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Using Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 3 of 6

Using Layer Masks to Remove People

Ben Willmore

Using Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

3. Using Layer Masks to Remove People

Lesson Info

Using Layer Masks to Remove People

You can be more efficient at this by analyzing your layers first and figuring out which layer needs the least work, which one is the cleanest version of the picture, and if so put that at the bottom of your layers panel. And then slowly turn on the layers above to figure out which ones would you need to use to mask, because otherwise, if you just start with whatever picture happens to be the top one, and it happens to be maybe this one here. Well if you look there's quite a few areas covered with people. And if that ends up just happening to be the bottom layer, it's gonna take more time for me to clean it up. So I'm gonna come in here and look at one layer at a time. I'll turn off all the layers, go for the top layer first, and see how clean does that look? Not too bad. Go to the next one down Lot more in that one. Next one down, a lot more there too. Same with there. And I'm just going down to each one to see which one's cleanest. And I think it was the top most layer. So then I'm go...

nna move that layer to the bottom of my layers stacked by just dragging it's name to the bottom. And I just stare at this area to remember which area needs changes, and then I'm gonna then turn on each of these layers, one at a time, to see which one clears that area the most. Not so good there. Not so good there. Not so good there Might not be one. That's a lot better. If you look here's the bottom layer That's clearing out quite a bit of it. So potentially the second layer from the top. Yeah, I think it's the second layer from the top is the clearest in the one area that needed work. So I'm gonna move that layer so it is just above the bottom most layer. I'm slowly building my image from the bottom up. And in this layer, what I wanna do is hide everything that's in the layer to begin with. So that means I wanna blackmask. To get a blackmask, I hold down the Option key, I have it held down right now. That's Alt and Windows, and I add my layer mask Ah, but before I do, I was probably shooting handheld, and if so Yes, do you see the building move as I turn these layers on and off? So before I end up masking that, let me turn these layers back on, select them all. And the one step I skipped, which I shouldn't have, is to auto align my layers. Same step we did on the previous images Then let's get back down to it. This layer. All right, I'm gonna hold down the Option key, Alt and Windows when I click the layer mask icon, that's gonna hide the entire contents of this layer. I'm gonna then grab my Paintbrush Tool paint with white, cause white allows things to show up. And I'll come down in here and paint where those people need to just go away. I see a guy showing up over here on the right, which says I painted too far. I'm gonna paint with black to hide him and you can just type the letter X. The letter X does the same thing as clicking this little double arrow, which switches these two colors. So if I hit the letter X, you see how it just switched them? So I just make sure I have black and white there so at any time, I can hit X to switch between the two. So I typed X, which is now gonna paint with black and I'll take him out of there. I see another arm coming back so I'll hit X to switch. Try to get as minimal... X X It's like where On the layer, there was a person in that spot on both layers. Let's see if it's gonna help to bring this area in. Just where the one guy was. Choose undo See about her. Yeah that's helpful. Maybe the other edge of him. Okay. But if I kept going, she shows up. Hit X. All right, we need to find another image where it's clean there. So I'm gonna go through all of my images here and see if there's one that has clean information there. I can just stay zoomed up like I am now I'll be watching this particular area and that area right here. So let's turn on the next layer, and see if it helps us at all. It helps us on the area where the doorway is. So I'm gonna take that layer, I wanna blackmask so I'm gonna option click on the layer mask icon that'll hide everything, since I wanna use a small area and then I'll grab my paintbrush and just paint it right in with white. There. I'm not sure if it helped over here, so there's a way to disable a mask. If you disable a mask, then the entire contents of a layer will show up again it'll be as if you filled the mask with white. To disable a mask, hold down the shift key on your keyboard, and click anywhere within the mask in your layers panel. Watch my layers panel when I shift click on this mask, you see a red X appear within it that means it's temporarily disabled and therefore, you can see the entire contents of the layer. If you shift click on the mask again, it will re-enable it. And so I can see that there are people in this position on the right side So it wouldn't be helpful to make more of that layer visible. I still need to clean up a little bit of residue right here and potentially just below that so I'll turn on the next layer and see if it has a clean area there and it does not. Turn that back off, and go for the next layer. Not. The next layer up there we have a clean area. So I'm gonna work on that layer, I'm gonna add a blackmask, because I wanna hide the majority of that layer so I hold down the option key, click on the layer mask icon, and now I'm gonna paint with white, because white allows things to show up and I'm just gonna bring that in down to here. Get rid of that guy's arm by hitting X which switches the color I'm painting with to get rid of that. All right, now we have person left they're over here in the very corner or edge of the picture and I'm gonna take the two layers that we haven't used yet and turn them on one at a time to see if that person happens to go away if we had a version Not there. And then go to the next one down Not there either That picture just didn't extend far enough over. I'm then going to look at the layers we're already using and I'm gonna turn off their masks to see if I made that entire layer visible, would there be a clean area over there on the right? I do that by holding down the Shift key, and clicking on the mask That temporarily disables it. So I'll just stare at that person and that could be useful, other than I think they're hand and part of their arm would overlap So we wouldn't be able to completely get rid of them. I'll go down to the next mask and do the same thing Shift clicking And no, that image does not extend far enough to the right The next one down. There we go That cleans it up. So it's this mask down here that I wanna work on I click on that layer, make sure it's mask is active, and I'm going to paint with white and I'm just gonna paint right there. So now we got rid of that person. And now the only question is Is my framing too tight? Because I have this checkerboard area over here on the edges and because we have the checker board, that tells me one of the pictures extended out that far Otherwise, it wouldn't have just had empty space for no reason. And so if I don't wanna crop it in that tight, I could figure out which layer filled in that space. I think we're fine at the bottom I'd be fine cropping even further up same with on the left side but on the right side, it's pretty darn close to this building so I might see if I wanna add some. To do that, I'm gonna go to the two layers we haven't used yet to see if they fill in that gap on the right side of my photograph or not. This one does not. The next one down does not either. So neither of those will help. I'll then go to the ones that all ready have masks and I'm gonna disable the mask to see if it will fill in the area on the right. So I'll go to the top one, Shift click get a little bit extra there. Go to the next one down that has a mask. That doesn't help And one more down. There that adds a lot. So if I didn't wanna have to crop in quite as far, I could paint on this mask. To paint in that mask, I need to paint with white and I'm gonna come in here and just kinda looks like the sun changed a little bit like it might've come out from behind a cloud or something between those shots. And I'm just going to in this case, I'm gonna use a brush that's a little harder edge so I don't make it fade out too far. And come up here unfortunately, that brings one person into the shot but at least I wouldn't have to crop as tightly. That guys tiny though. And so then, to finish off the image, I'm gonna go to the side menu of my layers panel I'm gonna choose delete hidden layers, cause I'm not gonna use the two layers that are currently hidden Those will cause them to go away. I'll click on the top most layer then and I'm gonna retouch out that guy that's over there. So I'm gonna create a brand new empty layer by clicking the icon next to the trash and I'm just gonna use a tool called the Spot Healing Brush. To paint right where that guy was let go and if it doesn't work, that's because there's a setting in my options bar at the top of my screen in Sample All Layers needs to be turned on Otherwise, it can't see the information in the other layers to copy from it So now I can try it again. Get that guy to go away. So now we have created a scene with no tourists in it, and the final step I would need to do is crop out the empty space that surrounds the image. And I might not have painted all the way to the top of the photograph in one of my masks I still see that empty spot I can see the mask it's in Can't you see the white paint here on the edge that doesn't go all the way up? So I just finish with my brush tool. And go back to the layer that has my retouching and see if I can use that exact same retouching tool to just kinda fill in that emptiness. All right. So you get the sense for how we could use layer masks for removing tourists if we had enough pictures of those tourists moving around. Then we can combine them to create a cleaner shot.

Class Description


  • Understand the relationship between Selections and Masks
  • Use brushes and gradients to create complex masks
  • Understand how filters and selections affect masks
  • Use masks to combine multiple exposures to remove unwanted objects
  • Temporarily disable, overlay or view any Layer Mask


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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Jean McMillan

Just loving this with 'bite size' chunks, I have picked up so much and it's great being able to jump in and do a short blast to re-fresh the memory. Wish all classes were short, sweet and to the point like these