How to Use Layer Masks in Photoshop

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How to Use Layer Masks in Photoshop
Layer Masks are one of the most important tools in Photoshop. In short, they make part of a layer visible and part invisible. The main advantage to using layer masks is they can be changed at any time – they are “non-destructive”, meaning they will never destroy image pixels!

What do Layer Masks Do?
Layer masks control the visibility of a layer, group, or adjustment layer. When a layer mask is completely white, the layer is completely visible. When a layer mask is completely black, the layer is completely invisible.

You can choose to make parts of a layer invisible by painting black in certain areas. You can use most of the tools in the tool panel on a layer mask including the brush tool, clone stamp tool, gradient tool and selections.

For instance, if you want to cut the subject out of their background, make a selection around the subject and load that selection as a layer mask, the subject will be visible and the background will be invisible.

Destructive vs. Non-Destructive Editing
When it comes to editing images in Photoshop, the ultimate goal is to do everything in a ‘non-destructive’ manner – meaning any change can be undone at any point in time.

For example, if you want part of a layer to disappear, using the eraser tool is destructive because it destroys the image, rather than just hiding it. If you use the eraser tool, then save and close an image, you won’t be able to undo those changes the next time you open the image in Photoshop.

In contrast, layer masks allow you to make changes at any time – even years from now. Rather than destroying image pixels, they simply hide them.

How to Create and Use Layer Masks
To add a layer mask to a layer, click on the layer mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel (it looks like a square with a circle inside).

You can also use the menu, go to ‘Layer – Layer Mask – Reveal All’ to make a white layer mask.

Adjustment layers come pre-loaded with layer masks, simply paint white or black on them to determine the visibility of the layer.

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33 comments

  1. Irfan Khan 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    the way you explain things are so easy to understand and repeating all important points again in last in very useful

  2. GAMAL NAJEEB 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    I don't have the suitable word to thank you! I was always confused about layers and masks but with you I understood all. Thanks too much!

  3. jimmy wall 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    Ive been trying to figure out masks for two days and within five minutes he explains it perfectly…thanks man

  4. Glyn Taylor 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    Great tutorial. I am really new to PS but slowly getting bits which are useful to me, however simple things are eluding / frustrating me! One of those is how to place 2 different pictures into separate layers. I know this is really basic but when teaching yourself with no-one to ask it’s just grrrrr! I’m sure someone would just simply say “do this” and put me out my suffering lol

  5. Rosemarie C 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    Hey…I discovered how to create elliptical circle from the center after reading some info online that I found from google search

  6. cel 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    Thank you!!!!!! I don't work with photos I draw mostly so I avoided using masks for years because i didn't understand with other tutorials… And then you explained it so great I understood easily! Thank you so much for opening my eyes masks are awesome!!!!!!!

  7. haemah ravanan 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    Sir ,I learned photoshop long back but not used layer mask ,dont have an idea ,recently I started to go through knowledge in photoshop, while I am watching YouTube videos I come across your video regarding layer mask .its fantastic, all I want to know about image details..its width,height,pixels, plz give me your view thank you.

  8. kagi95 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    This was amazing! I've been using PS for years but never got around really learning about layer masks. Finally I did!

  9. ehrald villaver 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    You made it simplified. You are awesome! I love it! Thanks much!!!!! Am just started to get into digital art and have watched already different tutorials. But yours is perfect and amazing! Great thanks! Once again.

  10. C B 15 May, 2020 at 19:54 Reply

    I got 6 mins in and you earned a sub, lol
    exactly what I was looking for and so well explained, thank you 😀

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