The number one rule in Photoshop is never alter the original.
This means if you are going to apply a filter to a layer, make a duplicate first. Always use adjustment layers instead of permanently altering the image information in a layer. Never clone stamp or heal on the original layer. Always, always make a duplicate. You never know when you’ll need to go back to its original state.
This rule most definitely applies to removing unwanted pixels from an image. There are two ways to get rid of these pixels in Photoshop: erase them or hide them.
Masks are infinitely superior to using the Eraser tool when getting rid of unwanted areas of an image. With the Eraser, you permanently delete pixels, where with masking, you are merely hiding them; the pixels are still there if you should need them in the future. If you hide too much of the image, especially around edges of objects, you can always reveal them later.
Yes, you can undo an erase, but once you save your project and close Photoshop (or get beyond the maximum undos allowed), you are out of luck to get those pixels back!
Two things you need to remember about Photoshop masks: black means hide, white means reveal.
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Photoshop Masking Series So Far
- Mastering Photoshop Masks: The Basics (current post)
- Mastering Photoshop Masks: Layer Masks
- Mastering Photoshop Masks: Expert Techniques
- Mastering Photoshop Masks: Quick Masks
- Mastering Photoshop Masks: Vector Masks