What is hidden under the mask?

This lesson is created specifically for those who are just beginning to study Photoshop or are already using it, but they still cannot figure out how to use a layer mask.

In fact, using a layer mask is very simple, and this knowledge gives you tremendous advantages. Now we will try to dot the i’s. We offer you a small lesson, in which we will show the effect of the layer mask using an example. By the way, if you immediately follow us all the steps step by step, then the lesson will definitely pass for you with benefit.

Since, knowledge is not power.
Using knowledge is what is POWER!

Now the hard question: what happens when someone puts on a mask?

Stupid question, right? It is obvious! After all, everything that is hidden under the mask becomes invisible. The layer mask works the same way! And now for a better understanding, let’s proceed to the lesson. Look at the result to which we will strive:

Yes Yes! This is the bank that stands behind the first stone, but before the next one. Note that the bank is partially transparent – through it you can see the landscape in the background, although the tubes and pieces of lemon are opaque.

Step 1. Select a photo

Find two photos you want to combine together. Here are the photos we used:

Step 2. Combine photos

Open both photos in Photoshop. Then select the tool – Move (Move Tool). Click on the picture with a can and drag it to the photo with the landscape.

You can change the size of the jar so that it does not look too big or vice versa too small. To do this, press the key combination Ctrl + T, to cause the tool free transformation. Click Shift, to keep the proportions, and pull the corner of the frame to the center.

Step 3. Create a layer mask

On the layers panel, select a layer with a can and click on the button Add layer mask (Add Layer Mask) – at the bottom of the palette. It is a rectangle with a circle inside.

After click, you will see this picture in the layers palette:

Here she is! LAYER MASK!

At the moment, it does NOT hide images, which means that while the mask is not in action and nothing is hidden under it.

So, the mask is, but hides nothing.

Now we will figure out how to use it after all.
In the meantime, we will write the desires that we want from this mask:

  1. We want the bank to remain visible, so we need to get rid of the background around it.
  2. We want not all of the bank to remain completely visible, because we need to achieve the effect that it is behind a stone.
  3. We also need a part of the can itself to become transparent so that through it you can see the landscape.

If we now began to work with layers and transparency to fulfill all three wishes, we would sit until the evening, doing all sorts of boring operations. No, better we learn how to work with masks.

Did you notice that when you click on the window with a mask, the colors in the palette change to black and white? Yes, that is it … this is Mask’s secret! Depending on which color is set in the palette: black color masks the object, and white color exposes, that is, removes the mask. To quickly set the black and white colors on the palette – press the letter “D“on the keyboard. This is all related to the image on which this mask is hanging!

Step 4. We draw a mask

Take the tool Brush (Brush).

Pick a black color and start drawing it around the jar in a bold pattern.
Paint over part of the jar and lemon itself to show that they are behind the rock. Continue to draw until only what we need remains in the picture.

And if suddenly your hand trembled, and you erased the floor banks? For this, there is a brush with white color – it will put everything back in place!

Do not forget that you can adjust the size and transparency of the brush.
These settings are at the top:

Now that you quickly removed (masked) everything you could do with a large brush, simply enlarge the image and continue painting with a smaller brush. Look at what happened with us: the background was closed with a mask, a part of a jar, a part of a lemon and a green straw.

Step 5. Add transparency

In conclusion, it remains to make a transparent glass. We offer 2 ways:

Method 1

Install Opacity (Opacity) brushes for 50% and paint those places that need to be made transparent.

Method 2

Set the brush color to gray and do the same. You might think gray is different. But here the same rule applies: if you take a dark gray, then the transparency will be barely noticeable, if light gray, then naturally the level of transparency will be higher.

We hope you have chosen a convenient way. Now color those places where you need to add transparency (hint: this is definitely not a lemon and tubules!). By the way, you can apply various filters and tools to the mask layer, thanks to which you can get an interesting effect. Here is our result:

We hope that before you, finally, clarified the concept of “Mask” in Photoshop. And you now know that working with masks in Photoshop is much easier and more enjoyable. This, of course, is not the only thing you can do with masks in Photoshop. Try, experiment, learn.


So, you understand that a mask in Photoshop is the same as a mask on a person. You can see what is not masked. This is a wonderful way, without destroying the image itself, to erase (hide) parts of it! You do not really delete the image, but hide it. This means that by changing the brush color from black to white, you can again return what was hidden.

You can enable the mask like this:

  • Layers – Layer Mask – Show All / Hide All (Layer – Layer Masks – Reveal All / Hide All)
  • Click on the corresponding icon at the bottom of the layers palette.

Switch between black (hide) and white (show) by pressing the English letter “X” on keyboard.

Drawing in shades of gray – gives transparency.

The link icon indicates that the mask layer is linked together. When moving will move together.

Remember that if you want to work with a layer mask, you must first make it active by clicking on the mask thumbnail.

See you in the next lesson!

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