Layer Masking Basics

Lesson 1 of 7

Intro to Masking


Layer Masking Basics

Lesson 1 of 7

Intro to Masking


Lesson Info

Intro to Masking

So here we are, folks later masking basics what does anybody know about layer masking? Well, the great thing is nothing because that's the whole point of layer masking is we mask it all out, it all goes away. So to give you an idea of what we actually use layer masking for, I've got this photoshopped file that I've created right here and as you are probably figuring out nondestructive photoshopping is the way we build our files so we can always go back and edit everything that we needed a later time or do any adjustments and that's where layer masking comes in way layers panel up here and that we have multiple layers and it looks like we've got this nice little basket weave pattern in here, but the reality of it is if I were to go in and actually turn off my masks here you'll see that I just have the blue strips on top in the yellow strips and back and it's magic and we all love magic and I'm going to share it with you these magic tricks so layer masking is exactly that we have to deal...

with layers and each one of our layers here is going to have I'm ask on it on a mask is simply something that covers up or reveals portions of the layers that's it we don't do any erasing we don't do any destruction of any of our pixels on our layers there we simply just cover them up and it's really simple to understand how masks work and it's just like this. So in my layers panel you see my layer thumbnail and next to this we see a box that contains black and white simple enough black conceals white reveals, just like we see a window you don't see through your wall, but you see through the window that's exactly what we do with a mask. We just simply cover up the portions of the things that we don't want to see, and whenever we don't want to see, we mask out whenever we want to see we leave open, and therefore when we're looking at this particular layer, if I turn this layer on and off right here, you can see in my layer thumbnail it's got the full blue bar and then next to this we have the layer mask, and if I were to look at this, I could see that black conceals so everything else on that layer is going to be completely hidden and all the white portions are what's going to be revealed. I do my quick little trick here, and I actually selected you can see those areas in which those air being revealed, and that is a layer mask, so how do we begin? Creating a layer mask what's quite simple we're going to begin with our orange right here in this orange, a stock photo is shot on a white background, and what I'd like to do is I just want to take the background out of this, so I'm not going to reach for my eraser to you started raising the background because I think I want to use this with or without the leaves, but I don't know at this point, so I just want to cover up the portions that I don't want to see. I do want to use this drop shadow, maybe later, but I don't want to use it in this particular point in time, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to put a selection around by orange, and since this really isn't a selection class, I actually have my selections saved, so I could just go with mike, unload my selection's already because I'm sure going to take a selections class and I'm a load my selection around my orange, how this works, everything inside this election is what we're going to see. Everything outside this election is what's going to be simply masked out or covered up? Selection is going be a little bit tricky when we're getting into this because you may not know what is selected what isn't selected just a quick little trip to show you what is or isn't selected take anyone of your selection tools doesn't matter what tool it is if your tool looks like the normal tool it's outside your selection if you have her inside your selection it's always going to be this little cursor with a triangle and that little square no matter what so if I use any of my lasso tools or my quick selection tool, we're going to see my lasso tool polygon lasso tool it's going to look like that inside this election it's going to look like the normal tool outside so what's inside this election is what we see what's outside this election is simply going to get covered up and masked out that's it so with that I have my selection active I'm going to go over to my layer right here and down at the very bottom of my layers panel I have all these little buttons you can click on any one that you want tio as long as it's that one that's your layer mask obviously we have to have a layer in order to be able to add a mask, so with my layer active and my selection active, I click on that a little add layer mask button and we get it asked out, so obviously, you know that the checkerboard is the transparent background, and so we see the transparent background, which means anything that I put this on top of, or any layers that I put behind this I will be able to see now this is non destructive, meaning aiken turn this mask on it off at any given time is just like a window shade, I can turn it on, turn it off, and I can bring back everything that I want. So here in my layers, I see that I have my layer thumbnail and I have my layer mask, and this adds a little bit more complex city, because when I'm dealing with this now, we're used to be able being able to go in, just take our selection tool, click on our layer no, not poke in the eye, but click on our layer and move our objects all around. Well, now we have to be paying attention to whether or not we actually have our layer selected by clicking on our layer thumbnail here or layer mask, because now there's two components to our layers. So if I go in and I want to do something on my actual object, I'm going to click on the layer thumbnail, but if I want to edit my mask, I need to click on my mask, and that can get a little bit confusing. It's, not just the layer anymore, we've got those two components. So with this layer mask every time I put a mask on a layer there's this little chain in between here and those air linking knows two together, which is very handy because if I want to go on, move my layer using my move tool, my mask is going to stay right with it, which is great, and that link between the two, which is automatically established when we create a mask, is there because who would want to have their mask not move when they move? It's kind of like you put on your pants, you walk away in your pants down, you know it could happen, and you'd probably say, when do we ever want to have something like that happen? Trust me, we will, but for now, we're just going to go ahead and keep our pants on. Ok? So with my mask here, if I click that link and I break that lincoln between the two, I now can choose between selecting by layer or selecting my mask and moving either one if I unlinked the connection between the mask in the layer. When I click on the layer, I will be able to move my layer and this freaks people out to no end because they're just like, get out, you know, it's like that is so freaky, and I'm like, I know because you get your window there and then all of a sudden you get your object and you're just like, ok, that's so weird because it's completely invisible and then it shows up well, think of it this way, okay, really crazy you're looking at your window and a car drives by you call your friends over there, like, check this out, you don't see the car and then all of a sudden it drives by the window and then disappears and it just, you know, yeah, simple, really simple, okay, but people are just like, oh, yeah, you're right, it's not easy. So what? There's really no difference here with photo shop? I mean, you look here and you see this orange drive by, which is why they call it a drive by fruiting. Ok, these are the ways you remember these kind of things, and if you think this is bad, we're only what, seven minutes into this? Yeah, I know and it gets worse, but it gets better so I can move my image around and keep my window where my mask in the same place but I can also click on my mask and I can move that around as well and again it probably doesn't make sense right at this point to be doing that but I want to show you why we were going to break those apart very quickly so I have my mask I have my layer and aiken turn these on and turn these off I may want to see what's underneath there because I make it a file from someone else that has mass this out really simple to go win and turn and turn on off turn on and turn off your masks you can always right click on virtually everything in photo shop and find it's all little menu about what's going to go on with that particular object in tool I have disabled and delete two different things if I choose disabled mask we'll get a big red x there just simply turns it on turns it off the shortcut for that is just shift click on the mask okay shift click on and off turns it on and off right click disabled turns it on and off it just simply reveals what we have hidden doesn't do anything else we haven't gotten rid of anything we've just covered it up so right click or shift click is going to turn that on and turn that off I have disabled and I also have delete people always question that what's the difference between the two will disable is on and off disable enable delete actually gets rid of the layer mask and also gets rid of everything that it was masking out. So if I delete my mayor layer mask, anything that was hidden or masked out is now just left, okay? So and they've actually changed this, so if I delete now, I'm sorry if I delete my layer mask, I get absolutely everything it's gone, but if I apply my layer mask what it does is it basically anything that's covered up is now completely gone? I'm actually applying the mask, so what I don't see is the same is going in and actually deleting it wouldn't want to apply my layer mask I may want to at some point if I have an object that I know I'm not going to do anything with if this were just a solid white background, there was no drop shadow under there I probably wouldn't save the mascot all because but I may want that drop shadow back at some point, which is why I used my mask so deleting it simply just gets rid of it leaves everything untouched, applying it go right back to having to be erased so those of the methods that I would use for my mask right there so now that I have my mask, if I were to drag my image into any other image here, that mask will always stay with it. So if I had gone to my tab structure here and I decided that I wanted to drag my orange into the statue of liberty, I could drag it out of the tab and drag it back in. I want to bring it back in. It comes in with a mask. Since those two are joined together, they will stay together until I decide that it's time it's up end to the juice or it goes so with that, I've got my object in here and that's awesome. Okay, so now I have this now what I'd like to dio is I would like to put my orange behind the statue of liberty. I'm gonna shut my orange layer off. For now, I'm going to keep it in there and generally what people would do when they would be getting into something like this is they would say, ok, I have the statue of liberty. I'm going to put my orange behind this natural of liberty, and then I'm gonna have my clouds behind the statue of liberty, which makes total sense, okay, this is photo shop. Okay, so what you think makes sense we're going to make it appear that way and this really gets people crazy, so what I want to do here is I'd like to be able to go in, and I would like to be able to put a mask around my objects that my statue of liberty actually is there, but then my mask or my orange is going to be there so it makes it appears if it goes behind the statue of liberty, I actually have a path that I've put into my statue of liberty here that I could actually go in, and I could create a selection around and people get all gung ho and they're like, ok, I'm going to put a mask on the statue of liberty when I always ask people when you're doing the mask is what do you want to hide? Whatever you want to hide, then you're going to go ahead and put a selection around everything that you want to see? I want to see the statue of liberty. So I put a selection around the statue of liberty and I apply a mass to the statue of liberty I'm going to see on lee what's in my selection and this guy goes away it's like, well, that doesn't work because I'd like tickets to the sky and the statue of liberty and squeeze this orange in between that's what I want to dio so I think oh you know what I have this election around the statue of liberty if I cut it off this layer and I paste it on a new layer here then I can have my statue of liberty all by itself I can have my cloud all by itself is well then I can shoehorn my orange in between and that's perfect and then with that I actually put it the other way there there we go statue of liberty on top and then I could have my orange in between there problem is that's destructive I'm actually going in and breaking the entire file apart because I think statue of liberty in front orange in between sky in the background from the back up here a bit and we're going to get a statue of liberty back where she belongs right there okay so I'm gonna go back to my orange here and I would like my orange to appear between the two of them in this case I'm going to be dealing with my orange and I think I want to make it a bit smaller so I'm just going to transform this and you'll see what I transformed this my entire mask is going to go with it as well from a transformed this down and I'm gonna make my orange a whole lot smaller right there and just had returned to set my transformation in this case I mean it rid of my layer mascot this point cause I'm gonna add a different one to it, and that always brings up the question. Can I add more than one layer mask to an image? No it's, one mascot the time, so I'm going to right click on my orange and I'm going to apply by layer mask, which is basically going to get rid of the entire background, and now I would like tio mask this out, the orange can pass freely behind the statue of liberty, but in front of the clouds, so I know I can put a stat I can put a selection around what I want to see, and so I asked people, okay, where is it that I would like to see the orange? And I would like to see this orange all around the statue of liberty, but I don't want to see it where the statue of liberty is, so I'm going to create a selection around every place that I want to see it, so you just basically circle what you want to see and don't circle the things you don't want to see. So what I'd like to see is I'd like to see the orange anywhere around here just not where the statue of liberty is, so I'm gonna put a selection around the area that I want to see this orange in so I put a selection around the statue of liberty and then of course go under my selection menu and I can invert that selection, so now I have a selection around every place where I want to see the orange does that make sense? Okay? Because what you have selected is what you see what's not selected is hidden, so people do that, and they're like, great now that I've done that, I go back to my statue of liberty, and I put it on and it's like what didn't work? Well, I applied it to the statue of liberty. Well, I didn't want to mask anything out in the statue of liberty. I put a selection around this and I want to mask out my orange, so I put a selection around what I want to say, I have my orange, and then I put my layer mask in their awesome so I look at this right here and I see black conceals white reveals white is where I'm going to see that orange black is where I'm not going to see it, and I'm so proud of myself that I've done this I take my selection tool and I move it and it's like what's not working well, the weird part is these air linked together and the mask is moving with my object, so this is the perfect time that I would not want to help those linked together would like to keep my window or my mask exactly in the place where I wanted and then I would like to then unsa elect that link keep this mask right here select what it is that I want to move and now when I move that it does that ok, so a little bit better picture of how you see this if you click on your mask and you actually want to see where it's applied because this is really tricky when you don't see anything it's hard to understand the concept of masks so if you use your backslash key right there and you know, delete key, you can actually see what is masked out so that read for those of you way back in the days of ruby lift I know people few people out there will get a chuckle that's in the days before computer, this actually mimics the look of ruby lift and so using your forward slash key, you will actually see the areas that are being masked out, which makes a lot more sense. The red areas are the areas we can't see through, so this makes a little bit clearer for you so this just a simple forward slash on and off to see the mask so that allows me to now go in and I can move my object all around and I can't lock that layer right there. There we go and now I can move that all around wherever I want to. I can scale my orange larger, smaller. I can rotate that, put that wherever I want to and works great, and I only have two layers. There is no really in front or behind because we would suggest ok there's, three layers here, statue of liberty, orange and the sky. But all I did is basically said, I don't want to see anything in this area. This is the area that I want to see, so I put a selection around that area clicked on the object that I want tio mask, and that was the result. So unlike ing, those allows me to then have this so that we can move those back and forth freely. And this is how we build a non destructive file using photoshopped masks. Pretty simple, but it's, not that simple that's. The basics of maddox masks, black conceals white reveals.

Class Description

Layer masks are one of Photoshop’s most essential features – in Layer Masking Basics Jason Hoppe will show you how to use them to make your images even more jaw-dropping.

Join Jason to explore the ways layer masks let you isolate and protect parts of an image as you apply color changes, filters, or layer effects to the rest of the image. You’ll learn how to turn layer masks on and off and how to edit and hide them. You’ll also learn about the advantages layer masks have over the Eraser tool and duplicate image layers. Jason will also introduce you to more sophisticated concepts like layer clipping masks.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014.2.2


  1. Intro to Masking

    Find out what layer masks are used for and how you can use masks for non-destructive editing.

  2. Refining Masks
  3. Additional Selections
  4. Controlling Attributions of Masks
  5. Painting a Layer Mask
  6. Using Gradients with Masks
  7. Layer Clipping


nancy marckus

excellent, well thought out presentation. practical and creative how-to processes. Jason has a wonderful presentation style


Excellent coverage of Layer Masks. It's a little harder to follow but totally worth the content. Clearly a more advanced and thorough introduction than some of the more basic Layer Mask courses available on this site.

Aussie David

A great short course on masks and bacon - what's not to like right there!