Photoshop Basics: Layer Masking Part 2

If you haven’t read through Layer Masking Part 1, you can read it here.  I wanted to add a few more things about layer masks. 

As you already know, layer masks are created by default when you create a new adjustment layer.  But you can also add your own mask to a layer.  In the example below, I created a sharpened layer with the high pass filter.  But I don’t want it applied to the whole image, only parts.  In other words, I want to mask certain areas out.

To do this, you must select the layer you want to add a mask to from the Layers palette.  Then click on the rectangle with the circle in the middle, located at the bottom of the palette.  It says “Add Layer Mask” when you hover.

Voila!  A mask for your layer.

Now, you can paint over the parts with your black brush where you don’t want the effect (in this case, where you don’t want the sharpening). 

However, there are some instances where you may just want to paint in the effect.  In other words, it may be quicker to quickly paint where you DO want the effect than to block out all the areas where you DON’T want the effect.

An example might be sharpening a close-up portrait.  For most of my close-ups, I want to leave the background smooth and creamy and don’t want to apply any sharpening there.  But I do want to sharpen the eyes and hair, and perhaps the clothes.  It’s much easier to brush these few areas, or paint them in with my mask.  We want a black mask (to conceal) that we will paint in with white (to reveal) .  There are 2 ways to do this…

1.  If the layer mask has already been created, make sure the mask is selected, and hit Ctrl/Cmd + i (for ‘inverse’).  This will turn your white mask black.

2.  If you haven’t created the mask yet and know you want it to be black (to conceal), hold down the Alt/Option key as you click on the “Create Layer Mask” icon.  This will create a black mask.

Either way, here is what you end up with…

Now using your white brush, you can paint over all the areas you want your effect revealed.  In this case, we will paint the areas we want sharpened.

One other thing I wanted to mention – you can also add a layer mask to a group.  This will allow you to mask areas for the entire group if necessary instead of layer by layer. 

As always, any feedback is much appreciated!

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15 Responses to Photoshop Basics: Layer Masking Part 2

  1. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for this explanation. It was as if a little light bulb (finally!) lit up over my head… hehehe

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you for all your tutorials! I was just given a Canon Rebel a few months ago and now I’m trying to get the hang of Photoshop. Thanks again!

  3. Angie says:

    You are welcome!!

  4. Marissa says:

    I bought Photoshop over a year ago but have been too intimidated to use it. After countless people have tried to explain layers and masks to me, I finally understand after reading your tutorials! Thanks so much for the clear and helpful information.

  5. Angie says:

    You are welcome, Marissa! :)

  6. Shamim says:

    the tutorial ended up really great result.

  7. Seng says:

    How did you get to the sharpen layer first of all?

  8. Mostafizur says:

    Excellent tutorial.Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the tutorial! Can you explain how to add a layer mask to a group?

  10. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up plus the rest of the site is also really good.

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