Vector Masks

If you are creating a design that contains elements with clear, defined outlines and you need to hide parts of it, instead of adding a grayscale mask, try adding a vector mask. Vector masks are infinitely editable and do not increase file size in the way that grayscale masks do. You can also use them in conjunction with a grayscale mask to create a soft- and hard-edged mask. Vector masks can also be converted to a grayscale mask if required.

To add a vector mask to the active layer that does not hide layer content initially, choose Layer ^ Vector Mask ^ Reveal All, or hold down Ctrl (Windows), ^ (Mac OS) and then click the Add Layer Mask icon (Figure 8-2), located at the bottom of the Layers palette.

If you followed the preceding steps, you might have noticed that nothing much has changed. That's because you need to create a path to define the clipping border. To do so, select a pen or shape tool and draw a path; make sure that the tool's option is set to drawing paths (the default when you create a vector mask) and not shapes; to set the option, click the second icon from the left on the options bar, not counting the tool icon (Figure 8-3).

Figure 8-3: Options bar. A—Paths. B—Custom Shape tool. C—Custom Shape pop-up palette.

Figure 8-3: Options bar. A—Paths. B—Custom Shape tool. C—Custom Shape pop-up palette.

To add a vector mask that hides the layer content initially, choose Layer ^ Vector Mask ^ Hide All, or hold down Ctrl+Alt (Windows), ^+Opt (Mac OS) and then click the Add Layer Mask icon, located at the bottom of the Layers palette.

You have yet another way of adding a vector mask, and it's similar to create a grayscale mask from an active selection. To do so, create a path and then choose Layer ^ Vector Mask ^ Current Path, or Ctrl-click (Windows), ^-click (Mac OS) the Add Layer Mask icon, at which point the data is clipped to the path and a vector mask thumbnail added to the layer.

TIP You can base a vector mask on custom shapes by setting the option for the pen or shape tool to draw paths in the options bar, selecting the Custom Shape Tool icon, and then selecting a custom shape from the Shape pop-up palette (Figure 8-3).

To delete a vector mask, drag the thumbnail to the Trash icon in the Layers or the Paths palette; alternatively, right-click (Windows), Ctrl-click (Mac OS) the thumbnail and choose Delete Vector Mask (Layers palette) or Delete Path (Paths palette) from the contextual menu.

If you find that a vector mask is not giving you the control you need and a grayscale mask is required, or if you want to combine it with a grayscale mask (a layer accepts a grayscale and a vector mask at the same time), rather than start again, convert the vector mask to a grayscale mask. To do so, right-click (Windows), Control-click (Mac OS) the mask thumbnail and then choose Rasterize Vector Mask. If a grayscale mask exists, the vector mask is rasterized and combined; otherwise, it is converted to a grayscale mask.

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