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Layer Mask in Photoshop
Tutorials Basics 52959 Views August 25th, 2012

If you want to learn more things about Photoshop layer mask here is a layer mask tutorial that will teach you the basic things. You will find out how to add a quick layer mask, how to disable layer mask, and how to use filters to create more advanced layer masks.

It's important to understand how a layer mask works because it is really used in many Photoshop tutorials. It's for sure an elegant alternative for the Eraser Tool. I hope you will enjoy this tutorial, bookmark and share it with your friends.


In this new tutorial I will tell you everything that I know about Photoshop mask, what is and how you can add a layer mask in Photoshop.

What is a Layer Mask?

A layer mask is actually a gray scale image that acts like a mask for the its layer(meaning that it hides areas from that layer so you can see the layer below). This grayscale image has white, black and all tones of gray in between; white means the layer area is 100% visible and the black color means the layer area is transparent 100%. So you can play with this grayscale image to obtain transition or fade effect like the one presented further on in this tutorial.

The good thing is that you can actually add a Photoshop mask to any type of layer, like text, shape, smart object or any other layer that you can think of. Creating a mask over multiple layers it is possible but only if you group these layers, with other words you can add layer mask to groups of layers.

Think of a layer mask as an Eraser Tool that it is not permanent, meaning that you can remove the layer mask, or adjust it without worring about the original image contained by the layer. And of course that the Eraser Tool can be used only for rasterized layers.

How to add Layer Mask in Photoshop

You can add a layer mask to any type of layer or even to a multiple layers gathered in a group. To mask layer in Photoshop you simply have to be on that layer and press the Add Layer Mask button found on the layers tab. As you can see it adds a white layer mask meaning that the entire image is visible. You can use the Brush Tool, color black, to hide parts of the image. I have used this beautiful stock image for the preview.

Another way in which you can add a mask is to use the Photoshop menu; go to Layer, Layer Mask menu and choose one of the two available choices. Choose Reveal All for adding a mask filled with white or choose Hide All for adding a mask filled with black color. It is up to you if you start with an white or black mask; usually if you want more percentage of the image to be hidden, you start with a black filled mask and vice versa.

How to Use a Layer Mask

So in the previous step I showed you how to add a layer mask and now I am going to tell you how to use it. First you have to make sure you are in the layer mask(click on the layer mask thumbnail). Than depending on what type of effect you want to obtain fill the layer mask using the Brush Tool for example. You can actually use any Photoshop Tool(brush, smudge, eraser, selection, etc) like in a regular layer, you can use Filters, Gradients and so on. The only restriction is on the colors that are only grayscale colors.

So let's pick the Brush Tool and with the color black paint the area around the girl to hide it. As you can see in the image below I have added a beach image so that when the girl background is hidded we see the beach background.

Photoshop Tools and Filters Used in Layer Masks

As I said in the previous section there are lots of tools that can be used in a layer mask and each creates a different effect. I will show you the most used tools and filters in layer masks and the after effect.

1. Use the Brush Tool in Layer Mask

Part 1Part 2Part 3

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5 comment(s) for "Layer Mask in Photoshop"

12:22 AM Friday, September 28, 2012
Layer masks are the most powerful tools in the digital darkroom. But they are only as good as you selection technique! reply
11:44 PM Monday, November 12, 2012
Nicely done tutorial, well presented & illustrated.

The pin it share icon covers up the text on the left side, could it be moved up or down or to the right side? reply
11:47 PM Monday, November 12, 2012
Hi keith,

I am glad you like the tutorial. And about the pin it share box you are not the only one that suggested that so I decided to remove it so that you can see the content better!
2:45 AM Saturday, February 01, 2014
Here is another comprehensive guide about Masking in Photoshop, that you might want to take a look at. reply
1:30 AM Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Nice tutorial, it is probably the most complex tutorial about layer mask that I have seen so far... But at the "Types of Layers that Support Layer Mask" section you have forgotten to mention that you can add a layer mask also to Adjustment Layers ! reply

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