How to Mask in Photoshop

How to Mask in Photoshop

how to create mask in photoshop

Learn how to mask in Photoshop and use masking for photo editing with layers. Combine several photos into a simple photo composition, remove background, object or a person easy and fast.

Layer Mask is used to change a specific area in the picture. We can differentiate two kinds of masks: clipping masks and layer masks. Their concept is similar but they have different functions.

A layer mask allows merging several pictures into one composition or cropping something out of the picture. A clipping mask hides a part of the layer. Check out these tutorials to know how to use masking in Photoshop.

How to Create a Layer Mask?

1. Open File

Run "Photoshop." At the top of the screen, you can see a menu bar. Find File and click on it.Now you should choose one of these actions:

Select Open... and then open a project from your computer by double-clicking.

Select New... to create a new document and proceed with uploading the desired image from your computer.

2. Go to Layers Panel to Select a Layer

photoshop layer mask icon

At the bottom of the Layers panel, you will see Add layer mask button – click on it. Next, on the selected layer, you will see a white layer mask thumbnail, which will display everything on this chosen layer.

3. Select the Brush Tool

photoshop masking with the brush tool

All of the work is done with the Brush Tool, so go to the Toolbar and choose the Brush tool. Next, proceed to the Options bar. Here click on the Brush Picker and select the brush size and hardness.

4. Change the Foreground Color to Black

photoshop masking tutorial changing foreground color to black

If you want to hide a layer that features the Photoshop mask, change the foreground color to black. You can either do it manually, or press the D key. By pressing the D key on your keyboard, you will change colors to their default values of black and white.

By pressing X, you will switch the current colors. This way you will set black as the foreground color.

photoshop masking tutorial concealing the layer

In order to add black to the layer mask, just paint over the image in the document window. Black color on the layer mask conceals the mask layer. That is why it is possible to see the layer just below or the transparent checkerboard background.

5. Change the Foreground Color to White

photoshop masking tutorial changing foreground color to white

If you want to reveal a layer that features the mask, just change the foreground color to white. By pressing the X key on your keyboard, you will switch the foreground and background colors and change the foreground color to white.

photoshop masking tutorial revealing the layer

Now, just paint with white on a layer mask to make the content you had hidden before visible.

6. Apply Finishing Touches

photoshop masking tutorial after

This time you should switch between black and white while painting on a layer mask. By using a soft brush, you will create gray shadows, partly masking this area of the mask layer.

7. Save the Image

photoshop masking tutorial exporting

Name the file and save the final result in PSD format.

How to Create a Clipping Mask in Photoshop?

By using black and white colors, the layer mask allows revealing and hiding the particular areas of the layer. This type of mask uses the content and transparency of the bottom layer in order to control the visibility of the layer above.

To be precise, the layer below is the mask itself, while the upper layer is the one that is clipped to the base layer.

1. Create a Transparent File

Run "Photoshop." Select New... to create a new document. Next, upload a necessary image from your computer.

To create a transparent file, you need to open the “Background Controls” dropdown menu. Choose “Transparent” and click on “Create”.

2. Create a Shape and Fill It with Color

clipping mask in photoshop creating shape

The easiest way to create a shape is to take advantage of the marquee tool (it is also called a selection tool or “marching ants”).

After you create a shape, you will need to fill it with the color.

4. Deselect

clipping mask in photoshop using the marquee tool

Click on “marching ants” again. Next, you will need to get rid of your selection by clicking on the shape.

5. Add Your Image

clipping mask in photoshop adding the image

Click on “File” and select “Place Embedded” in the drop-down menu. Find the picture you want to work with and click on “Place”.

6. Create a Clipping Mask

creating clipping mask in photoshop

Go to the top layer, right click on it, choose “Create Clipping Mask.”

7. Adjust the Image Position

adjusting clipping mask in photoshop

Readjust the photo until you like its position. To change the size, press Ctrl + T. After that, select and hold down the Command + Shift key and drag the edges of the image in or out to achieve correct proportions.

8. Combine Layers

clipping mask in photoshop merging layers

Select the photo layer, right click on it and choose “Merge Visible.”. You can also use shortcut Command + E.

9. Save the Image

clipping mask in photoshop exporting

Save the final result in PNG format in order not to lose the transparency.

10. Enjoy the Final Result

creating a clipping mask in photoshop after

Photoshop Masking Keyboard Shortcuts

While working with masking in Photoshop, it is useful to learn some shortcuts that will radically save your time. All these shortcuts involve clicking on the mask's thumbnail first.

Alt/Option - allows you to enter or exit Mask view.

Shift – allows disabling or enabling Mask view.

Shift + Alt/Option – allows entering or exiting Quick Mask Mode.

Command/Ctrl - allows making a selection based on the mask edges.

Command/Ctrl + Shift - allows adding to a selection based on the mask edges.

Command/Ctrl + Alt/Option - allows subtracting out of a selection based on the mask edges.

Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Option - allows making an intersection with the original selection and the one you’ve just created based on the mask edges.

In order to customize keyboard shortcuts and add a layer mask, just choose Edit and then Keyboard Shortcuts. Then you need to select Application Menus option in “Shortcuts For”. Next, switch the disclosure triangle to the Layer menu. After that, go to Layer Mask, click on a blank space next to the command and finally add your custom keyboard shortcuts.

Freebies for Photoshop Editing

Make your image editing in Photoshop much easier with the following Photoshop filters, that can be applied to all kinds of photos in a matter of seconds.

Photoshop Overlay “Haze”


This sun ray overlay creates a slight bokeh effect. Make photos vibrant and add that warm atmosphere. It works great with children and love story photos.

Photoshop Action “Hard Contrast”


This Photoshop action gives your photos a dramatic effect. It works best with cityscape photography. The action gives the photos good saturation without distorting them while making the image look even more stylish.

Photoshop Action “Chocolate”


Create a special atmosphere by giving your photos a gentle soft brown tone. This action is great for wedding, portrait, cityscape, fashion and children photography.

Photoshop Overlay “Light Blur”


Wondering how to put a special emphasis on a person against a busy street? Then this bokeh overlay is just what you are looking for. It allows you to focus on the subject and blur the background a bit.

Photoshop Action “Green Shadow”


This Photoshop action will highlight and intensify green objects like trees, bushes, grass or mountains. Do not worry, this action doesn’t make the skin tone green, it retains the natural texture.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

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