Some layer mask tricks

Some handy time-savers for your Photoshop workflow.

Mask options

Have you ever right-clicked on a layer mask? If you do, you get these three wonderful options – Add, Subtract and Intersect:


They may not seem like much, but they can speed up your workflow considerably, by reusing your masks.

Let’s take a look at examples …

Our sample image

Here’s my photo. I made one global Levels adjustment, then selected Amelie and made a second Levels adjustment on her:


"Add Layer Mask To Selection"

Let’s say I want to now add a little saturation to Amelie. I don’t need to make the mask again, or even copy it to the new layer. I simply right-click on the existing mask and choose "Add":


Voila! The selection is re-activated …


… ready to be applied to the new Adjustment Layer:

masktricks5.jpg masktricks6.jpg


To quickly re-select a previous selection, simply Ctrl-click on the mask. If you’ve made a new selection, and you want to add the old one to it, you can Ctrl-Shift-click on the mask.

"Subtract Layer Mask From Selection"

Ok, what if I want to brighten that grass behind her legs? There’s no need for careful masking around her body – I’ve already done the hard work! I simply select the whole area …


… then right-click on the existing mask and choose "Subtract":


The body selection is removed from the grass selection, ready for me to enhance the grass:

masktricks9.jpg masktricks10.jpg


To quickly Subtract, simply Ctrl-Alt-click on the mask.

"Intersect Layer Mask With Selection"

This time, I want to brighten up her jacket. Again, there’s no need to select it too carefully – I’ve already done most of the hard work! I can very quickly and roughly select the jacket area …


… then right-click on the existing mask and choose "Intersect":


The jacket selection is trimmed down to intersect with the body selection, ready for me to enhance the jacket:

masktricks13.jpg masktricks14.jpg


To quickly Intersect, simply Ctrl-Alt-Shift-click on the mask.


If you have a question about this article, please feel free to post it in Ask Damien.