or depth like the right side.  This is always how retouching goes, right?


Another quick fix!  Make a copy of everything and merge it into a new flat layer, and then make another new layer - blank - and fill it with 50% gray.​There are shortcuts for all of these steps, and I encourage you to learn them on your own!  That's how it will become knowledge.  OK, Ok I'll tell.  

New merged layer:  Select the top layer and hit shift, option, command, and E together.  

New blank layer:  Hit shift, option, command and N.

Fill it with gray:  Press Shift with Delete, then choose 50% gray from the pop-up window.  

It takes 5 seconds.  Then go Filter: Noise: Add Noise.  If you have a full-sized RAW file, you're looking for around 9% noise, monochromatic.  Oh man, now your picture is just gray noise!  

No prob:  Change the blend mode of the gray layer from Normal to Soft Light.


Now we have a color image with beautiful grain, almost ready for black and white editing!  In Layer 4 I took care of the flyaway hair, (1 minute) but that's a whole other tutorial.  In fact, I will post a fast fly-away tutorial next week.  Definitely do grain right before B&W conversion.  Everything else should be done before grain.  And no, I do not rename my layers, because that is not fast.

After I do my secret black and white stuff, here is the final image:


Not too secret, actually.  In the most amazing B&W editor of all time, Silver Efx Pro 2 from the incredible Nik CollectionI just brought up the darkness in the hair with one control point, and added a teense of sepia and a white border.  I picked a warm sepia so the black and whites will match the warm wood tones of the color images.  This whole picture took 5 minutes to edit.  I hope you find this tutorial insightful!  Feel free to leave questions or comments.  Try out clipping masks, they're fast!


NEXT WEEK:  Fast Photoshop:  Fly away, Hair!  A very fast fix for tiny distractions using a stupidly easy method..







Neck Joint Service(non-registered)
This is a superb tutorial on using clipping masks in Photoshop. I have never read such an insightful post. This post is very useful and helpful for beginner and expert graphic designers. Thanks for this. Hope you’ll keep posting.
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