Learn how to use layer masks to make composites of multiple images.

What you'll need

This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file.

What you learned: Make a creative composite by combining images using a layer mask

Add a layer mask

  1. Start with a document that has at least two images, each on a separate layer. Select the top image layer in the Layers panel.
  2. Click the Add layer mask button in the Layers panel. This adds a white layer mask to the selected layer. You can still see everything on the layer with the mask, because the mask is white.

Paint on the layer mask with black, white, and gray

  1. In the Layers panel, make sure there is a white border around the layer mask thumbnail. If there is not a white border, click the layer mask thumbnail.
  2. Select the Brush tool in the Toolbar. In the Options bar, open the Brush Picker to set brush size and hardness. Drag the Hardness slider toward the left to create a soft brush tip.
  3. Press D and then press X on the keyboard to set the foreground color to black and the background color to white.
  4. Paint over the image in the document window to add black to part of the layer mask. The black hides the corresponding part of the layer that contains the mask, so the image on the layer underneath shows through. Soft edges of the brush apply gray to the layer mask, creating a gradual transition between the layered images.
  5. If you hide more of a layer than you intended to, press X on the keyboard to switch the foreground color to white. Then paint over hidden areas of the layer that contains the mask. This adds white to the mask, bringing those areas back into view.

Tip: A quick way to change brush size as you paint is to press the right bracket key on the keyboard to increase brush size or press the left bracket key to decrease brush size.

Tip: Reducing the brush Flow value in the Options bar allows you to build up shades of gray as you paint with black on a layer mask. Shades of gray on a layer mask partially hide the layer that contains the mask.

Save your work with layers

  • Save the image in .PSD or .TIFF format to retain layers and layer masks for future editing.


Back to: Layer mask basics | Up next: Layer masks and selections


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