There's not supposed to be any difference in the way Photoshop CS5.1 works as compared to CS5.
Normally you click on the layer mask icon in the LAYERS panel, you see the outline change, then you paint on the mask.
If you're seeing Quick Mask-like output, what happens if you press Q, then clear any selection and click the layer mask icon again?
sweet. That did the trick Noel.
I didn't turn quickmask on. I just loaded the file from my flash drive and first thing I tried was to select the layer mask. I'll have to try another file to see if PS is starting in quickmask mode itself.
I had an inkling I was in quickmask mode from the pink painting, but hadn't selected it and didn't know about the q hotkey. newbie here just a few weeks into the intro course.
again, thanks for the fast reply. I just might be able to finish this assignment yet tonight.