photoshop creative

Photoshop Tutorial: Understand layer masks part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 3, 2013

Learn how to use layer masks, the Brush tool, clipping masks and Selections to create a painting in progress

Download all you need for this tutorial here



Open the starting image of the hand and zoom into 50%. Pick the Quick Selection tool and set its brush size to 50px in the Options bar, making sure Auto-Enhance is ticked.


Using the Quick Selection tool, form a selection over the hand and wrist as well as the brush and bristles. For the background area between the fingers, reduce the size of the tool to 10px and zoom in closer, then Alt-click on the area.


Go to Select>Modify>Feather and enter 0.5px and hit OK. Go back into Select>Modify, and this time choose Contract. Enter 1px in the pop-up window and hit OK. Add a layer mask in the Layers palette to apply the mask.


Open the image Purple flower.jpg and drag the hand onto the image. Resize and move the hand using Edit>Free Transform (Ctrl+Cmd+T) for a better composition.


Drag the flowers layer onto the Create New Layer button to duplicate. Double-click the locked layer (bottom of stack) to make it editable. Go to Image>Adjustments>Desaturate to remove this layer’s colour, leaving the colour duplicate above.


Use the Quick Selection tool to make a selection around the flowers and the stem above where the hand is positioned. This doesn’t need to be exact. Add a new layer mask to the colour flower layer (mid stack) to show the black and white underneath.


Select the Brush tool and hit F5 to open the Brushes palette. Select the Flat Bristle brush, found within the Thick Heavy Brushes, with a size to match that of the brush being held (around 70px).

 STEP 08

Click on Shape Dynamics in the Brushes palette. Set Size Jitter to 50% and Minimum Diameter to 60%. Set both the Angle Jitter and Roundness Jitter to 0%. Make sure Smoothing is ticked too.


Select the layer mask in the Layers palette and use the Brush tool with white foreground and black background colours. Paint the blue back into the sky, increasing the Brush size to cover large areas.


Press the X key to alternate between the foreground and background colours, switching between adding and deleting the layer mask. Zoom into the image and remove areas of paint to reveal whole flowers in black and white.

Continue to part 2 of this tutorial…