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How to Use Black-and-white Papers as Masks in Photoshop

Digital kits that contain black-and-white papers are very versatile. In the last tip, we showed how to recolor the papers and use them as overlays to expand your creative options. Creating Alpha Channel masks from black-and-white papers is another technique that gives you even more possibilities. You can use the masks with patterned, textured or solid designer papers.

Here's how:

Open a piece of black-and-white digital paper in Photoshop.
Duplicate the paper by pressing Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) on the keyboard. Rename the duplicated layer to mask.
Hide the background layer by clicking the Layer Visibility Icon (eyeball) on the left side of the background layer.
Select the "mask" layer and click the Channels Tab in the Layers panel to create an alpha layer. Channels can be found to the right of the Layers tab.
Now you'll see several Channels – RGB, Red, Green, and Blue.
Ctrl click (Mac: Cmd click) one of the thumbnails to make a selection. Choose the channel with the highest contrast.
Click "Save Selection as Channel" at the bottom of the panel.
This creates a new channel at the bottom of the panel called Alpha 1. Select the Alpha 1 layer.

Now click the Layers tab to exit the Channels panel. You'll still have a selection (marching ants) around the pattern. This detailed selection contains all of the nuanced pattern information and is much more accurate than the quick mask or Magic Wand function. At this point, the layer has a red tint.
From the Menu Bar, select Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection.
The mask layer becomes a pattern with a transparent background that can be used as a mask with digital papers.

To use the mask, open two pieces of coordinating digital paper.
Select the hidden background layer and use the Move tool to drag one paper onto the document below the mask layer.

You can use the paper like this or you can select the Mask layer and use the Move tool to drag the other paper above the mask layer.
With the top paper selected, press Alt Ctrl G (Mac: Opt Cmd G) to clip the mask to the paper.

Now you'll have a brand new piece of paper that perfectly matches any kit or theme you need.
Try using one piece of patterned paper with one solid for a fun new look. The combinations are endless.

Stock your digital supply stash with some of the black-and-white designs at the Designer Digitals store to use this technique on your creative projects. You'll never have to worry about finding just the right patterned paper for your color scheme – you'll be able to mask a design to get the look you want.
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Good tutorial, easy to follow!