13 Replies Latest reply on Oct 10, 2014 6:11 PM by Blitzer

    Question on Vector Mask Functionality

    Blitzer

      Hello everyone, I'm fairly new to Photoshop CS 5 so I apologize if I am asking the wrong type of questions, here goes:

       

      When working with Vector Masks can you:

      1) "Link" or "share" one image's vector mask with other images? (ex. If I made "Building A" then duplicated it, but then wanted to change what Building A looked like, I would only have to change the source mask and the copies would be updated.

      2) Move the image independent of the vector mask (it seems like I can only move the vector mask, not the image itself). Or in other words: can I move the image and have the mask follow it, instead of only being able to move the vector mask inside of the image boundaries?

       

      My application of the question:

      I'm making a 2D top down layout of a "city block" type area. To fill in the buildings, I've made Building A,B,C etc, and use multiple copies of each building. Ideally, I would like to be able to "link" or share say Building A's vector mask with all the other instances of Building A (so that when I change the master, they all change to the new mask shape). The second behavior I'm trying to find is the ability to move the layer without moving where the Vector Mask is on that layer (since it seems that you can only move where the mask is, meaning that even if I could share masks, they would all end up in the same place meaning I would have to re-position each one by hand again.

       

      Any ideas are appreciated, thank you for reading.

        • 1. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
          Silkrooster Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          Try applying the vector mask to a group or smart object. I have not tested this, but it should work.

          • 2. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
            JJMack Most Valuable Participant

            I will attempt to address 1 and 2 a bit.

            blitzer wrote:

             

            When working with Vector Masks can you:

            1) "Link" or "share" one image's vector mask with other images? (ex. If I made "Building A" then duplicated it, but then wanted to change what Building A looked like, I would only have to change the source mask and the copies would be updated.

            Vector Make are Path.  If you target a layer with a vector mask and switch to the path palette you will see the layer vector mask listed.  You can dupe it , activate it. define a custom shape, edit it, insert path into action, stroke it, load it as a selection.   However I do not think you really want to be asking about  asking about vector mask.  You concerned more about buildings used in  document(s) then you are about mask.  In fact if you could use the building without a mask it would most likely be OK by you.

             

            2) Move the image independent of the vector mask (it seems like I can only move the vector mask, not the image itself). Or in other words: can I move the image and have the mask follow it, instead of only being able to move the vector mask inside of the image boundaries?

            Layers that have a masked image. Have pixel content and  and mask content. Masks can be linked to the content or may be un-linked.  When you move a thing that is linked all linked thing move image and mask(s) move.  If and building is being isolated with a mask or mask I would expect all to be linked. If you were cropping an image to an area on the canvas I would expect the mask be un-linked you could move the image to change the cropped composition.

             

            You more interested in sharing building in several documents and being able to change them easily.  In the past it was quite an involved process and required a lot of bookkeeping by the user.  In the newer version of Photoshop Adobe enhanced File Place.  In the past File Place embedded a copy of the file being place in the layer as an object.  Today there  two version of Place. File Place Embedded(Photoshop's old File Place)  and File Placed Linked.  The later contain a link not a copy of the file it a link to what t you might call your master file.   If the master is updated.  When you  open other document the have linked smart object layers those linked layer will be updated.  If the master has been moved you will be given the option to resolve the broken link.

            • 3. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
              Silkrooster Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              From what I gathered from the OP, was he had an image of a building lets say floor plan, and used a vector mask to outline the walls as he mentioned top down. I am assuming he had each layer represent a floor. Since each floor would have the same wall structure, they would all share the same vector mask, which was why I recommended applying the vector mask to a group or smart object, as that would allow him to alter the mask once and take care of all layers.

               

              If I am misinterpreting the OP, I would like the OP to correct me. Which may be easier if we saw a full screen capture with the layers panel open and any collapsed layers, expanded.

              • 4. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                JJMack Most Valuable Participant

                A building for sure is a group a collection of all of its parts.  To share a building its best to share to share a master plan, A linked placed file would be ideal, The smart object layer could even be masked and style to produce different looks. for the smart object building. He seems interested in the whole collection the building not a breakout of its parts, That is why I suggested he look at "Place:

                • 5. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                  Blitzer Level 1

                  Thank you JJMack and Silkrooster for the responses, I really appreciate it.

                   

                  I think JJMack is / has closed in for the function I'm looking for, which is to be able to update a number of instances from their source file, so to speak. So you could imagine if I had 10 Building A images placed in a grid, and if I needed to update the shape of Building A, I would ideally only need to do it 1 time (to a master) and have all the copies / instances be updated.

                   

                  Now to be clear JJMack, you are saying the "new way" ie. non-CS 5 way does exactly this? But that the old system cannot? I tried it out used  "Place;", to get the master into the scene, duplicate and move the layers, then use "Replace Contents" on each layer to get a newer version of the master (which is a improvement, just slow...I would probably make an Action to speed the process up). Am I correct in thinking this is the extent of "Place:" in CS 5?

                   

                  Thank you all again for the help.

                  • 6. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                    JJMack Most Valuable Participant

                    The Place Embedded|Link enhancement was added in CC. For  Prior of Photoshop there was some procedure to help one  do something like Place linked.  Required some bookkeeping and I believe a Photoshop script that would embed some metadata into layers.   I do not do Web development or team projects and have no requirement for Place Link. I prefer  Place Embedded where image layers contain copies and are independent for the original.  Therefore I only know some users developed the procedure and required scripts. Never had a need to maintain a master and update  document that used the master myself.  

                     

                    Even with CC layered  document that share the master are only updated if they are open when the master is  updated or are re-open into Photoshop some time after the master has been updated.  If a document that share the master is not re-opened after the master is updated its contents is stale  and old Prints and saved flat image files the were made from the document are outdated.

                    • 7. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                      Herbert2001 Level 4
                      When working with Vector Masks can you:

                      1) "Link" or "share" one image's vector mask with other images? (ex. If I made "Building A" then duplicated it, but then wanted to change what Building A looked like, I would only have to change the source mask and the copies would be updated.

                      Yes, this is possible, but not with the classic layer vector mask system in Photoshop. Layer masks are part of a layer, and not individual layers themselves, so they cannot be converted into a reusable object.

                       

                      The solution is to avoid vector layer masks, and use a clipping mask/layer instead. A clipping mask/layer CAN be converted to a reusable smart object, and when you change one, all the other instances change as well.

                       

                      The second part of the solution is to convert both the content layer(s) and the clipping mask/layer to a smart object. Then group the lot. Incidentally, if your buildings are made up of several elements you merely have to include those additional elements in the clipping group. Another advantage is that each elements can still have its own regular layer mask. Win win situation. And layer effects can be applied to clipping layers/masks, which is again impossible for layer masks. It also opens up the gates to a far less destructive workflow.

                      2) Move the image independent of the vector mask (it seems like I can only move the vector mask, not the image itself). Or in other words: can I move the image and have the mask follow it, instead of only being able to move the vector mask inside of the image boundaries?

                       

                      This is also solved when using clipping masks/layers - both the content and the mask can be moved independently as regular layers. Another advantage is that both can also be transformed individually.

                       

                      My application of the question:

                      I'm making a 2D top down layout of a "city block" type area. To fill in the buildings, I've made Building A,B,C etc, and use multiple copies of each building. Ideally, I would like to be able to "link" or share say Building A's vector mask with all the other instances of Building A (so that when I change the master, they all change to the new mask shape). The second behavior I'm trying to find is the ability to move the layer without moving where the Vector Mask is on that layer (since it seems that you can only move where the mask is, meaning that even if I could share masks, they would all end up in the same place meaning I would have to re-position each one by hand again.

                       

                      Any ideas are appreciated, thank you for reading.

                      So here is my solution. I made a sample with two top view buildings that should be reused the way you want:

                      1) FIrst create groups for each building, and put the content in those. Then trace vector layer shapes over the content. Set the transparency for the mask layers to a sensible opacity setting for easier masking.

                      step1.jpg

                      2) Put the vector shape below the content layer for each building. Then for (1) and (2), <ALT> click on the border between the content and the shape layer. (<OPTION> for Mac) This will mask the building content. (3) Do not forget to reset the layer opacity for the shape layers back to 100%!

                      step2.jpg

                      3) Next, let's convert these building into recyclable objects. Convert each content and clipping mask layer to a smart object. Then rename those smart object layers to something sensible (honestly, I forgot to label the layers properly earlier, but you catch my meaning here ;-)

                      step3.jpg

                      Done! To clone each building, duplicate the layer groups. For each instance you can move the content (handy if you are sharing multiple building graphics in the same bitmap or illustrator file), or you can decide to move the mask instead. Or both. Same holds true for transforming. Your choice. To move or transform a building, select the layer group.

                       

                      To change or amend the masks or content, double-click on the smart object of your choice, and make some changes.

                       

                      Also, don't forget that you can insert additional elements in a clipping group by placing it above the first clipped layer, and then <ALT> clicking again on the border between them. So in theory you could start constructing different looking buildings by adding in other smart objects in the clipping groups. The sky is the limit! This way you can create several building blocks to construct various buildings with different looks. And still limit the number of blocks - and all update-able.

                       

                      Unfortunately, this is where the workflow breaks down a tad: due to the smart object's implementation in Photoshop you CANNOT edit the mask or building's content in context - instead it opens up in its own file window. This can be somewhat mitigated by placing both windows side by side (window->Arrange-->Two-up Vertical).

                       

                      This brings us to the second caveat: when you do make a change, the edits are not updated in realtime in the master document. You must first save. Again a bit of a workflow breaker, but still... At least you now have a non-destructive instanced workflow.

                       

                      The smart object content can be replaced easily with a right-mouse click on the smart object layer itself. Or use a externally referenced smart object instead if you prefer to generate your buildings in an external application.

                       

                      Btw, Photoline's layer system is far more logical and easier to use for this type of work. Layer masks behave like regular layers. Layers, groups, masks, external file layers, and so on can be virtually cloned and instanced like smart objects, but the master object is editable in context, and all the other instances update in realtime. So it is more convenient. At least, that is my experience.

                       

                      Hope this was helpful! Now go build your cities. :-)

                       

                      PS: I was thinking: isn't Illustrator or InDesign is far more logical choice for this type of work where you need access to reusable blocks of content? It would also be a more efficient and speedier workflow - Photoshop isn't really meant for this type of work. And Illustrator and InDesign potentially provide better output quality. You can also divide your work in pages, and so on. Then again, you would probably lose the flexibility of smart objects.

                      • 8. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                        Blitzer Level 1

                        JJMack, thank you for the additional clarification.

                         

                        Herbert2001, very nice tutorial, thank you for the effort. I do have a few questions about it though if you don't mind:

                         

                        I did a simple project of my own to mirror your tutorial and as far as I can tell I duplicated your setup steps correctly (but my Layer icons are a bit different, are you using CS5?) here is how I made out:

                         

                        "To clone each building, duplicate the layer groups. For each instance you can move the content (handy if you are sharing multiple building graphics in the same bitmap or illustrator file), or you can decide to move the mask instead. Or both. Same holds true for transforming. Your choice. To move or transform a building, select the layer group."

                        -> Seems to work as expected, no problems.

                         

                        "To change or amend the masks or content, double-click on the smart object of your choice, and make some changes."

                        -> Changing the mask works. Double clicking on the smart object brings up Layer Styles, and aside from changing the "content's" Transform, most edits either don't work or want me to Rasterize the image. Additionally, changing either the mask or content only seem to change it for that one group, so I still have to edit every single instance (though I'm probably doing it wrong).


                        "Unfortunately, this is where the workflow breaks down a tad: due to the smart object's implementation in Photoshop you CANNOT edit the mask or building's content in context - instead it opens up in its own file window. This can be somewhat mitigated by placing both windows side by side (window->Arrange-->Two-up Vertical).

                         

                        This brings us to the second caveat: when you do make a change, the edits are not updated in real time in the master document. You must first save. Again a bit of a workflow breaker, but still... At least you now have a non-destructive instanced workflow."

                        -> I didn't really follow all of that, I'm not sure what "in context" means, and in my case no edits that I make (from the groups or source content) are ever reflected by the other. So if I make a change, I've only seen it apply to the document itself. So I'm still stuck on "making 1 change and having the copies update".

                         

                        I realize I'm probably making a few mistakes which are hopefully simple to correct. Any clarification is appreciated.


                        • 9. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                          Herbert2001 Level 4

                          One thing to keep in mind is that you will have to double-click the thumbnail to edit the content of a smart object - otherwise it brings up the layer styles. Either that, or right-mouse click on the layer, and choose your preferred action.

                           

                          Also, if you require the group themselves to be instanced, you must convert the layer groups as well to smart objects, of course - however, in my example that is not required because both the content and the masks are already converted to smart objects. So you should be able to duplicate a group, and when you make a change to either the mask SO or content SO layer it will update all the duplicates you made as well.

                           

                          Unless you want transformations to be cascaded as well - in that case you would have to convert the layer groups to SOs, then enter the SO's contents, and transform the content and/or the mask.

                           

                          You may want to read up on smart objects, though, to really learn to work with those in Photoshop - because I have a feeling you do not yet truly understand the SO workflow in Photoshop.

                           

                          http://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-smart-objects-in-pho toshop--cms-20268

                           

                          Photoshop Help | Work with Smart Objects

                           

                           

                          Btw, by coining the words "in context" I meant not being able to change the source of a SO in the "master", the main document view. Editing the contents of a smart object always means that Photoshop will open a new document window for that content (instead of allowing us to make the edits in place), thus making visual edits often a bit of a trial and error when we need to align those changes to the content of the main document/project. It results in a fragmented and somewhat awkward workflow. In Photoline, for example, the source content can be edited in place and any edit is immediately applied to all the cloned instances in real-time. This makes it far easier to see how changes to these linked objects work out in the main document.

                           

                          Anyway, reading this last paragraph back I realize it sounds a bit abstract. :-) When you see it in practice it makes a lot of sense. Words are often an ineffective way of explaining things...

                          • 10. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                            Blitzer Level 1

                            Hey again Herbert2001, you are correct in that I could really stand for some SO education, so I'll take a look at your links tomorrow and then try your example again.

                            • 11. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                              Blitzer Level 1

                              Herbert2001, got done reading your links and yes, your instructions make waaaaaay more sense this time around (thank you so much). So, I'm going to mark your post as "correct", but is there any way to give JJMack some "points" as well (maybe "Like-ing" one of his posts)?

                              • 12. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                                JJMack Most Valuable Participant

                                Do worry about it most don't even acknowledge they have even read the replies they have received...

                                • 13. Re: Question on Vector Mask Functionality
                                  Blitzer Level 1

                                  JJMack, I see....Well, thank you both for all the help, I really appreciate it.