• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

Lesson 4. Advanced Masking > Creating a layer mask

Creating a layer mask

You can mask any layer by adding a layer mask using the Layers palette. Layer masks hide or reveal areas of a layer without altering the pixels on that layer. Because layer masks are similar to alpha channels, you can create or edit them with any of the selection, painting, or drawing tools. In this section, you will create a layer mask and then draw a flower pot shaped mask with the pen tool.

In the Layers palette, select the Flower Pot layer and click the Add a Mask button at the bottom of the palette to create a layer mask.

Select the pen tool in the toolbox. Position the pointer on the upper left part of the golden leaf and click once. Do not click and drag or the line will end up being curved.

Move the pointer across the leaf to the right side, and Shift-click to draw a horizontal line across the leaf. This will be the top edge of the flower pot shape.

Continue drawing straight lines within the leaf until you have a flower pot shape.

Use the direct-selection tool to edit or move points until you are satisfied with the shape.

Creating the flower pot shape with the pen tool

Activate the Paths palette by clicking its tab. Select the path called Work Path. This is the flower pot shape you’ve just created.

Choose Save Path from the Paths palette menu. Name the path Flower Pot, and click OK.

Reset the foreground and background colors to their defaults by pressing D on the keyboard.

Now switch the foreground with the background color by pressing X on the keyboard.

Use the path-component-selection tool (above the pen tool in the toolbox) to select the path.

Click the Fills Path with Foreground Color button at the bottom of the Paths palette. The effect is the opposite of what you want. You’ll fix it in a few steps by inverting the mask.


Layer masks contain only grayscale information. Every pixel that is white will reveal the layer image, and every pixel that is black will hide the layer image. Gray pixels hide or reveal percentages of the image depending on its gray value.

Saving and naming the path

Selecting the path and filling it with black

Click in the gray area of the Paths palette to deselect the path.

Activate the Layers palette by clicking its tab. Click the thumbnail of the Flower Pot layer mask to select it.

Choose Image > Adjust > Invert to invert the mask so that the layer image inside the shape is the only part that shows.


If you want to edit or change the layer mask by adjusting the path, first delete the existing layer mask by choosing Select > Select All and pressing Backspace (Windows) or Delete (Mac OS). Then return to the Paths palette, select the Flower Pot path, and make any changes you wish. Then repeat steps 8 through 14 again.

Double-click the Flower Pot layer name to open the Layer Style dialog box. Select the Drop Shadow style, retain the default settings, and click OK.

You’ve completed the garden artwork using a variety of masks.

Save the file.

Close all open files and quit Photoshop.

Selecting the layer mask and inverting it

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint