Photoshop Layer Masks

By Matt Rittman -- Get free updates of new posts here
Jason Layer Mask

Jason Layer Mask

Adobe Photoshop. The greatest tool on the planet to create/edit all your on and offline content…right? WRONG. Just kidding, it is. It’s industry standard so it must be the best! Well, I enjoy working with it anyway. There is so much to Photoshop that even after 5+ years of using it that I continue to discover new tools.

I’d like to share with you today one of those tools I wish I had picked up since I first began using Photoshop. It’s called a Layer Mask. What the heck is a layer mask!? If you keep reading, I’ll tell you what it is. I’m sure there are a million websites out there that explain layer masks. Well guess what… I’m going to be 1,000,001. So if you’d like to read elsewhere about the topic, be my guest!

Anywho, a layer mask is basically a NON-DESTRUCTIVE way to hide parts of a layer. For example, say you have two photos each on a separate layer. The top photo is black and white while the photo beneath it is in full color. They’re the same exact size and all that jazz. And you’re thinking to yourself, “It’d be freakin sweet if the shirt I was wearing was in color while the rest of the photo was in black and white because it’s so cliche and I want it as my facebook photo!” Well the first thing that comes to mind would be to grab the old eraser tool and erase the top layer’s shirt right? Guess again sucker. Remember that term I used earlier…NON-DESTRUCTIVE? If you just start erasing parts of a layer, you lose that layer’s information forever! With a layer mask, you paint the areas of a layer you want to hide in black and it reveals the underlying layer. And say you accidentally removed a part of your sweet shirt you didn’t want to, all you have to do is paint white over the area you painted black. BAM! Your black and white portion is brought back to life! And you can go back and forth as much as you’d like without losing any image information. Hope that makes sense because I can’t explain it any better. How about a mini tutorial?

Mini Tutorial

1) Open your full-color facebook photo in Photoshop.

2) Duplicate the layer by dragging it down to the “Create a new layer” icon.

3) Make the top layer black and white by choosing Image -> Adjustments -> Black and White. Choose your desired color settings then click OK.
Black & White

4) Make sure the top layer is still selected then click the add layer mask button. You’ll see a white layer mask thumbnail is created to the right of the original layer thumbnail. You can now either select the image thumbnail or the mask thumbnail. Make sure the mask thumbnail is selected (it will have a black border to denote it is selected).
Layer Mask

5) Set your foreground color to black and adjust your paintbrush diameter and hardness.

6) Start painting the area in the photo you’d like to hide. If you make a mistake, change your foreground color to white and paint over the area to reveal the black and white layer again.
Grandpa Blue Shirt

That’s really all there is to it! Layer masks can be a very powerful tool and a great way to edit your layers without losing image information. If you have any questions about this tool or any other Photoshop tools, feel free to contact me on our Contact page.

One Response so far.

  1. Steve Scheidecker says:

    I like the Jason mask for a post about layer masks.

Leave a Reply