What you’ll need
This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file.
What you learned: Layer masking basics
What is a layer masking?
Layer masking is a reversible way to hide part of a layer. This gives you more editing flexibility than permanently erasing or deleting part of a layer. Layer masking is useful for making image composites, cutting out objects for use in other documents, and limiting edits to part of a layer.
You can add black, white, or gray color to a layer mask. One way to do that is by painting on the layer mask. Black on a layer mask hides the layer that contains the mask, so you can see what is underneath that layer. Gray on a layer mask partially hides the layer that contains the mask. White on a layer mask shows the layer that contains the mask.
Create a layer mask
- Select a layer in the Layers panel.
- Click the Add layer mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel. A white layer mask thumbnail appears on the selected layer, revealing everything on the selected layer.
Add black to a layer mask to conceal
Adding black to a layer mask hides the layer that contains the mask.
- In the Layers panel, make sure there is a white border around the layer mask thumbnail. If there is not a white border, click the layer mask thumbnail.
- Select the Brush tool in the Toolbar. In the Options bar, open the Brush Picker and choose the size and hardness of the brush.
- Press D to set the default colors of white and black in the Toolbar. Then press X to switch the colors, so black becomes the foreground color.
- Paint over the image, which adds black to the layer mask. Black on the layer mask hides the layer with the mask, so you can see the layer below or the checkerboard pattern that represents transparency.
Add white to a layer mask to reveal
Adding white to a layer mask shows the layer that contains the mask. You can paint with white on a layer mask to reveal content you had previously concealed with black on the layer mask.
- Press X to switch the foreground and background colors in the Toolbar, so white becomes the foreground color.
- Paint over hidden areas of the image. This adds white to the layer mask, bringing back into view corresponding areas of the masked layer.
Fine-tune the layer mask with black, white, and gray
Switching between black and white as you paint on a layer mask is a flexible way to fine-tune the mask edge. If you use a soft brush, the edges of the brush will apply shades of gray, partially hiding that part of the layer with the mask.
Save your work with layers
- Save the image in .PSD or .TIFF format to retain the layers and layer masks for future editing.
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In this series, Helen Bradley discusses some handy Photoshop tools that are often overlooked or misunderstood, either because they’re hidden away or because their use isn’t immediately apparent. Yet these tools provide smart and useful ways to perform various tasks in Photoshop, so they’re worthy of adding to your Photoshop skill list.
In the third article in the series, we consider the clipping mask feature, which is often incorrectly referred to as “clipping paths” and sometimes called a “clipping group.” This feature often is used to create text effects in which the text looks like it’s cut from a photo, but clipping masks have other uses that we’ll examine in a bit.
To follow along as we explore clipping masks, watch the accompanying video.
Clipping Mask Basics
A clipping mask is created using two layers of a Photoshop image. Transparent pixels in the bottommost layer act as a mask for the image on the layer above.
The easiest way to understand how clipping masks work is to try one yourself. Follow these steps to use a clipping mask to create text that looks like it’s cut from a photo:
Open a photograph in Photoshop, double-click the background layer, and click OK to convert this layer to a regular layer. Click the Horizontal Type tool, click on the photo, and type some text on the image. (Choose a font with thick, solid letters so there’s plenty of room for the photo to show through.) Don’t worry about the text color; when this effect is complete, you won’t see the color anyway. Figure 1 shows the sample I’m using.
Figure 1 Turn the background layer of an image to a regular layer and then add some text to a new layer, using a thick, heavy font.
Figure 2 To create a clipping mask, hold down the Alt key (Option on the Mac), position the cursor over the border between the two layers, and click.
As Figure 3 shows, when you create a clipping mask the top layer thumbnail is inset slightly in the Layers palette, and a down arrow appears to the left of the thumbnail, indicating that the layer is part of a clipping mask. The name of the bottommost layer of the clipping mask—the one that’s acting as the mask—is underlined.
Figure 3 With the clipping mask applied, the text layer masks the image layer above.
If you have difficulty moving the text on the text layer, select the Text tool, Ctrl-click the layer thumbnail for the text layer (Command-click on the Mac), and continue to hold down the Ctrl or Command key as you drag the text around.
To undo the clipping mask, position the mouse pointer over the border between the two layers and Alt-click (Option-click on the Mac).
Let’s complete the effect in this example by adding a lighter version of the image below the clipping mask. Duplicate the image layer and drag it below the clipping mask. Add a white-filled layer above that layer, and decrease the opacity of the white-filled layer to reveal some of the image below. Add a small Outer Glow layer style to the text layer to draw attention to it (see Figure 4).
Figure 4 Finish the effect by adding a duplicate of the image layer, and lighten it with a partially opaque white-filled layer.
In image editing, masks nondestructively hide parts of layers. There are lots of different uses for masks and they are an incredibly flexible and powerful image editing tool. For example, in photo editing, you might use masks to combine parts of different photos into one. In graphic design, you might use clipping masks to fit an image within a container. And, in illustrations, you might use masks to fill layers with textures. Let’s check out how masks work and how to use them.
What do masks do?
Essentially, layer masks ‘erase’ parts of layers so they are no longer visible. Why not use the Erase tool for this? There are a few reasons — for one, once you erase an area, you need to go back and undo every change to get the original image back. It may also not be possible to erase certain layers such as text, shapes, or RAW layers. Masks let you nondestructively hide parts layers of every type — even layer groups. And you can remove or refine masks whenever you want in order to make the original image fully visible. Not just that, masks can also be copied from layer to layer and edited using effects, making them infinitely more versatile for many image editing tasks.
In Pixelmator Pro, there are two kinds of masks: layer masks and clipping masks. Let’s start with layer masks.
Add a layer mask
To add a layer mask, Control ⌃ -click a layer in the Layers sidebar and choose Add Mask. You could also select the layer you’d like to mask and choose Format > Mask > Add Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
Notice how a white thumbnail appears next to the layer. Layer masks work in black and white (otherwise known as greyscale). The color white doesn’t hide anything, so a completely white mask will have no effect on the image. Any part of a mask that is pure black will completely hide those areas of a layer. By default, when you first add a layer mask, it’s completely white.
Edit your layer mask
To begin editing your mask, you’ll first need to click the thumbnail to select the mask.
You can use almost any tool in Pixelmator Pro to edit masks, just like you would edit any other type of layer. But to mask out photos, the Paint tool is often used, so let’s start with that.
Once you’ve added the mask, choose the Paint tool (by pressing the b key) and select a basic round brush. To make it easier to edit masks, you can reset the primary and secondary colors to black and white and to do that, you can press the d key. By default, the color black will be selected.
Useful Keyboard Shortcuts
When editing layer masks, there are three very useful keyboard shortcuts to remember: b , d , and x . The b key selects the Paint tool so you can choose a brush with which to edit the mask. The d key resets the primary and secondary colors in Pixelmator Pro to black and white. And the x key switches between those two colors.
With the layer mask still selected, paint over your image. The areas you paint over will be nondestructively hidden and, if you have other layers underneath, they will become visible. If you’d like, you can also experiment with shades of grey (or adjust the Opacity of your brush) to make areas partially visible.
You can use the Command ⌘ – i keyboard shortcut to invert a mask from black to white, so instead of painting to hide areas, you could start with a black mask and paint with white to gradually reveal areas.
After painting all the areas of the mask outside the balloon using a black brush, only the balloon is now visible. Everywhere else, the lower layer makes up the rest of the image. You can always edit your masks and temporarily disable them (or completely remove them) to make the entire original layer visible again.
In addition to manually painting masks, there are a few more ways to mask out parts of images. For example, you can create masks from selections. If you have an object you’d like to mask, you can first make a selection of it using any of the selection tools. When you add a mask, everything outside the selected area will be hidden by the mask, which is automatically created for you.
Mask Using Effects
You can even use effects to create masks nondestructively. For example, you can create a mask from an image by applying the Image fill effect to a layer mask. Or use the Gradient fill effect to create a fade effect.
Clipping masks, like layer masks, are also used to mask out parts of objects. However, instead of painting on a dedicated mask layer, existing layers in your Pixelmator Pro documents act as the mask — for example, you can use text and shape layers as clipping masks. When you create a clipping mask, any transparent areas of the clipping mask layer will mask out those same areas of any layers ‘clipped’ to it. In simpler terms, if you create a clipping mask from a circle and clip a photo to it, any parts of the photo outside the circle will be hidden.
Create a clipping mask
So, in order to create a clipping mask, you’ll need at least two layers — one layer to act as the mask, and another layer to be masked. Any layers at all will work, whether it’s some text, a shape, or even a layer group. The upper layer should be your content (an image, pattern, or texture) and the lower layer should be the object that acts as the mask.
In the screenshot above, we’ve added an ellipse shape and, by default, that appears above our image layer. First, move the ellipse layer below the image layer. Then, to create a clipping mask, Control ⌃ -click the upper layer in the Layers sidebar and choose Create Clipping Mask. You can also select the upper layer and choose Format > Mask > Create Clipping Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen). There’s also a neat shortcut way for creating a clipping mask. Simply hold down the Option key and, in the Layers sidebar, click the area between any two layers.
Notice how the contents of the layer above are clipped to the shape of the layer below. You can choose the Move tool and resize both layers individually to change the mask or its contents. You can apply effects to either layer, too. And the great thing with clipping masks is that you can create them from any kind of layer. For example, if you add some text, you can clip an image to the text layer and edit the text whenever you want.
There are lots of different ways to use masks in image editing, but if you’d like to get a little bit more practice, try masking out the sky in one photo and replacing it with another or filling a text layer with an image using a clipping mask. And if you have any questions, feel free to post them below and we’ll do our best to help out!
You are working on top of or on copies of that photo.
You will have more control.
You can use blending modes to change the way layers interact.
You can change the opacity of any effects.
You will have or can add layer masks so that you can work selectively on your photo with any adjustments you make.
(SHIFT, CTRL or CMD, and “N”) or under LAYER – NEW LAYER: This will create a blank transparent layer. This is useful when you want to add or change something on a photo and pixels are not needed. For example, adding a border. If you make a new blank layer, and then add a border by doing SELECT – ALL. Then EDIT – STROKE. You can turn the layer on or off by toggling the eye ball, add a layer style such as a bevel or emboss, or change the opacity by working on this type of layer.
Using the black and white circle in the layers palette or going under LAYER – NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER – and then whichever adjustment you want: This will create a transparent layer where you can make direct changes to your photograph without effecting your original in any way. This is how I edit every photo. Any levels, curves, hue/saturation layer, channel mixer layer, etc that I do, I use an adjustment layer. Why? The way adjustment layers work is you make the changes on a transparent layer. They change the appearance of pixels underneath without actually touching or destroying anything. So they are NON-DESTRUCTIVE. Another BIG reason to use adjustment layers is that you can go back and edit these layers even after you are onto new layers, by double clicking the adjustment layer icon of any layer. You can stack these layers and they accumulate. They do not cover each other up. They work together. And most importantly, they have layer masks. Layer masks allow you to selectively effect a photo.
Press letter “T” on your keyboard or the “T” symbol in the tool bar to bring up the text tool. When you do this, it automatically puts your text on a new text layer. You can adjust the font, color, size, and shape of the text. This works similarly to an adjustment layer in that you can go back and edit it even after doing other layers, as long as you do not flatten.
(CTRL or CMD and “J”) or under LAYER – DUPLICATE LAYER: This will create a duplicate copy of whatever layer you are on. If you are on an adjustment layer, it will copy that layer and double the effect. If you are on the “Background” layer, it will copy that layer. Think of duplicate layers like a photocopy. These can be useful in certain situations. When you duplicate a pixel layer (such as the background), remember than it will cover up anything under it, unless certain blending modes are used. As a result, I use these sparingly. Duplicate layers are most useful when I run a defog (which clarifies the photo), for sharpening, for working on skin such as wrinkles or acne, or when using the clone tool. Many of these adjustments (but not all) can be done on a New Layer versus Duplicate. If they can be done on a New Layer, that is preferable. For a tool like the patch tool, you will need the pixels there and will need a Duplicate Layer.
What is a Mask:
At its simplest definition a mask is a way to apply something to a very specific portion of an image. There are two primary types of masks: clipping masks and layer masks. These two tools are closely related in concept, but very different in application. Let’s start by discussing layers masks, which are generally what people are referring to when you hear them discuss Photoshop masking.
A layer mask is something that you apply to a given layer to control the transparency of that layer. Where layer opacity controls the transparency of the entire layer at once, a mask gives you more precise controls over very specific areas. If you want the entire layer to be at 30%, you would lower the opacity, if you want just the left side of a layer to be at 30%, you would use a mask.
When you add a mask to a layer, it covers the entire thing with an invisible grayscale canvas. There are ways to see it that we’ll check out later but just know that as a general rule, applying a mask to a layer won’t cause any immediate visual differences unless you have an active selection at the time.
On this invisible canvas, you can paint white, black or any level of gray in-between. The color that you paint tells Photoshop how opaque to make the pixels at that point. White means 100% opacity and black means 0% op acity.
View my video tutorial on using layers and layer masks at: http://skl.sh/1VHEZW3 or go to skillshare.com/denislemay for all my tutorials.
The images are before and after using layers and layer masks in photoshop.
Benjamin Halsall, Final Cut Pro X & Adobe Courses
Benjamin Halsall, Final Cut Pro X & Adobe Courses
1. Class Overview
2. Project Setup
3. Put Images Inside Shapes
4. Put Images Inside Type
5. Use a Custom Brush for Textured Transparency
6. Use a Custom Brush to Paint Inside A Clipping Mask
7. Stack Up Clipping Masks
8. Clipping Masks for Colour Adjustment
The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher’s recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.
About This Class
In this class, you will learn 5 essential techniques for using Clipping Masks in Adobe Photoshop.
A Clipping Mask allows you to borrow transparency from other layers and here we look at some creative ways in which you can combine shape layers, custom brushes and adjustment layers to control your images design, add texture and much more.
OTHER PHOTOSHOP TUTORIALS TO WATCH:
Meet Your Teacher
Final Cut Pro X & Adobe Courses
For the designer in you I create fun short lessons in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator & Adobe InDesign. I include some creative and technical tips in all my lessons which are always easy to follow. Check out my popular Banksy Yourself Photoshop Class, how to create Polygonal Patterns in Adobe Illustrator or my Photoshop Drawing & Painting Fundamentals.
For Final Cut Pro X editors check out my course Learn Final Cut Pro X in 25 Minutes or learn how to put video inside type, create grunge style text or my basic and advanced split screen tutorials.
I look forward to seeing your projects and am always happy to answer your questions.
Hands-on Class Project
Create 5 experiments using the different methods show in the class and post them to the course message board.
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Krita doesn’t have clipping mask functionality in the manner that Photoshop and programs that mimic Photoshop’s functionality have. That’s because in Krita, unlike such software, a group layer is not an arbitrary collection of layers. Rather, in Krita, group layers are composited separately from the rest of the stack, and then the result is added into the stack. In other words, in Krita group layers are in effect distinct images inside your image.
The exception is when using pass-through mode, meaning that alpha inheritance won’t work right when turning on pass-through on the layer.
When we turn on alpha inheritance, the alpha-inherited layer keeps the same transparency as the layers below.
Combined with group layers this can be quite powerful. A situation where this is particularly useful is the following:
Here we have an image with line art and a layer for each flat of colors. We want to add complicated multi-layered shading to this, while keeping the neatness of the existing color flats. To get a clipping mask working, you first need to put layers into a group. You can do this by making a group layer and drag-and-dropping the layers into it, or by selecting the layers you want grouped and pressing the Ctrl + G shortcut. Here we do that with the iris and the eye-white layers.
We add a layer for the highlight above the other two layers, and add some white scribbles.
In the above, we have our layer with a white scribble on the left, and on the right, the same layer, but with alpha inheritance active, limiting it to the combined area of the iris and eye-white layers.
Now there’s an easier way to set up alpha inheritance. If you select a layer or set of layers and press the Ctrl + Shift + G shortcut, you create a quick clipping group. That is, you group the layers, and a ‘mask layer’ set with alpha inheritance is added on top.
The fact that alpha inheritance can use the composited transparency from a combination of layers means that you can have a layer with the erase-blending mode in between, and have that affect the area that the layer above is clipped to. Above, the lower image is exactly the same as the upper one, except with the erase-layer hidden. Filters can also affect the alpha inheritance:
Above, the blur filter layer gives different results when in different places, due to different parts being blurred.
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This chapter is from the book
This chapter is from the book
This chapter is from the book
An opacity mask is a curious hybrid of the layer mask function in Photoshop and the clipping mask function in Illustrator. Although the implementation of this feature is a bit confusing, once you understand it, opacity masks could become one of your favorite features in Illustrator.
What’s an Opacity Mask?
Unlike regular masks, which are defined by the physical area and shape of a vector path, opacity masks (like Photoshop’s layer mask) are defined by the positive (white) and negative (black) space, or any shade or gradient in between. This means your mask can be defined by a soft edge, gradient, or black and white piece of artwork—even photographs. If you’ve ever tried to unsuccessfully overlay two gradients on top of each other, or fade a gradient into two or more different colors, then opacity masks are made for you.
Where Is the Opacity Mask?
Instead of a whole new palette just for opacity masks, the feature is located in the Transparency palette—most likely because there is some “transparency” involved. Whatever. To access opacity mask options, click the arrow in the right corner A of the Transparency palette to open the palette menu and choose Show Options B.
Create an Opacity Mask
To create an opacity mask, make an object and place it on top of the object(s) you would like to mask. Fill the top object with a gradient A. Although opacity masks can be filled with any color, it’s best to use black and white. When made into an opacity mask, colors will be translated to their grayscale equivalent anyway, so instead of guessing how a color will translate, you might as well start off in black and white. Now select both objects B and on the Transparency palette menu choose Make Opacity Mask C (no, there isn’t a shortcut key or menu item—this feature is very well hidden). The result is an object that fades to nothing D. If you place a gradient filled object below the opacity masked object, the object with the opacity mask will blend right into it E!
Using Opacity Masks
Working with opacity masks after they are created can be a little tricky. Familiarity with how layer masks work in Photoshop is helpful since there are many similarities. When you created the opacity mask, a thumbnail appeared to the right of the thumbnail of the artwork that was masked A. As in Photoshop, this thumbnail represents your mask. White represents the area of an object that is visible from underneath the mask, and black represents the area that is “knocked out.” Areas that are 50 percent black, for instance, will make the object that is being masked have a 50 percent opacity.
The two main settings for opacity masks are Clip and Invert Mask. The Clip option, which is turned on by default, defines the visible area of the opacity mask and the object it is masking. If the Clip option is turned off B, the masked area is defined by the opacity mask object, but the area around the object is also visible. This means that if artwork goes beyond the object that is defining the opacity mask, the artwork will be visible and will not be affected by the mask, whereas the overlapped area will remain affected by the mask C. When the Clip option is turned on, the opacity mask object, just like a normal mask, defines the visible area.
The other opacity mask option is Invert Mask D, which, as the name implies, reverses the opacity mask effect E.
Modifying Opacity Masks
You can modify an opacity mask in two ways. The first option is to select the artwork to which you applied the opacity mask. Then, while selected, click the opacity mask thumbnail in the Transparency palette A. This changes the focus from the left-side object thumbnail to the right-side mask thumbnail (as in Photoshop). You’ll notice that the layers in the Layers palette have changed, and that they’ve been replaced by a single opacity mask layer B. Don’t worry! Your artwork and layers haven’t gone anywhere! The changes merely reflect that you are now in a separate “opacity mask mode” where anything you modify, create, or delete affects the opacity mask but nothing else. While in this “mode” you can modify the opacity mask by adding objects (remember to use black and white artwork) or changing the stacking order C. The main problem with this option is that while the masked artwork is visible, the opacity mask is invisible, making it difficult to manipulate.
The second option for working with opacity masks is to Option (Alt)-click the mask thumbnail, which will again put you into opacity mask “mode.” This time, however, you will see the black and white artwork that composes the opacity mask. With this option you can see exactly how your mask is defined D. The downside of this option is that no other artwork is visible, and while you are manipulating the mask you won’t have any context on how it is affecting the object(s) it is masking.
To exit opacity mask “mode,” click the artwork thumbnail E (again, like Photoshop), which brings you back to the regular artboard, making all your layers reappear.
By default, the opacity mask and artwork are locked together, causing the artwork and mask to move together. If you want to move the mask and the artwork independently, unlock the button in the middle of the two thumbnails F.
Tip: Adding to the Opacity Mask Group
Just as with regular masks, it’s easy to add to the opacity mask group using Paste in Front/Back, but with one big caveat. Unlike regular masks, you cannot add objects to the opacity mask group if only a single object (not including the opacity mask object) was used in the creation of the opacity mask. To get around this problem, group the single object before you create the opacity mask. It might seem silly to group a single object, but by making that object a group you can add other objects to it by using the Direct Selection tool, clicking on a single path segment or point, and then using Paste in Front/Back. However, you must make sure that only a single point or segment is selected, or you won’t be able to paste into the group (this trick also applies to any other group made with a single object).
November 16, 2015. Posted in: Tip Of The Day.
To move a Layer Mask from one layer to another, click-and-drag the mask to another layer.
To copy a layer mask to another layer, press-and-hold Alt (Mac: Option), then click-and-drag it to any other layer.
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How to blend two images together in Photoshop.
3 Mar 2011 12:01AM by ePHOTOzine | Adobe Photoshop
Open your images up in Photoshop and drag one image into the other with the Move tool so each of the images appear on separate layers. In our example it’s a landscape shot and a photo of a sheep of which we are going to blend into the background. If, like ours, your subject is too big for the background go to Edit>Free Transform and adjust the anchor points until they fit.
Select the layer you want to create the mask on, which in our case is the image of the sheep, and select the Layer Mask icon from the bottom of the layers palette. This will add a Layer Mask icon on the layer you selected and for the moment it will be completely white as none of the layer is hidden by the mask.
At the moment it looks like we have two separate images but we can use the Layer Mask to hide the area surrounding the subject to seamlessly blend the two layers together. To do this, select the Brush tool, make sure the foreground colour is set to black and paint over the part of the layer you want to hide. If you paint too much away change the foreground colour to white and paint back over the area you’ve just removed.
If you want to blend too images together gradually you can use the Gradient tool. Drag one image into the other, as you did previously, so you have two layers.
To do this, select the Gradient tool and click on the box towards the top of the work area that has the Gradient in it. This will open the Gradient Editor where you can increase/decrease the amount of black, grey and white is in the gradient. The more black you have the more of the layer will be hidden when you apply the gradient.
Before you use the gradient make sure you’ve created a Layer Mask on your top layer then starting where you want most of the image to be hidden, click and drag your mouse to where you want to blend to end. If the Gradient takes too much of your image away you can switch to the Brush tool making sure white’s set as your foreground colour and paint the detail back in.
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