Refining a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool

Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual [Book]

Run filters nondestructively. When you run a filter on a Smart Object, Photoshop automatically adds a mask to the Smart Object (labeled in Figure 4-34), plus the filtering happens on its own layer (similar to layer styles) so you can tweak, hide, or undo the filter’s effects. See The Joy of Smart Filters to learn how to run filters on Smart Objects (and in Photoshop CC, more filters are Smart Object–happy than ever before).


What the heck is a clipping mask? Is it similar to a layer mask?

Clipping masks and layer masks are similar in that they both hide parts of an image, but that’s about all they have in common. Clipping masks are like Photoshop’s version of stencils: They let you take one layer’s contents (a photo of bluebonnets, say) and shove it through the contents of the layer directly below (for example, text that says “Texas”). The result? The image on the top layer is “clipped” so that you only see the bluebonnets inside the text. (Hop over to Placing a Photo Inside Text for step-by-step instructions on this technique.)

You can give clipping masks a spin by opening a photo and double-clicking the Background layer to unlock it. Next, add a new Image layer below it by ⌘-clicking (Ctrl-clicking) the “Create a new layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then press B to grab the Brush tool and paint a big ol’ brushstroke across the new layer (don’t worry about what color it is). In the Layers panel, activate the photo layer (which should be on top of your layer stack), and then choose Layer→Create Clipping Mask or press Option-⌘-G (Alt+Ctrl+G), and Photoshop makes your photo visible only through the brushstroke, regardless of what color the brushstroke is (layer transparency is the only thing that matters). You can also Option-click [Alt] the dividing line between the two layers in the Layers panel to do the same thing.

When you use a clipping mask, you don’t get another thumbnail in your Layers panel like you do with a layer mask. Instead, the photo layer’s thumbnail scoots to the right and you see a tiny down arrow letting you know that it’s clipped to the layer below. And in Photoshop CC, the layer that’s being used as the mask—the layer on the bottom—gets an underline beneath its name.

You can clip as many layers together as you want. For example, you can clip three Image layers to a layer containing a brushstroke so all the photos show through it (provided you’ve adjusted their blending modes to allow that). To release a clipping mask, activate the clipped layer(s)—in this example, the three image layers—choose Layer→Release Clipping Mask, or choose Release Clipping Mask from the Layers panel’s menu, or press Option-⌘-G (Alt+Ctrl+G). Alternatively, you can Option-click (Alt-click) the dividing line above the layer that you’re shoving the images through (say, the brushstroke layer). Whew! Whichever method you use, you should see your entire photo(s) again.

Photoshop Basics: Doing More with Layers

Lesson 10: Doing More with Layers



As we discussed in our lesson on understanding layers, there are many ways to use layers in Photoshop. So far, we've covered a few fundamental skills, including how to use adjustment layers. In this lesson, we'll cover some of the more advanced options, like opacity, blending modes, layer masks, and layer groups. We'll also provide links to additional resources if you want to learn more about using these tools.

If you'd like to follow along, you can download our example file.

Layer opacity

You can control the opacity for almost every layer in a Photoshop document. The opacity determines how transparent or opaque the layer will be. In other words, it controls how much the layers below can show through. Take a look at the example below.

This example uses two different Text layers and a Background layer. The mountains text layer has an opacity of 100%. This layer is completely opaque, meaning nothing below the letters can show through. By contrast, the appalachian text layer has an opacity of 15%. This layer is mostly transparent, meaning you can see through the letters to the background layer.

You can also change the opacity of an Adjustment layer to make it more subtle. For example, if you have a Curves layer that is too intense, you could reduce the opacity to 70-80%. In many situations, this may be easier than modifying the adjustment layer itself.

To adjust layer opacity:

Select the desired layer, then click the Opacity drop-down arrow at the top of the Layers panel. Click and drag the slider to adjust the opacity. You'll see the layer opacity change in the document window as you move the slider. If you set the opacity to 0%, the layer will become completely transparent, or invisible.

Try this!

Open the example file, then adjust the opacity of the Text layers to see the effect.

Background transparency

By default, most Photoshop documents use a Background layer. You cannot adjust the opacity of a Background layer, and it cannot be hidden. This is because you won't want the background to have transparency for most projects, especially if you're working with a photograph.

However, there are some situations where you may want a transparent background. If you're creating a logo for a website, for example, a transparent background will allow the website's background color to show through, giving the logo a more seamless and professional look.

If you're following along with the example file, try hiding all layers except the Acorn layer. See the checkerboard pattern behind the acorn? This means the background is completely transparent. The checkerboard won't actually be exported when you save your image; it's only there to indicate transparency.

Note that if you want your image to have a transparent background, you'll need to save it in a format that can handle transparency. We recommend using the PNG-24 format, which is available in the Save for Web dialog box. JPEG files are unable to have transparent backgrounds, so they will save all transparent areas as white.

Blending modes

In addition to adjusting opacity, you can use different blending modes to control how the layers in your document are mixed together. The blending mode menu is located at the top of the Layers panel, next to Opacity.

If you're following along with the example file, select the Record layer. Notice that the blending mode is set to Multiply. Even though the opacity of the Record layer is set to 100%, this blending mode allows the turquoise color from the layer below to show through.

To change the blending mode, click the Blending Mode drop-down menu, then select the desired mode. In the example below, changing the blending mode to Screen will still allow the turquoise background to show through, but this time it appears on the record instead.

Each blending mode creates a different effect, and some are much more noticeable than others. It's also important to note that blending modes will work differently depending on the content of your layers. This means many blending modes may look unnatural, and it's unlikely that all of the modes will look good in your project.

While blending modes give you a lot of flexibility, they can also be tricky to use. To learn more about blending modes, review this tutorial from Photo Blog Stop.

Clipping masks

Earlier in this tutorial, we covered using adjustment layers to correct images. By default, adjustment layers will affect all layers below them. However, there may be times when you only want an adjustment layer to affect one layer. To do this, you can use a clipping mask.

If you're following along with the example file, locate the small arrow next to the Gradient Map layer. This indicates that a clipping mask has been applied, which limits the adjustment layer to just the Acorn layer below.

To apply a clipping mask, press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard (or Option on a Mac), then click between the desired layers in the Layers panel. In this example, we're clicking between the Gradient Map and Acorn layers.

You can also use this method to release a clipping mask. Releasing a clipping mask does not delete the layer, but it causes it to behave like a normal layer. For example, if you release the clipping mask for the Gradient Map layer in the example file, it will affect the color of all of the layers below it instead of only affecting the Acorn layer.

It's also important to note that you can apply a clipping mask to multiple adjustment layers above the same layer. For this reason, if you're already using clipping masks in your document, new adjustment layers may use a clipping mask automatically.

Try this!

Open the example file. Select the Acorn layer, then add a Curves adjustment layer. Make sure a clipping mask is applied to the new layer, then modify the curves in the Properties panel. Notice how the curves adjustments only affect the Acorn layer. Next, try reducing the opacity of the adjustment layers to 70%.

To learn more about clipping masks, review this tutorial from Adobe.

Layer masks

Sometimes you may want only certain parts of a layer to be visible. For example, you might want to remove the background from a layer so the layers below it can show through. While you could use the Eraser tool to remove the parts you don't want, this type of destructive editing may be difficult to undo. Fortunately, layer masks allow you to show and hide parts of any layer in a nondestructive way.

Creating a layer mask can be a bit complicated, so let's start by looking at one that's already finished. If you're following along with the example file, select the Acorn layer. Here, we used a layer mask to hide, or mask out, the background so the acorn is the only part of the layer that's visible. The layer mask is represented by the black-and-white thumbnail to the right of the layer icon in the Layers panel. Notice how the areas that are visible in the document window correspond with the white area on the layer mask thumbnail.

The important thing to recognize here is that the background of the Acorn layer hasn't actually been removed; it's just hidden. If we ever wanted to show more of the original image, we could edit or even remove the layer mask.

To edit a layer mask:

To better understand how layer masks work, let's try editing the the Acorn layer mask. We'll be using the Brush tool, so if you've never used it we recommend reviewing our lesson on working with brushes.

Select the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers panel. In our example, we'll select the thumbnail next to the Acorn layer. Next, choose the Brush tool from the Tools panel, then set the Foreground Color to white. Click and drag your image to reveal areas in the layer. In this example, we're revealing more of the background by adding white paint to the layer mask. Set the Foreground Color to black, then click and drag your image to hide areas in the layer. Continue using the Brush tool until you're satisfied with the result.

You'll need to take your time and work carefully to get the best possible result, especially when refining the edges of the layer mask around an object. It may be helpful to adjust the size, hardness, and opacity of the Brush tool.

To create a new layer mask:

Now that you know more about layer masks, you may want to try creating your own.

Select a layer, then click the Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel. In our example, we'll create a new layer mask for the record layer. The layer mask will appear as a white thumbnail next to the layer icon in the Layers panel. You can then select the thumbnail and use the Brush tool to edit the layer mask.

Note that you can apply multiple layer masks to the same layer. However, this can become complicated, so we recommend using only one layer mask per layer.

Using layer masks with adjustment layers

You can use a layer mask to control which areas of your image are affected by an adjustment layer. For example, if you have a Black and White adjustment layer, you could use a layer mask to convert specific areas to black and white while leaving other areas unaffected.

Every adjustment layer has a layer mask by default, so you won't need to create a new one. You can simply click the layer mask and then use the Brush tool to edit it.

To remove a layer mask:

Click and drag the layer mask thumbnail to the Trash Can in the lower-right corner of the Layers panel. A dialog box will appear. Choose Delete to remove the layer mask. Choosing Apply will actually remove the parts of the layer that are currently hidden, so you'll want to avoid this option unless you're absolutely sure that you no longer need these parts of the image.

You can also press and hold the Shift key and click the thumbnail to temporarily disable the layer mask.

Creating and editing layer masks can be a challenging task, and there are many other methods for achieving good results. To learn more, review these tutorials:

Layer groups

Once you start working with multiple layers in your document, it can be difficult to keep them organized. Fortunately, Photoshop allows you to group your layers. You can use groups to keep related layers together, move and edit multiple layers at once, and much more.

To create a group:

Locate and select the Group button at the bottom of the Layers panel. A new empty group will appear. If you want, click and drag the group to reorder it within the Layers panel. Click and drag any layer to the group icon in the Layers panel, then release the mouse. Layers that are in a group will be slightly indented from the other layers in the panel. Click the arrow to collapse or expand the layer. You can now manipulate all of the layers in the group at once. In this example, we're clicking the eye icon to hide all layers within the group.

If you're using Photoshop Elements, you won't be able to create new groups. However, you will be able to view existing groups when working with files created in the full version of Photoshop.

Try this!

Open the example file and create a group. Click and drag all of the Text layers into this new group. Next, select Group 1, then reduce the opacity to 70%. Notice how this changes the opacity for all layers within the group.

To learn more about layer groups, review this tutorial from Adobe.

Merging and flattening layers

If you no longer need to edit certain layers, you might consider merging them. There are many reasons you might want to combine certain layers. For example, if you have multiple adjustment layers you might want to merge them into a single layer before applying other changes, such as sharpening or noise reduction.

To merge layers, select the first layer, press and hold the Shift key, and click the last layer you want to merge (all of the layers between the first and last will be selected). Next, right-click the layers and select Merge Layers. You can also select the layers and then press Ctrl+E (or Command+E on a Mac).

Merging will remove the flexibility and control layers provide, so you should only combine layers if you're sure you no longer need to edit them individually.

Note: Make sure to right-click the layer name, not the layer icon. Otherwise, the menu will not appear.

You can also combine all of the layers in your document into a single Background layer. This is known as flattening the image. To do this, right-click any layer, then select Flatten Image.

Flattening an image is one way to simplify a complex Photoshop project. However, it's important to note that you do not need to flatten images before exporting them. When saving a project as a JPEG or PNG file, all of the layers will be flattened automatically because these file formats cannot have multiple layers.

Try this!

Open the example file. Select the Gradient Map and Acorn layers, then merge them.

To learn more about merging layers, review this video tutorial from Adobe.


Refining a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool

If you want to understand how to mask layers in Photoshop, then you need to become very friendly with your brush tool. It allows you to draw over the exact areas you want to apply an adjustment to…or rather, the areas where you want that particular layer to be visible or invisible.

It’s a VERY powerful tool, and a crucial part of layer masking…especially for photographers.

And since layer masks are part of a non-destructive workflow, you can always come back and alter your adjustment at any time by simply applying new brushwork to the layer mask.

So for this comprehensive Photoshop tutorial, I’ll be showing you exactly how to use your brush tool to refine a layer mask so that it compliments the unique content of your image. Your ability to dictate where a layer should (and should not) be visible is key to creating a professional, wall-worthy photograph.

Now if you’re a Lightroom user, the brush tool will be familiar as it works a lot like the adjustment brush…specifically how you can change the brush size, opacity, and feathering.

However, in Photoshop the brush tool is not loaded with an actual adjustment like it is in Lightroom. Instead, the layer itself will contain the adjustment, and we use the brush tool in combination with a layer mask to control where the adjustment is applied.

If you prefer to learn visually (which I highly recommend for anything Photoshop), you can download my free video course below. This five-part course also comes with practice files and a helpful PDF cheatsheet, so you can get hands-on with layers right away.

Table of Contents

Watch the Full Video Lesson Below

The brush tool is best learned when taught visually, so I’ve pulled a comprehensive video lesson from my membership program for you to watch. However, a video is not always the most convenient way to learn, so I’m also including the full written tutorial below.

Brush Tool Basics

To access your brush tool, simply press B or go over to your tools palette and select the brush tool from there. You can tell when the brush tool has been activated as your top menu will present options for customizing your brush tool.

To adjust the size of your brush, press the [ or ] bracket keys to increase and decrease your brush size. You’ll be doing this often so it’s good to familiarize yourself with these keyboard shortcuts.

The size of your brush is labeled by pixel count 1200 px), so the area your brush affects is in direct relation to how many pixels your photo contains. This is why I like to just use my bracket keys to “eyeball” the brush size instead of trying to hit a specific number 1200 px).

Brush opacity is something you’ll adjust often, so it’s helpful to know the keyboard shortcuts for this as well. At the top menu, you can adjust the opacity slider, but I find it easier to enter the opacity level with my keyboard. Much like in Lightroom, if you enter the number 1 your opacity will change to 10%, 2 for 20%, and so on. Pressing 0 will revert back to 100% opacity.

If you want a specific opacity level, press the numbers very quickly. For example, if you want to use a brush at 27% opacity, press 2 and 7 quickly…otherwise, it will change to 20% and then 70%.

The color of your brush is controlled by the foreground color swatch in your tools palette. Since we’re working with masks, your swatch should always be in greyscale…which means this swatch should be loaded with white, black, or a shade of grey.

Brushing onto a Layer Mask

First, press B to activate your brush tool and set your opacity to 100% by pressing 0. Then, make sure the layer mask is filled with 100% white and applied to the orange fill layer we created in the previous tutorial on layer masks.

Select the mask by clicking on the mask thumbnail, then make sure your foreground color is set to black by pressing D as in Default. This will set your foreground color to black and background color to white.

Click and drag your mouse across the top of your image once, which will brush a strip of black onto your layer mask. This will render the area transparent so you can see the photo underneath.

Since we are using a layer mask, this “hole” we created with the brush tool is temporary; we can always revisit this mask and add more black, white, or grey to it to change the transparency…or delete the layer mask altogether in order to bring back the orange fill layer in full.

Let’s do that right now. Change the opacity of your brush tool to 50% by pressing 5, and do the same thing again: click and drag your brush tool across the photo (making sure the layer mask is still selected).

The overall effect is still the same: we’re changing the transparency of the top layer so we can see more of the layer(s) underneath, but since we are using 50% opacity and not pure black, we are only removing 50% of the orange fill layer.

Let’s do this one more time, but with 25% opacity. Press “2” and “5” quickly to set your brush opacity to 25%, and click and drag across the bottom of the photo, making sure you are painting onto the layer mask.

Again, the effect is still apparent, but at a much lower opacity; we can now see more of the orange fill layer than the photo layer underneath since we are painting 25% grey on the layer mask. This shade of grey is 25% darker than pure translates to only 25% of the underlying layer being visible.

Now let’s take a look at the layer mask so we can better visualize how this all works. The first line we drew is 100% black, the second line is 50% grey (or 50% transparent) and finally, the third line is 25% grey (which makes our layer only 25% transparent).

So in order to adjust the opacity of your layer, you need to adjust the opacity of your brush tool. Since it’s loaded with 100% black, changing the opacity of that black will control what shade of grey is painted onto your layer mask. Applying a brush stroke with 50% opacity is identical to choosing 50% grey in your color picker tool.

You could use your color picker tool to choose a shade of grey and apply that at full brush opacity, but that’s a convoluted way to paint onto a mask. It’s much easier to simply change the opacity of a brush loaded with pure black.

Reversing Parts of a Layer Mask

So far, we’ve only discussed how to add black and grey to a layer mask in order to change the transparency of a layer. We’ve also discussed how to remove a layer mask as a whole. But how do we reverse our masking for only specific parts of a layer mask? In other words, how do we shine a light back onto areas we’ve made transparent; to reverse what we just did and make that orange layer more visible again?

All you need to do is add white (or light) back to this layer mask with a white brush. This is one of the best traits of layer mask…being able to switch back and forth from adding black and white until you find the right balance between your layers. You’ll be using this a lot, especially with landscape photography.

First, let’s load the brush with white by pressing X, which will switch your foreground and background colors. You may need to press D first to load your foreground/background swatches with black and white, and then press X to switch them. Make sure your opacity is back to 100% by pressing 0.

Make sure your layer mask is selected, and then draw a white line straight down the canvas.

Since the opposite of black is white, adding white to an existing layer mask is just like using the eraser tool; it’s reversing any masking you applied, but only to the areas you are brushing…which makes it very easy to correct any sloppy brushwork.

If you look at the actual layer again, you can see that the orange has been brought back at 100% opacity by adding this strip of white.

Since we are working with 100% white, our previous masking was removed in full, as seen above. However, what happens if we use a white brush at a lower opacity to remove our masking?

Let’s demonstrate this so you can visualize how a lower opacity effects an existing mask. Bring up the layer mask by alt + clicking on the mask thumbnail in the layers palette, and adjust the opacity of our brush tool down to 50%.

Once again, brush downwards on the layer mask, making sure to cross over the black and grey horizontal lines that we created in the previous step.

The opacity of your brush directly correlates to strength. Since we are using a white brush set at 50% opacity, we are only working with 50% means we are only subtracting 50% of whatever we are brushing over.

The first horizontal black line was applied at full opacity. When we cross over this area with a white brush set at 50% opacity (or strength), it leaves us with 50% transparency.

The second horizontal black line was applied with 50% opacity. When we cross over that with a white brush set at 50% strength, we are subtracting 50% from the existing 50%…and are left with only 25% transparency.

Finally, when we cross our third black horizontal line which was originally applied at 25% opacity, we are left with 12.5% transparency. In other words, we subtracted 50% from 25%.

If we turn off the layer mask and look at the actual orange fill layer, we can see that the same areas are now visible at 50%, 75%, and 87.5% respectively.

Adjusting your Brush Hardness

When working with layer masks, usually your brush will be very soft and feathered because you are working with 0% hardness…which gives you a nice tapered effect to your masking. It’s much like working with the adjustment brush over in Lightroom, where you adjust the feathering in order to soften your transitions.

However, there could be situations where you would want a harder transition line…for masking out very specific areas.

With the brush tool selected, right-click anywhere on your canvas. A submenu will come up allowing you to increase your brush hardness.

To demonstrate, I’ll adjust my brush hardness to 100% and go back to the mask we’ve been working with. With my foreground color set to black and opacity at 100%, I’m going to drag a line across the canvas. You can see that the edge of my brushwork is very hard and defined, with no tapering at all.

For good measure, I’ll also add a 50% grey line by adjusting my brush opacity down to 50% and drawing another line across my canvas.

If we turn off the layer mask and take a look at the layer itself, you can see how abrupt and sharp the transition is from the orange fill layer to the photo layer underneath.

Typically, you wouldn’t use a hardness set at 100% like this for tailoring an adjustment…but it can be useful when working with small and targeted areas.

I’m going to zoom into this turret here and start masking along this very sharp, precise area. You can see that my brushwork hugs the edge of this turret very closely. If I were to use a soft and feathered brush, the edges would spill over onto the sky.

With this precise targeting I can make adjustments just to this turret and not to the background sky or other parts of my image.

By adjusting your brush size, opacity, color (either black or white), and hardness…you have the ability to tailor a layer mask with a very high degree of accuracy and strength.

Tailoring a Layer Mask

Now it’s time to move out of our practice area and do a “real world” example of how photographers use layer masks to tailor an adjustment.

First, let’s temporarily hide this orange fill layer that we’ve been working with my clicking once on the eye to make it invisible.

Next, let’s bring back the hue and saturation adjustment layer we added in the last tutorial. If you don’t have that, simply add your own and increase the saturation to 40%.

As I mentioned before, this saturation bump looks good for most of the image except for the red rock in the foreground; it’s a bit too heavy and distracting. To fix this, I’m going to mask out the rock by using my brush tool, which will ease up on the opacity – or the strength – of this saturation increase just around this area…while the rest of the image will retain the same saturation bump.

I could go in and brush over this area with a black brush set at 100% opacity, but that would remove the saturation completely. Instead, I just want to ease up on its effect.

To achieve this, I’m going to use a low opacity brush which will remove only some of the saturation. Not only will this look more natural than removing it completely, but it will give me more control over the saturation removal. If I’m not removing enough of the saturation with one brush stroke, I can simply brush over the area again and build up my brushwork until I get the result I want.

Press B to activate the brush tool, and make sure your foreground color is set to black and your hardness at 0%. Then, set your opacity to 20% by pressing 2, and simply brush over the red rock once (making sure you are brushing onto the layer mask for the saturation adjustment layer).

This is just one application of my brush, and the results already look better. I’ve scaled back on the saturation and brought back some detail in the rock that was blown out by the oversaturation.

However, the rock is still a bit too saturated. Select the layer mask again and brush over this area once more to build up your brushwork and remove more saturation.

To see a quick before and after of what this layer mask did to our image, simply shift + click the layer mask thumbnail to temporarily disable it.

Using a Gradient on a Layer Mask

Tailoring a layer mask is not just limited to your brush tool. You can use any Photoshop tool that creates a selection or allows you to paint a color.

A popular tool for layer masking is the gradient tool, which you can use to create a very soft and gradual transition between pure black and pure white.

The feathering effect of a gradient is softer than what can be achieved with your brush tool, so I will sometimes use this to blend exposures together. The results look much like a GND filter, but with more control.

First, let’s delete our current layer mask so we are looking at the orange fill layer at full opacity…and then add a fresh layer mask.

Next, select the gradient tool in your tools palette. It’s usually hidden underneath the paint bucket tool, so if it’s not visible you may need to right-click on the paint bucket to bring it up.

Once you select the gradient tool, you’ll notice that the top menu will change to gradient-specific options. These allow you to customize how your gradient will look…but for most situations, you’ll want to keep these settings to how they appear in the screenshot below.

To add a gradient to your layer mask, first make sure your mask is selected…and then click and drag to stretch out a line in any direction across your canvas. For this image, I dragged a horizontal line from the first point to the second point in the screenshot below.

The line you draw will dictate how wide the transition zone is between black and white, and will move in the direction you draw. The longer the line, the larger (and more feathered) your transition zone will be.

If you want to ensure that your gradient stays level, hold down the shift key which will keep your line completely horizontal or vertical. If you try to draw a diagonal gradient, it will restrict your line to a 45-degree angle.

For this image, I dragged my line horizontally from left to right…which means that everything before the first point in the screenshot above (where I clicked) will be pure black, everything after the second point (where I released the mouse) will be pure white, and the area between these two points will become a gradient of black slowly transitioning into white.

Since the gradient was applied directly to a layer mask, this made the orange fill layer slowly transition from being completely hidden to 100% visible.

You can see that the gradient is very smooth and evenly distributed, which would be very difficult to create with your brush tool. A gradient mask is perfect for any situation which requires very feathered and gradual masking, such as when you’re trying to mimic a GND filter.

If you make a mistake drawing your gradient, you don’t have to delete your layer mask to start again. Simply drag out a new gradient and Photoshop will automatically override and replace your existing gradient with the new one.

The settings used here will create a gradient that starts as black and ends as white, and moves in the direction you draw your line. If you want to reverse the direction of the gradient, simply tick the “Reverse” box located in your top menu which will invert the gradient to instead transition from white to black.

The brush tool and gradients barely scratch the surface as to what is possible with layer masks. Depending on your desired result, there are much more efficient tools for tailoring a layer mask…so make sure to explore alternative methods for drawing onto your mask (such as the marquee tools).

In landscape photography, luminosity masks are often used to instantly create layer masks that are completely tailored to the tonal value of your image…which allows for you to make adjustments to very targeted areas (for example, just the highlights in your clouds or reflections in the water). These are advanced selections which can be quite complicated to create, but there are free tools available that automate this process for you.

Don’t forget…download your free course on Photoshop Layers for Photographers!

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