Layer Masks 101

Today’s post is by team member Toria. We’re so glad she could share her expertise with us today!

What is a layer mask?

A layer mask is a Photoshop CS and Photoshop Elements tool that allows you to erase and “unerase” parts of an image.The icon for layer masks is a rectangle with a circle in the middle.

Why should I use it for digi projects?

Because essentially, it’s a non-destructive erasing tool! You can change your mind numerous times about your layout and not have to start over.

How do I use it?

Its simple! Just click the layer mask icon on the layer you want to “erase.” Then, using the brush tool, erase and unerase as you please by toggling back and forth between black and white. Choosing black will erase the image, white will unerase.

In the video below, I want to extract this picture of my daughter. I use the selection tool to quickly grab what I want to keep, then choose layer mask. I then can refine my extraction by using the brush tool.

What can I use it for in my digi projects?

  • Extract images
  • Make a composite of multiple images by layering them on top of each other and using the layer mask to erase the bad parts of the top image.
  • Erase drop shadows on elements, so if you move them you do not have to reshadow.
  • Erase parts of scatters/clusters that cover parts of your layout
  • Mask an adjustment layer to apply the adjustment to only part of your image (colorize a black and white image or brighten only part of it)