Adding a vector mask to edit  images is a simple little PS  step which allows us to reduce opacity levels within certain areas of our image with the added benefit of full strength sharpening on other areas.   In this tutorial we will be using our vector mask for selective sharpening.

In our last tutorial you’ll remember we ended by adding a ‘high pass’ filter to sharpen things up a bit.  Personally I would not recommend sharpening images in any other way.  The high pass filter allows us a great deal of control over how much or how little we sharpen our image.

After adding your high pass filter as illustrated in our Layers & Masks Tutorial,  you may wish to reduce the opacity levels a bit here and there….adding a vector mask will allow you to achieve this.

Let’s begin!

With our image opened into our Photoshop, converted to smart object  ( as mentioned in our Layers & Masks Tutorial )- we will duplicate  our original layer by left clicking & holding the thumbnail named “Layer O”  and then dragging & dropping it to the  ‘Create a New Layer’ Icon which is located at the very bottom or your PS workstation  [This icon appears as a small square within a larger square…you’ll drop your layer directly on top of that icon] 

Now we can add our Vector Mask  which is located at the bottom of your PS [the camera icon].   Click the mask (camera looking)  icon and you will notice a white square mask added next to your image copy.


vector mask icon

Hit  the ‘B‘ key on your keyboard to activate your brush pallet.

You will notice a brush icon appear at the top left of your PS, select a soft round brush from the brush palette found by clicking on the drop down list arrow next to the brush icon.    Reduce the opacity level at about 30%
Make certain that your background/foreground colors are default [black and white] by clicking [SHIFT +”D”]  on your keyboard.  Black should be your foreground color.

Be certain you are working with your vector mask by clicking directly on it. You will notice a little highlighted box around the vector which indicates it is an active layer.


Add a Vector Mask to your background layer by clicking the ‘camera’ icon at the bottom of our PS. Choose a soft round brush from your brush palette located at the top right corner of your PS. Set your brush opacity level at about 25-30% . Your Opacity level adjustment slide is located at the top of your PS as well.

Now the fun part.  With your brush tool selected,  paint any and all areas that you want to be less sharp.  You can change your brush opacity level & size for different areas of your image .  You can also switch your foreground color to white by clicking the letter ‘X’ on your keyboard & proceed to repaint areas on your image that you may have inadvertently reduced in sharpness.


Happy Vector Painting!!