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Using Photoshop's Layer Masks and Paste Into

Using Photoshop's Layer Masks and Paste Into - Learn how to use the Paste into and Layer mask options in our advanced Photoshop masterclass step by step guide.

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Adobe Photoshop

Words and Pictures Peter Bargh ePHOTOzine

Continuing with our daffodil theme lets look at a creative way we can use Photoshop to put an image within an image. In this example we will learn how to use the Paste into command and Layer masks to make a photo look as though it's being coloured using pencils.

First we need a photograph of a daffodil. This flower was positioned on the glass bed a flatbed scanner, gently resting on the corona. A black cloth was placed behind it to prevent any stray light reaching the scan. The scanner acts like a camera and can be used for all sorts of subjects. See the complete ePHOTOzine article on how to use a scanner to scan 3d objects.


With the photo scanned and opened in your image editing program select all Ctrl+A and copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V). This creates a new layer. Now select Hue/Saturation. In Photoshop it's Image>Adjust>Hue/Saturation and in Elements it's Enhance>Adjust colour>Hue/Saturation. The shortcut is Ctrl+U. When the dialogue box appears adjust the hue, saturation and lightness sliders until you get a suitable colour. We've gone for blue.

Now go to Layer>Add Layer Mask>Reveal All. This brings up a white square thumbnail at the side of the second layer thumbnail. The blue colour that you've set will still be seen. If you chose Hide All the square would be black and you wouldn't see any of the layer so the base layer with the original yellow would be visible.

We are now going to use the selection, paint and erase tools to make some selected areas of the new layer remain visible so it looks like we've coloured in the blue parts. Click on the Layer Mask Square to make it active, draw a rough selection around the area that you want to change back to the base and press the delete key. That area will become yellow again. Notice also that the area that you've deleted now appears as black on the layer mask square in the layers palette.
Now use the Eraser tool to erase parts of the mask so the top layer appears and use the Paint brush to paint back the mask so the bottom layer shows. Move around the areas you want to change using different sized brushes for different levels of intricacy. If you make a mistake don't worry, just use the opposite tool to bring back or remove the mask. Magnify the image to make it easier to paint. You'll see the black and white of the layer mask thumbnail change as you work.

To make it look like you have painted make one area quite rough edged. In this example the right hand petal is where the crayon will fit so I've made it look like it's being crayoned.

Once you've finished save the photo as a PSD if you want to go back and change things in the future such as the colour or the painted area. And save a copy as a Tiff with the layers flattened ready for the next stage.

This photograph was taken for the shot. I've taken out a blue and yellow crayon from the tin and laid one in an obvious place while appearing to draw with the other. The shot was taken on a 3megapixel digital camera using natural light. I had the camera resting on a tripod and on the self timer so I could use my trigger hand to draw. I placed a small piece of white paper where I wanted the daffodil picture to appear. You could have course printed the daffodil picture out and placed it in shot, but the idea here is to help you become familiar with the tools of Photoshop for other exercises in the future.

With this picture downloaded and open. Make a selection of the paper using the Magic wand tool. You may need to use the + option to add to the selection. Keep clicking on spots until the whole white area is selected. If the selection crosses into the fingers use the -Lasso to take away.

When the area is all selected open your painted daffodil picture select all (Ctrl+A) and copy (Ctrl+C). Then go to Edit>Paste into and the picture will appear inside the selection.

Don't worry that it doesn't look the right size. The daffodil picture was bigger than the crayon picture so it appears at the true size. You can use Photoshop's Transform tool to scale it.
Go to Edit>Transform>Distort. This brings up an adjustable box around the hidden picture. It will probably be off the page so reduce the size of the photo using the Ctrl + -keys so you can see the whole frame. Then click on each corner and drag them to the corresponding corners on the photographed paper. This not only resizes the photo to fit but also makes it the right shape so it looks as though it has natural perspective. When it's aligned magnify the photo again and adjust further if necessary.
Now you'll see that the paste into selection may not be as good as you'd hoped. The areas around the crayon tips and fingers need further work. Once again the Paste into has created a new layer and that now familiar Layer mask. You can use the technique you learned earlier to paint back areas and erase others. Don't forget to make sure the layer mask is active by clicking on it.
Use a small hard edged brush for the tip of the pencil and carefully work around it. And remember, if you make a mistake you can always rectify it by using the alternative tool.

Once the job is complete save the photo. I would recommend you save it as a PSD so you change the inset photo if you want in the future.

The finished job

If you read this article and have problems following any stage or have suggestions please feel free to email Peter Bargh

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