Layer Mask Magic - Going from Paper to Creative Overlay

with 10 Comments

Do Layer Masks give you the heebie jeebies?
I know for a fact that many Photoshop & Photoshop Elements users avoid them like the plague.
I believe that is because there are many variables when working with masks, and that makes them look like they have three heads.

Well, my friend, fear not!
With these clear, step-by-step instructions, I'll walk you through layer mask creation in easy-to-understand language. Then we'll use other ordinary tools along with the mask to create an extraordinary overlay.

I promise it won't hurt! Let's get started.

Tutorial:This complete Digi Scrap Tutorial is available to our Digital Scrapper Premier Members. If you're a member, please take a moment to log in, then just come back here and refresh this page. Not a Premier Member? Find out more information here.

Step One: Prepare Your Document

For this tutorial I'm using two papers from the Carefree kit by Amanda Heimann. This is the August 2012 Premier kit.

  • Create a new document (File > New > Blank File) the size of your scrapbook page at 300ppi.
    (Photoshop: Choose File > New to create a new document.)
  • Open two coordinating papers (File > Open) — a solid and a print. I've opened two papers from Carefree by Amanda Heiman — the August 2012 Premier kit. The two papers "coordinate" because the background of the printed paper is the same color as the solid paper.
  • Get the Move tool.
  • Holding down the Shift key, click on the solid paper and drag it onto your document.
  • In the same way, add the printed paper to your document.
  • In the Layers panel, the printed paper layer should be on top of the solid paper layer.

Step Two: Desaturate the Printed Paper (optional)

On my scrapbook page, I want the soft look of a gray overlay. If you'd rather have your overlay colored, you can skip this step.

  • In the Layers panel, make sure the printed paper layer is the active layer. It should be highlighted as in the image above.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation.
    (Photoshop: Choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.)
  • In the dialog box, drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left and click OK.

Step Three: Add a Layer Mask

Note: If your version of Photoshop Elements doesn’t have a layer mask, here’s a link where you can download a layer mask you can install, along with a video and written instructions on how to install it: http://www.digitalscrapper.com/downloads/layer-mask-workaround.zip

  • In the Layers panel, make sure the printed paper layer is the active layer.
  • In the Layers panel, click on the Add Layer Mask icon.
  • A white layer mask should have appeared to the right of the printed paper thumbnail. See the image below.

Step Four: Add a Reflected Gradient

  • In the Layers panel, the Layer Mask of the printed paper layer should be active. You know it is active when it has a black outline around it, as in the image above. Just to be sure, click on the Layer Mask. This is very critical to the success of this tutorial.
  • Press the letter D to reset the Color Chips to the mask Default of white and black. Layer masks work exclusively with white and black.
    Remember this: White reveals - Black conceals.
  • Get the Gradient tool.
  • In the Options Bar, open the Gradient Picker and choose Foreground to Background. It should be the first gradient option.
    If you do not see Foreground to Background, open the flyout menu and choose Large List. Then open it again, choose Reset Gradients and click OK.
  • In the Options Bar, click on the Reflected Gradient icon. It is the fourth icon. Mode should be Normal, Opacity 100%, and Reverse needs to be unchecked.
  • Holding down the Shift key, click in the center of your document and drag downward just a couple inches.

Step Five: Apply the Layer Mask

  • In the Layers panel, the Layer Mask of the printed paper layer should still be active.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Layer Mask > Apply.
  • In the Layer panel, change the Blending Mode of the printed paper layer to Darken. You may need to choose a different Blending Mode depending on the papers you are using. The idea is for the background of the printed paper layer to blend into the solid paper. That way just the pattern is showing.
  • In the Layers panel, reduce the Opacity of the printed paper layer until you reach a desired effect. I reduced the Opacity of my printed paper layer to 40%.

Here is my scrapbook page that features this tip. I created this layout for my August 2012 Premier video tutorial: Designer Scrapbook Pages - The Bracket Box.

I'd love to see what you can create with this tutorial in the Digi Scrap Tutorial gallery.

Credits:
Layout & Photo: Jen White
Paper & Embellishments: Carefree by Amanda Heimann
Bracket Box Background: August 2012 Premier video tutorial: Designer Scrapbook Pages - The Bracket Box
Software: Photoshop Elements 10.0 & Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or earlier)

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

10 Responses

  1. Natalie
    |

    Thank you Jen. I love it! Can’t wait to try.
    Natalie

  2. Judy Wayment
    |

    Dear Jen,
    Thanks for such a wonderful tutorial! You made it so easy. 🙂

  3. Nannette Dalton
    |

    Super fun… Something else to go play with. Thanks

  4. Woodie
    |

    Love it…just completed a page….thank you thank you!

  5. roseb
    |

    Oh boy…I always do things the hard way. Where would I be without you! Thanks again for another bright idea!

  6. Anita
    |

    Thank you so much for the very clear instructions that you always provide; and thank you very, very, very much for providing them in written form!! I love having the pdf to refer to.

  7. Grace Taylor
    |

    what a great idea. I have to use the layer mask workaround. Once I have clipped the mask to the wordpaper layer is there anything else that is different for this way of doing things?

    • Jen White
      |

      You should have no problem following the tutorial with the workaround, Grace. If you get stumped, feel free to ask questions. 🙂 xoxo

  8. annfield
    |

    THANKS! Your directions are so clear. I am excited to try them out.

  9. Christine Williams
    |

    This is fantastic! Followed your directions easily and can’t wait to do some pages. Thank you so much for sharing.