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Introduction

When you work on documents in Adobe Photoshop CS, the application does its best to make the experience as similar to the real world as possible. When you select the Paintbrush tool and drag the document, you expect to see a swath of color using the pre-selected size and brush tip. That's what you expect to see when you drag a brush on a canvas, and that's what you see in Photoshop. Creating a realistic experience is what Photoshop is all about. Yet, as realistic as the Photoshop experience is, there are elements of digital design that go way beyond the real world. For example, something as simple as the ability to undo. Photoshop has an undo button, life does not. Layer masks give you the ability to remove elements of a layer without actually erasing the image pixels. Layer masks fall into the area of Photoshop called "controlling the image." If you can control what elements of an image are visible, without erasing, you have control. In addition, layer masks are editable, which means you can change your mind at any time during the creative process.

Imagine creating a complicated selection in Photoshop. You will probably use several of Photoshop's selection tools and by the time you're finished (or almost finished) you have selection marquees all over the document. Traditional selections are temporary; they last only as long as your document is open. But what if you want to save this selection for use later in the design? What you need is a channel mask. Channel masks hold simple, or complicated selections, and can be saved with the document. Channel masks are created from pre-existing selections, or can be created from scratch by painting the mask with black, white, or shades of gray. The process of creating a Channel mask is simple, but the results are powerful.


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