Why, When and How to Use Density And Feather For Layer and Vector Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Why, When and How to Use Density And Feather For Layer and Vector Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Layer and vector masks are one of the most useful features in Adobe Photoshop. There are tons of tutorials that cover masks but only a few of them are explaining two very important properties which can help you to soften edges or to lower opacity also called density of the mask. Those two properties are Feather and Density which are usually overlooked although very important part when compositing and creating a perfect mask with soft edges which blends the object with its surrounding.

In this tutorial, I will explain to you why and how to use the Density and Feather properties of the layer and vector masks in Adobe Photoshop.

Why and when to use Density and Feather

The very first thing to cover is the answer to the question do we need those extra properties which are available from the Properties panel. I will try my hands to provide short and easy to understand the reasons:

  • Feather slider is easy to understand and agree with it. This slider will soften the edges of the layer and vector mask. Feather feature is similar to blur with the only difference that effect is applied only to edges. Besides anti-aliasing which is applied by default, many times we need and some extra softening around edges for better blending with surrounding or background.
  • Density is more difficult to explain but it can be extremely useful and time saver. In short, Density is similar to Opacity with the major difference that it is applied only to layer mask without affecting content on the layer. This feature can be useful when you want to play with the strength of the masked area to start blending, for example, totally masked parts with the content on the layer below.
Density for Layer Mask in Photoshop
Here is example of Density for layer mask in use. I have lightened white background significantly while masking objects in composition. Easy way to lighten objects to better work with very light background is to use Density slider which allows me to apply some of the lightening to objects which are masked. Density is making black areas on mask to become gray what means that masked areas are somewhat protected and some of the adjustments, in this case Curves, is applied to the layer below.
Example of using Feather slider in Properties panel to soften edges of the layer mask
Example of using Feather slider in Properties panel to soften edges of the layer mask.


How to access and use Feather and Density for masks

There are a few easy steps to start playing with Density and Feather what is the best way to learn what is their advantage:
  • Create layer or vector mask and mask some areas.
  • Click on layer mask to select it then display WIndow > Properties panel. You can also double click on mask to display Properties panel.
  • Ensure that Mask icon is selected or active.
  • Drag Density or Feather slider and watch changes on image/composition. 
Steps to access Density and Feather for layer mask
Steps to access Density and Feather for layer mask as described above.

Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop 2020 (version 21.0.1)

Reference:
Fine-tune layer masks

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