Editing Layer Masks






Editing Layer Masks

You can change the shape of a layer mask if you need to. For instance, suppose you decide that the layer linked to the layer mask doesn’t show enough of a face down in the left corner. You can paint with white on the layer mask to reveal more of the layer and the face.

You can edit a layer mask in three ways:

  • Display the layer mask by itself in the image window and modify it that way.

  • Select the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette and modify the layer mask by painting on the image in the image window. (The layer mask isn’t visible.)

  • Display the layer mask as a color overlay superimposed on the layer’s image and modify the layer mask by using the image as your guide.

Although all three of these options are useful at some time or another, I find myself selecting Door Number 3 — displaying the layer mask as an overlay — the most often. This method is handy because you can see the layer mask on the layer and use the layer as a guide.

Here’s how to edit a layer mask:

  1. Select an editing tool, such as the Brush tool, from the Toolbox.

    For a complete list of tools that you can use to edit layer masks, take a look at the sidebar “What tools can you use to modify layer masks?”

  2. Display the layer mask to edit it.

    • Alt+click/Option+click the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette to view only the layer mask in the image window. (If you want to use the shape tools to edit the layer mask, you need to use this method.)

    • Click the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette to select it (but not to view it).

    • Alt+Shift+Click/Option+Shift+Click the layer mask thumbnail to view the layer mask as a color overlay superimposed on the layer. Figure shows this method. In the figure, the overlay appears as light gray.

      Click To expand
      Figure: Viewing the layer mask as an overlay lets you see exactly what is masked.

  3. On the Options bar, choose Normal from the Mode drop-down list and set the Opacity to 100%.

    If you want to partially hide or reveal a layer, use a lower Opacity setting.

    • Select the layer mask in the Channels palette and apply a filter to the layer mask to create a special effect. For instance, you could use the Gaussian Blur filter to soften the edges of the mask.

    • Disable the effect of a layer mask by Shift+clicking the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette. To restore the layer mask, Shift+click again.

  4. Paint in the image window with black, white, and/or gray.

    • Select black as the Foreground color and paint with it to hide the layer (revealing more of the layer underneath).

    • Select white as the Foreground color and paint with it to view more of the layer (hiding more of the layer underneath).

    • Select gray as the Foreground color to make the layer mask translucent, partially revealing the



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