photoshop creative

5 tips for using layer masks

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
August 22, 2013

Here are our top 5 things you should know about layer masks and how to edit them in Photoshop, helping to improve your workflow and efficiency

Black, white and many shades of grey

Layer masks work with black, white and grey to shield away or show parts of a layer. Press Cmd/Ctrl+I to inverse the mask. For solid white masks, this will turn them to solid black, which is another way to hide them.

Use the Brush tool to edit masks

Just use the Brush tool to edit a mask (as opposed to switching between Brush, Eraser, Brush) by setting the Foreground colour to black and the Background colour to white. Then press ‘X’ while editing a mask to switch between adding and removing parts. This way you only have to set up the Brush tool.

Switching off a mask in the Layers palette

Masks can be hidden by Shift-clicking on their thumbnails in the Layers palettes. This is indicated by a red cross when they’ve been switched off.

Add a Gaussian Blur to soften the edges

Masks can be softened gradually and in a controlled way by applying the Gaussian Blur filter to them. Be sure to highlight the mask first by clicking on it in the Layers palette. Start with a 0.5px Radius in the Gaussian Blur filter. Apply the Gaussian Blur in 0.5px increments to build up softness.

Reveal a bigger mask on your layers

Layer masks are quite small in the palette and it can be difficult to see exactly what’s happening. Press Opt/Alt and click on a layer mask to reveal the mask on the actual canvas for the bigger picture. From here, the Brush or Eraser tools can be used to edit this.