These Layer Mask tips are a few extra tidbits that I originally put into a video tutorial about how to remove a background around hair. Here's a link to that earlier post:
The video for that tutorial had already ended up being quite long. I decided that the Layer Mask tips weren't essential to that lesson so I cut them out of the video.
But I thought there were some bits of information in there that might help people who are trying to understand how Layer Masks work.
This tutorial is the result. It's not meant to be a complete lesson on how Layer Masks work but it does explain some key points. You can watch the outtake from the video below.
Here's a summary of the tips on Layer Masks shown in the video above.
To me this first Layer Mask tip is the most important one to understand. You may have heard me say it before: White Reveals, Black Conceals. Huh, what does that mean?
A Layer Mask is either white, black, or gray. You'll never see a blue or green Layer Mask. OK, that explains the white and black part, but what about the reveals and conceals part?
Just ask yourself "reveals and conceals WHAT?" Well, it reveals or conceals the Layer that it's on.
How do you know what Layer it's on? Because you can see it right next to the Layer Thumbnail in the Layers Panel. Look at the screen grab of the Layers Panel below.
The Layer Thumbnail shows what's on that Layer.
The Layer Mask dictates what areas of that Layer and that Layer only get shown (revealed) in the live work area (also called the Active Image Area).
If you don't have a Layer Mask on a Layer, then the entire Layer is visible or shown (revealed) in the Live Work Area.
If the entire Layer Mask is white, then the entire Layer is visible (revealed) in the live work area. Having an entirely white Layer Mask on a Layer is exactly the same as not having a Layer Mask on that Layer.
When you add a Layer Mask to a Layer, the Layer Mask is used to either reveal or conceal parts of the Layer that it's associated with.
In the screen grab above you can see that the white part of the Layer Mask is the part of the Layer that's visible (revealed) in the Live Work Area.
Just to be clear, that Layer Mask is NOT affecting the Background Layer below it in the Layers Panel. In fact the visibility is turned off for the Background Layer. For the purposes of this lesson just pretend that the Background Layer isn't even there.
You might find that for one reason or another you want to temporarily turn off your Layer Mask so that you can see what the Layer looks like in the Active Image Area without the Layer Mask.
You can disable or turn off a Layer Mask by holding down the Shift key as you click directly on the thumbnail of the Layer Mask.
The Layer Mask gets a big red "X" over it to indicate that it has been disabled. And in the Active Image Area you'll see what that Layer looks like without a Layer Mask.
If you want to turn the Layer Mask back on you do the same thing, shift-click directly on the Layer Mask again. The red "X" will disappear and you'll see the results of having the Layer Mask enabled again in the Active Image Area.
There are different ways to put black or white on a Layer Mask. Let's take a look at four different ways:
1. Make a Selection, click on the "Add a Mask" icon.
This first technique is for using before you have a Layer Mask.
2. Paint with the Brush tool.
3. Make a Selection and then "fill" that Selection.
4. Use the Gradient tool.
You can actually see what a Layer Mask looks like in the Active Image Area.
To do that hold down the Option Key on a Mac or the Alt Key on a PC as you click directly on the Layer Mask thumbnail in the
In the image below the Layer Mask was created using the Gradient tool:
To return to the default view do the same thing:
Hold down the Option Key on a Mac or the Alt Key on a PC as you click directly on the Layer Mask thumbnail in the