Photoshop 101: How To Use Layer Masks

July 25, 2009 • By

In this short tutorial you will learn what layer masks are and how to utilize them for working faster and more efficiently in Photoshop.

Lets consider what masks do: They hide or show things. Masks in photoshop work the same way: they can hide or show parts of images. In general filling a layer mask with black hides a part of the image. Filling a layer mask with white shows a part of an image. Filling the mask with gray will show the part of the image with varying opacity based on how light or dar the gray is.

Step 1: Select two photos that you want to combine and place them in your Photoshop document.

I just selected two random photos that I found on the internet for the purposes of this tutorial.

Photo 1: A giant wall of bananas:


Photo 2: A nice comfy living room setting:


Make sure the banana photo is below the living room photo:

Step 2: Select the living room photo in the layers palette and click on the mask icon at the bottom.

(if you cant see it go to view>Layers) This creates the layer mask. You should notice a white box next to your layer with a little link.

Step 3: Select the couch area of photo 2 using your selection tool of choice.

This is the area of the photo we are going to hide. After this area is selected

Step 4 With the banana layer selected fill the couch area with black.

Filling the mask with black tells Photoshop to hide this part of the photo. The banana background should now show through.

Your image should now look like this:

With a few simple tweaks you can show the texture of the wall and the shadows by setting the blending mode of the banana layer to soft light.

Such lovely wallpaper. 🙂

Download the PSD

Simple Layer Mask PSD (zip)

By Niki Brown – author of The Design O’Blog. Follow me (@nikibrown) on twitter!