Masking versus Erasing

Once you have built a good selection, you have an important decision to make. You can add transparency in a destructive or nondestructive way. Many users will choose to cut and paste the selected object—or invert their selection and press the itmnrn key.

A better choice is the layer mask. First, make sure that the layer you want to mask is not a locked Background layer, if it is, doubleclick and name the layer. Once you have made a selection, click on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palette. This will generate a grayscale matte attached to the layer.

Editing the mask is easy and allows plenty of fine adjustments. First, click on the Layer Mask icon. A border now appears around the mask icon. The process is now identical to editing a Quick Mask. Use your Paintbrush tools and touch up your edges with the Blur and Smudge tools.

When finished, you can click on the layer thumbnail and edit the picture. It may be helpful to place a blank layer behind your masked layer and fill it with a high-contrast color. This will let you see any stray pixels. By clicking on the layer's mask, you can temporarily disable masks.

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