Photoshop Layer Mask Tutorial – The Details Guide in 2024

One of the the most confusing and asked questions among editors is that why use a layer mask instead of an eraser tool in Photoshop. You might find different opinions on the internet but you can only be confident when you have a complete idea about the Photoshop layer mask tool.

The best way to have a clear idea of the Photoshop layer mask tool is to go through the detailed guide of the Photoshop layer mask tutorial. Photoshop experts get advanced control over image transparency and edit the individual layers of a composition while using Photoshop layer mask.

Want to become a master in the art of creating layer masks to give a realistic and professional look to your images? In this Photoshop layer mask tutorial guide, you will get each detail about layer masks and how you can do it professionally. So, without more talk, let’s dive in, acknowledging first what layer masking is.

What is a Photoshop layer mask?

Photoshop layer mask is a non-destructive way of editing to hide or reveal parts of a layer without erasing them permanently. The tool is used as a substitute for the Eraser tool. In other words, layer masking in Photoshop is a resolution-dependent masking to hide or show any or all parts of a selected layer within an image file.

The best feature of Photoshop layer mask is that you can target specific areas rather than working on the whole image. This allows you to be specific and gives you more freedom while editing photos. Even if you want to work differently on different areas of an image, you can just use the mask and work separately on each part.

If you can master the Photoshop layer mask, you’ll have more power and control over your images while editing, which is quite important as an editor. However, the overall process is done in Grayscale mode (black, white, or gray color). If you paint in black, white will be visible. Painting with shades of gray shows different levels of transparency.

Note: Gray areas on the layer mask thumbnail indicate areas between full opacity and transparency. You can use the “paint” brush to paint over the mask. 

After going through what is a layer mask, let’s understand why you should use Photoshop layer mask and how you can make the best use of it.

Why Should You Use Photoshop Elements Mask Layer?

As we mentioned earlier, the Photoshop mask layer leaves the original layer of pixel data untouched, allowing artists and designers to create transparent gradients across a layer. Apart from this, layer mask has numerous other benefits that take images to the next level. This is why many e-commerce business owners prefer to add Photoshop layer masks to give a realistic look to their products. 

Let’s check out other benefits of Photoshop layer masking below:

● Non-destructive way to apply adjustments

One of the most effective ways to use a layer mask is to apply adjustments (non-destructively) without changing the original file. What the Eraser tool does is, it works on the original file. So if you make any mistake while working on your photo, you’ll lose details.

On the other hand, the Photoshop Layer mask has its own non-destructive way of working on a photo. It allows you to modify background colors and remove or cut out objects without altering layers.

● Allow to refine your cutouts

As layer mask allows one to work separately on different parts of an image, it creates some unique scopes for designers. You can separate different parts of an image and work on each part separately without affecting the rest of the image. Which means you’ll have complete control over the image you’re working on. 

You can adjust color and brightness, apply specific effects, specify opacity, and blend values with Photoshop layer masking. You can also add or remove objects, and work on the background. This unique way of working has made layer masks a favorite tool for designers and editors.

● Help to selectively change the opacity

You can set different transparency levels on different parts of the image with the help of Photoshop Layer mask. In the layer mask, black means 100% transparent; white means 100% visible, and grey shades remain in between and represent the transparency level. 

That means 50% grey represents 50% opacity (the layer will be half-hidden). If you want to highlight more or give a transparent vibe on one specific layer, this is the perfect solution.

● Allow to blend multiple images

With a layer mask, you can blend multiple images side by side. You can remove the edge and refine it later whenever you need. Each layer works side by side so that you can create or give your desired effect. You just need to be an expert so that you can apply the effects properly and create extraordinary images. 

● Experiment and creativity

Do you want to blur the edges of your desired photo to give a realistic outlook? With a layer mask, you get access to different edits and effects without permanently changing the real file. If you want, you can target your edits to work on specific layer mask areas and not the entire image. 

You must be curious by now to explore how to apply a layer mask in Photoshop.  If you want to explore how to create a mask in Photoshop, go through our expert designer Photoshop layer mask tutorial in the next section now!

How to Apply Layer Mask in Photoshop: Adobe Tutorial

Adding a mask to an image is quite easy and simple to apply. We’re presenting a step-by-step tutorial for you to get a detailed idea of how to use it – 

Step 1: Open Photoshop and click on “File” and then select Open to open the image you want to work on.

Layer mask in photoshop tutorial step1

Note: Remember to click the lock icon to ensure your selected image is unlocked so that you can make changes as per your wish.

Step 2: After selecting the Layer In the layers panel to which you want to add a layer mask, navigate to the top menu bar and choose the “Layer” option. Now, from the drop-down menu, select Layer Mask and then click on Reveal All.

Layer mask in photoshop tutorial step2

You can do this differently as well. For that, you’ll have to click the Layer Mask (a rectangular white button) button from the bottom of the layer panel. A layer mask thumbnail will appear beside the image layer thumbnail (layers panel). Here, visible areas of the layer mask in white, invisible in black, and grey indicate opacity. 

Step 3: From the toolbar, pick the Eraser tool or Brush tool. You can either reveal or hide a certain area. select the layer mask and then the brush tool and black as the foreground color to conceal.

Layer mask in photoshop tutorial step 3

In the same way, you can choose white as the foreground color to reveal the selective areas. If you want, you can choose a shade of gray for partially visible or faded. The darker the gray shades, the more transparent the image area will be.

Photoshop layer mask in photoshop tutorial step 4

By painting the image, you can now make the necessary changes to your photo.

What is layer mask and clipping mask in Photoshop?

Photoshop image masking allows you to enhance designs and make specific portions invisible by showing another object in its place without removing the original data. There are different types of masking depending on effects requirements, such as a layer mask or a clipping mask. 

As you know, Photoshop layers to mask controls layers’ visibility or transparency of individual layers. On the other hand, a clipping mask controls the visibility of multiple layers based on the content of another layer. For more in-depth details, check out the difference table below:

Key PointsLayer MaskClipping Mask
DefinitionA layer mask uses a single mask or layer applied to a single image.Clipping masks are created with multiple layers or layer groups.
PurposeSelectively reveal or hide portions of a layer without deleting the original data.Control the visibility of one layer based on the content of multiple layers below it.
UsageIt uses grayscale values (white, black, and grey shades) to hide or reveal layers.It doesn’t alter the pixels of the clipped layer but rather reveals the content where the base layer is visible.
EffectWhite on the mask reveals layer area, black hides it, and gray shades produce different levels of transparency.The upper layer will be visible where the base layer is visible. Content outside the base layers will be hidden.
ApplicationPopular Photoshop layer masking helps you to create artistic effects, like double exposures, seamless blends, etc.Graphic designers use the clipping mask for applying adjustments, effects, textures, and many others.

FAQs about Layer Mask Tutorial

What is the key to layer masking in Photoshop?

For Windows, the button is located at the bottom of the Layers panel. For Mac, you need to press (Ctrl \) or (Ctrl 2) to activate the mask on the currently selected layer. The key works the same as clicking on the layer thumbnail.

*We’ve added a list of shortcuts to Photoshop Layer Mask at the end.

What is Quick Mask Mode in Photoshop?

Quick mask mode in Photoshop allows you to create selections or modify existing selections using pixel editing tools instead of primitive selection ones. You can press “Q” to access the quick mask mode.

What is Quick Mask Mode in Photoshop?

A drop shadow can be masked in Photoshop through a layer mask. You need to choose Layer > Add Layer Mask > Hide All. After that, reveal the drop shadow in your desired places. Now, use Command + click (Mac) or Control + click (Windows) on the Layers palette thumbnail for the mask.

However, active the selection and fill it with white to reveal areas on the shadow’s layer. Now, you need to select and transform unadjusted drop shadow parts.


The E-commerce industry is huge and it’s growing and updating every day. It’s really difficult to keep pace with the run. Photoshop Layer Mask is such a feature that can solve a lot of problems at a time and bring out the visual that you’re imagining. By adding this tool to your workflow, you will be able to enter into new creative possibilities.

After going through the Photoshop layer mask tutorial, you should have a better understanding of this tool. It gives flexibility while working on any images, to create eye-catching visual effects, reversible changes, and many others without deleting the original data.

So, what are you waiting for? Start taking control over the visuals you’ve always imagined.

Ruzel Hasan
Ruzel Hasan

Ruzel Hasan is a genuine polymath. He has versatile skills and is adept in post-production work, graphic designing, photo editing, file formatting, and mastering various related applications and software. In addition, he has a knack for writing, so he shares his knowledge, tips, and ideas through content within his busy schedule.

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