Using Photoshop Masking to Save Money

Hanukkah is coming up, and part of the holiday is lighting candles in a menorah for eight nights, starting with the helper candle and a single candle to the side, and ending with a total of 9 on the last night.  Stock photographically speaking, I could upload 8 different images to represent the holiday, each with another lit candle, but here’s a different tact, giving a little more flexibility to the buyer.

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I’ve actually uploaded two images.  One with just the helper, and another with the helper and all 8 candles.  In Photoshop, you can make any number of nights you wish.  Check it out.  (By the way, these images will be here and here on when active in a day or two.)

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So, to do this magic, we start with the two open images, as above.  Select the “move” tool in Photoshop (hotkey: v) Click on the tab of the lower image to make it active.  Hold down the shift key (this will lock it into the same location in the upper image) and click on the lower image itself and draaaaag it into the top image.  Now, since you have both versions in the same workspace, you can close the lower one.   Open your layer editor to see that you have both versions in the same file (hotkey: F7).

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You’ve got “Layer 1” selected (if you don’t, click on it).  Now, create a mask for it.  A mask is an “image” attached to that layer that tells Photoshop which part of the layer is opaque (solid) and which is transparent (see through).  White represents opaque and black means transparent.  Just click on the grey square with the white circle inside at the bottom of the layer editor.  It will make a white rectangle next to the thumnail of “Layer 1”, indicating the entire image is opaque.

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Also, notice the extra black border around the white rectangle?  That means it is selected, and any painting we do now will go into that “image” to define opacity for the full menorah.  You can only paint in this layer in black and white, because you only need black, white and grey to define opacity.

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What we will do is use the selection tool to draw a selection around the candles that we want to get rid of.  For example, we want an image representing 4 nights of Hanukkah (be sure to remove the ones from the left because you put candles in from right to left as the nights go on).   So, draw a box around the leftmost 4 candles.

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Now, all you have to do, is fill (hotkey: Shift F5) the area with black to reveal the empty menorah that is stacked below the full one in the layer editor.

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You can see we now have a perfect image representing four nights of Hanukkah.  In the layer editor, you can also see the black area in the opacity mask which reveals the empty menorah below.  So, basically, you get nine images for the price of two, for a few minutes of work.

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Opacity masks are used all the time in Photoshop, but this is a very specialized example.  Hope this was useful to you.

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