Masks 501

Layers is a very powerful new feature of Paint Shop Pro 5. They give you much more control over your graphic, allow for lots of experimentation before you save your final graphic, and they save you time in making multiple versions of one graphic with different backgrounds. But, masks work totally different with layers than they did in Paint Shop Pro 4. So, first I will walk you through how masks work on layers.

Masks Basics

A mask is a template. You can make a mask out of any black and white graphic. When you load a mask into a layer, what is white will be masked and what is black will allow anything under to show through. As an example, I have created a gradient mask (on the left) and loaded it into a picture of Betty Boop with a white background layer under the picture. Notice how the black portion of the mask is allowing the white background to show through. The gradient gradually blocks out more of the background as the color progresses towards white. The picture on the right has a black background fill.


Masks Menu

  • New – This is what you choose to create a new mask either from a graphic or as a new blank mask.
  • Delete – You use this to delete the mask from the layer (more on this later).
  • Invert – This inverts a mask you have loaded. This is very conventient when you find you have your mask backward!
  • Edit – This is mostly used when you are working with a new mask on a graphic to select an area. You have to be in edit mode to make your selection.
  • View Mask – This allows you to see your masked area (it appears as a reddish color).
  • Load from Disk – You use this to load an existing mask that you have save to disk in a “msk” format.
  • Load from Alpha Channel – PSP 5 allows you to save masks within your document in an Alpha Channel. You use this command to load your mask from within the graphic.
  • Save to Disk – This command allows you to save your mask to disk.
  • Save to Alpha Channel – This command allows you to save your mask to an Alpha Channel. When you first access the masks menu you see this menu. If you already have a mask loaded, the items that are greyed out on this example will be available. This is the way the menu will look if you are creating a new mask or loading a mask from an Alpha Channel.

Masks New Menu

This is the menu that pops up when you choose Masks|New.

  • Hide All – When you choose this, your graphic disappears. You can then turn on Masks|Edit and Masks|View Mask and then start painting with white. This will reveal the graphic under the mask. I haven’t yet figured out why you would want to do this, since you are working blind!
  • Show All – This has the opposite effect. When you choose this, your graphic is viewable. When you have Edit and View Mask toggled, you paint with black the parts you want removed from your selection.
  • Hide Selection and Show Selection – The following examples illustrate these commands. You use them when you are creating a mask from a selection. The graphic on the left below shows a selection of the background area surrounding Betty Boop. The next image demonstrates “Hide Selection” and the last demonstrates “Show Selection”. The hide selection would result in the background being protected and where Betty is, the background would show through (the checkerboard is the area protected by the mask). The last would result in Betty being protected and the background area  ould be replaced by the layer under the graphic.            Once you have the configuration you want, you can then choose Masks|Save to Disk or Masks|Save to Alpha Channel.
  • From Image – This is the selection you will probably use the most often. It allows you to create a mask from an image, either on the current image you are working on, or from another open image.
  • Source Window – defaults to the current graphic. The drop down list will show you all the images currently open on your desktop.
  • Create Mask From – I am not exactly sure what these mean. I leave it at “Source Luminance” and all my masks work fine. When I figure out what the other two mean, I’ll put it in this tutorial.
  • Invert Mask – Check this box if you need to invert your mask. i.e. you have a graphic that is black on white. But you want the area that is black to be the masked area. In this case, choose “Invert Mask”.

OK, now you have the basics of masks down pat. Here’s a few hints for you.

  • When you have a mask loaded in a layer, and you delete the mask, you need to merge the mask into the layer in order to have the mask remain with the layer.
  • When you have a selection you can save the selection to an Alpha Channel. That selection then becomes available to you to either load as a mask or to load as a selection.
  • When you create a mask and save it to an Alpha Channel, you can then choose Selections|Load from Alpha Channel and use the mask as a selection (in other words, you don’t have to save it as both a mask and a selection.
  • When you have a mask loaded, you can then make a selection from the mask (Selections|From Mask), delete the mask and retain just the selection. This works very well when you want to make a selection from a black and white graphic. If you just use the Magic Wand to select the white or black area, your selection will end up pretty jagged. If you create a mask from the black and white graphic, then make your selection from the mask, your selection will be very smooth. This is the technique I use when I want to make a selection from a graphic to use in my Cutout technique.
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