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Layer Mask

February 4, 2010

Everyone should know how to use a layer mask.  It’s very simple and can make a huge difference in your processing.

1) When you create a new adjustment layer they automatically include a layer mask for you.  If you want to add one of your own, you click the little icon I’ve so beautifully highlighted in yellow.

2) To use it, set your foreground color to black.  Wherever you paint on the mask (circled in red above) with black will disappear.  In the above example I created a new layer, filled it with blue, and then partially painted over the layer mask with black.

3) If you accidently paint over too much, change your foreground color to white and paint back over it.

4) You can also change the opacity of your paintbrush, which makes it fade a bit, depending on how strong you’ve set it.

I use layer masks all the time.  Sometimes I want added contrast in the background but not on a subjects face.  So I’ll add a layer with contrast and then paint back the subjects face.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 10:29 pm

    thank you for sharing! I´ll be looking forward to reading your next posts!

  2. February 5, 2010 4:48 pm

    I think you’re an amazing photographer and am thrilled to see you have a new blog. Thank you for the tips.

  3. February 5, 2010 6:34 pm

    Hi Lauren – I’ve enjoyed your Flickr pictures for some time – you must have the most photogenic kids on earth. Thanks for sharing.

    I just got a half-off offer from Adobe for Photoshop CS4. I’ve been using Photoshop Elements 8 for a while now – and I’m really not sure what the advantages are to upgrading. I guess you could call me a serious enthusiast, and would love to hear your point of view on making the choice.

    Thank you.


    • elycerose permalink*
      February 5, 2010 7:00 pm

      Hi David,

      That’s hard for me to answer because I’ve never used Elements so I can’t compare the two programs. I started with Photoshop seven years ago so it’s all I’ve ever used.

      I would guess that Photoshop would take you further beyond the basics (cropping, leveling, etc) and allow more creative approaches to photo-finishing, but I really don’t know.

      Sorry for not being any help at all.

      • February 5, 2010 9:10 pm

        Hi. OK – you made me laugh anyway. But thanks for the reply! You’d be surprised how hard it can be to get responses to posts. I like what you’re doing with your blog and am really glad that you’re sharing good info.


  4. Kag permalink
    February 8, 2010 9:05 am

    I’ve always been puzzeled by the masks. Can you post an example of what the photo looked like before and after the mask?


    • elycerose permalink*
      February 8, 2010 10:34 am

      In the picture above the masked part is the solid blue on the top. I put a solid blue layer and then used the mask to paint in the picture beneath.

      If there was no mask attached to the solid blue layer you would just see blue, you wouldn’t see any of the picture at all.

  5. Kag permalink
    February 8, 2010 1:39 pm

    So, is the photo above in your banner the outcome of using this mask?

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 8, 2010 2:05 pm

      No. I just used the same picture in the example.

  6. leuska permalink
    March 10, 2010 5:39 am

    This site, your photography, and right now this tutorial, are totally opening my eyes and explaining the most amazing things in the most simplest ways…THANK YOU Lauren!

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