8 tips for layer masking


8 great tips & Shortcuts for masking.
by Maggie Terlecki -

I love the layer mask tool. It’s probably my favorite tool in Photoshop. It allows you to tweak very selectively and unlike the eraser, it is completely forgiving.

Today, I’m going to share some simple tips that will make it even better as these things save time. How you say? Well, they avoid trips to the menu and allow you to work faster and better.

1- Let’s start with the basics. We all know that using the mask, that black erases and shows the layer beneath and white brings back whatever you have done on this particular layer. Sometimes, although not often, the foreground colors are not black and white. Simple fix.
Press D on your keyboard will bring up the black and white default colors.



2- While masking, we may want the ability of moving between black and white as your foreground. Instead of stopping the masking procedure to click on the little arrows to flip the background and foreground colors, simply Press X on your keyboard and the foreground and background colors will switch. Such a time-saver!

3- When masking, you always want to mask the fastest way, so if you have a lot to change, you will want the basic white mask as then you will only use a small amount of black to bring back small portions of the original. This is easy, as that is the default mask you will get when you click on the Layer Mask option.
layermask3Often times though, you want to keep almost all the original and only change small bits here and there, such as a bit of dodge and burn etc., In this case, you want your mask to start off black so you don’t have to paint almost every in black which would take too much time. Usually, you add the mask; it is white and then go over to your bucket tool, select it and then you bucket it with black and then use your white brush. If however, you hold ALT (option on a mac) and then the mask icon, it will automatically create a mask already loaded with black. I love this feature.

4- Need to make a selection out of your mask? Simply hold CTRL (command on a Mac) and click your mask thumbnail. Voilà, done.

5- Need your mask inverted? Avoid going into your menu to choose select invert and instead, make sure you mask is highlighted and simply press CTRL (command on a Mac) and I. This will invert the mask.

6- Want to hide the mask for a bit? Press Shift and the thumbnail of the mask.

7- Need the black and white of your mask? Hold ALT (option on Mac) and click your mask’s thumbnail.






8- Sometimes you are masking an object and painting in intricate lines and it can be difficult to see if you have filled in those masked areas properly or have you gone over especially if portions around the object are very close in color or texture to what you are attempting to mask. layermask8This is not necessarily a shortcut but a great way to make sure your work is clean. Temporarily (as once you are finished you will throw this layer away) between your masking layer and the original layer, place a contrasting colored layer (a color that is not in your image at all works best.. so think bright orange, lime green – crazy purple etc., and you will see any portions that have not been masked properly. You will be able to see if you have botched edges or portions that should or should not be masked as this layer should reveal any defects.


Don’t you just love smart solutions!

Creative Commons License
8 Tips for Layer Masking by Maggie Terlecki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>