Let’s begin things with the most basic question: what on earth are Layer Masks anyway? If you are interested in Photoshop, you may know a bit about Layers and how you can sort them on top of each other to create different effects and transitions. Layer Masks are an effective tool that can be added to any Layer and they allow us to hide and display various parts of the Layer with precision. In this beginner’s tips for photoshop layer masks in Photoshop, you’ll learn to use them to replace skies, and put things into your photos!

When working upon using and learning Layer Masks, a vital thing to remember is the knowledge of Black conceals and white reveals. According to the rules, if you want to hide a part of the Layer, you need to alter that separate area of the Layer Mask from white to black. If you want to display a part of a Layer, you need to change it from black to white.

Hence, keeping all the points in mind, let’s get into our top 10 tips for photoshop layer masks

1. Begin with a Black or White Layer Mask

Many a time, you might want to start with a Layer that is completely hidden or completely visible depending on your choice, if you want to integrate it into the entire image. Also, clicking on the Add a Layer Mask icon on the screen by default creates a new, white Layer Mask. On the other hand, if you desire to hide the entire layer, you could create a white Layer Mask and then go on with fill the Layer Mask with black.

Instead, if you want to save a few of your clicks and keystrokes, you can press the ALT key while you select and click on the Add a Layer Mask icon. This would create a new, black Layer Mask, making the entire previous layer invisible.

2.  Moving Layers & Layer Masks Independently from One Another

It’s quite a common technique that once you’ve designed a Layer Mask, you might want to adjust the framing,composition, and content of that Layer Mask. It means you either need to move the Mask without changing the Layer contents or just the opposite. Adapting to this allows you to move or transform either the Layer or the Layer Mask without moving or changing certain essential other elements. For example, you can move the Layer Mask to adjust what part of the image is visible.

3.  Turning  Any Selection into a Layer Mask

You can create Layer masks of varied shapes and forms. In fact, in many cases, the selection you make in Photoshop can be converted into a Layer Mask that either hides or displays the exact details and areas you want.

If you are creating a Layer Mask from  Selections it is quite an easy process. Call for use any tool you want to create a Selection with and then, with that tool working, click on the layer you desire to apply on the mask. Photoshop automatically creates a Layer Mask using the Selection tool you defined.

4.  Inverting a Layer Mask

Sometimes, you make a Layer Mask but, for one reason or the other, it’s just the opposite of what you intended. You can make transitions from black to white and white to black on your Layer Mask in no time by inverting it. Hence, to invert a Layer Mask, select it and press CTRL. It creates the exact inverted form of the original Mask.

5. Filling a Layer Mask with Black or White

Since Layer Masks always work either in black, white, or grey, we can use the default color option available in Photoshop and some easy and effective keyboard shortcuts to fill a Layer Mask. By hitting the  D on the keyboard, you can set the foreground and background colors back to their originals, black as usual in the background and white in the foreground.

6. Create a Layer Mask with a Keyboard Shortcut

Layer Masks are quite an important factor for photoshop artists and graphic designers. Yet, photoshop does not have a keyboard shortcut assigned to create them. But however, we can create our own customized keyboard shortcut that would allow us to work efficiently with managing all of the tools.

Click open the Edit menu and select Keyboard Shortcuts from the bottom of the list. It opens the Keyboard Shortcuts And Menus dialog box. Search and open the drop-down list of Layer commands and then click on the section of Layer Masks. Here we assign shortcuts to certain essential commands like hiding All or Reveal All.

7.  Copying  a Layer Mask from One Layer to Another

It is quite easy to extract a layer mask from one layer and copy it to another layer. You can copy your Layer Mask from any Layer by clicking ALT and then dragging the Layer Mask over the desired Layer you want to apply it to. Once it is copied, an identical Layer Mask gets applied to the new image.

tips for photoshop layer masks

8. Some Helpful Layer Mask Shortcuts

A number of helpful keyboard shortcuts are present that make it quite easier to work over any kind of Layer Masks and stuff.

To disable a Layer Mask you designed without destroying it, press the SHIFT button and click on the Layer Mask preview icon next.

For viewing the Layer Mask in its black and white form, hold ALT and click on the Layer Mask preview icon.

For more help in viewing where the visible or invisible areas of a Mask are present in your image, select the Layer Mask option and hit the “/” key. This would show an orange overlay over any areas that the Mask hides.

9. How to Change Layer Mask Density to Add Feathering

You can alter the opacity of a Mask or add some feathering to its edges in no time using the properties window. Just select the proper Layer Mask you want to adjust, get to the Window menu, and then click on Properties. Adjusting or altering the density would change the total opacity of the Layer Mask, making hidden areas somewhat visible.

Altering the Feathering slider softens the edge between what’s hidden and what should be visible. This can be pretty effective when you try to blend two images together for a composite.

10.  Using Layer Styles with Layer Masks

Layer Masks can be effective with a lot of the other tools in Photoshop. Even when a part of the image is hidden, Photoshop tends to recognize the Layer Mask and changes the strokes so that it gets completed and surrounds all the remaining, visible pieces.

tips for photoshop layer masks


Photoshop includes a lot of tools that aid you in creating great images. While every individual tool can be useful in certain essential situations, only a selected few are crucial in extracting the most out of the program. Layer Masks are a foundational aspect of the visual artist’s Photoshop skills. From hiding and disclosing parts of a Layer to giving rise to more advanced Selections and working upon them non-destructively, Layer Masks can help us in all of these. However, all of the 10 tips would make working upon Layer masks a cakewalk for you.

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