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Chapter Twelve. Layers > Layer Masks

Layer Masks

Q1:What can I do with a layer mask?
A1: A layer mask allows you to temporarily hide portions of a layer. With an image layer active in the Layers palette (not the Background layer), click on the Add Layer Mask icon, and then paint with black as your Foreground color to hide (mask) areas of a layer. Note: You won't see any black on the image, just areas being hidden. If you want to show parts of the layer again, paint on the layer mask with white. (You can press the letter X to toggle between black and white when you have a layer mask active.)
Q2:Is it possible to view a layer mask? Is there a way to look at the layer mask itself instead of only seeing the effects it has on the layer? What about viewing the layer mask in the same way as Quick Mask mode?
A2: To view only the layer mask, hold down Option (PC: Alt) and click on the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette. To see the layer mask in a Quick Mask-like view (with a colored overlay), hold down Shift-Option (PC: Shift-Alt) and click on the layer mask thumbnail. Note: To return to your normal view, just press either keyboard shortcut and click on the mask thumbnail again.
Q3:How do I hide a layer mask?
A3: Hold down Shift and click on the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette to hide the effects of the mask. Shift-click again to make the mask visible. Note: You'll know a mask is hidden because a red X will appear in the mask thumbnail.
Q4:Why do I have two layer masks? I'm not sure what happened, but it looks like I have two layer masks on one layer. Is that possible—and how did I do that?


A4: The first thumbnail is the layer mask and the second is a vector mask. The layer mask uses shades of black and gray to show-and-hide its layer, while the vector uses a path to show-and-hide. If you already have a layer mask and you click the Add Layer Mask icon again, you'll get the vector mask thumbnail (or if you double-click the icon, you'll get both thumbnails). Note: If you made the vector mask by mistake, click on its thumbnail to select it, and then click on the Trash icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.
Q5:How can I easily duplicate a layer mask onto another layer?
A5: Holding down Option (PC: Alt), click-and-drag the layer mask thumbnail onto the second layer and the mask will be duplicated to that layer.
Q6:Is it possible to use an image as a layer mask? I thought it might be interesting to use an image as a layer mask rather than painting on it myself. Is this possible?
A6: Yes, but realize that if you're using a color image it will appear in grayscale, as all layer masks work in black and white. So to paste an image onto the layer mask, you need to be able to see the layer mask first. To do this, click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a mask to your current layer, then Option-click (PC: Alt-click) on the layer mask thumbnail. This will let you see just the mask (your image window will be white unless you have painted on the mask). Then copy-and-paste the image into the layer mask, and press Command-D (PC: Control-D) to deselect. Finally, click on the layer thumbnail to return to the view of your masked layer.
Q7:Is it possible to make a layer mask based on a selection? I have made a selection and would like to use that as a layer mask. How can I do that?
A7: If you haven't already added a layer mask, it is automatic. So if you have a selection and then you click on the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers palette, the mask will be created automatically using your selection. If you have already added a mask and then made a selection, click on the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette, and then fill it with black by pressing Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace).
Q8:Is it possible to move a layer separately from its layer mask? I have a layer with a layer mask, and when I move the layer, the mask moves with it. For one situation I need to move just the layer and have the mask stay put. Is that possible?

A8: Yes, but you have to shuffle the layer mask to another layer instead. Just click on the Link icon between the layer and its mask to unlink them. Now you can click on the layer mask to move it to another layer, leaving the other layer free of the mask. Now just move the mask-free layer wherever you want it.



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