Whether you are new to Photoshop or a seasoned pro, you need to understand how to use Layer Masks. These special masks reside with the Layer and allow you to reveal or hide any portion of that Layer. Layer masked are completely editable and non-destructive to the actual contents of the Layer.
Adding a Layer Mask
With the Layer selected, simply click on the Add Mask icon to add a blank Layer Mask. In the Mask, pure black hides the layer contents while pure white reveals the layer contents. Greyscale levels in-between reveal or hide in gradations. Simply click on the Layer Mask to draw on the Mask. Click back on the Layer icon to draw on the layer contents.
Disable the Link to Transform either the Layer or the Layer Mask Independently
In between the icons for the Layer and its Layer Mask is a Link icon. With the Link in place, transforming the Layer will also apply to the Mask. However, there are times when you would want to manipulate either the Mask or the Layer independently. In the above screen capture, the Link is disabled. I clicked on the Mask icon and dragged the Mask to a new location.
Still with the Link disabled, I clicked on the Layer icon and transformed only the contents of the Layer. The Mask remains intact.
Replace Mask completely
You can even replace the Layer Mask completely without altering the contents of the Layer. In this case, I clicked on the Layer Mask and dragged it to the Trash. I then loaded a selection based on a clipping path of the window frame. With the selection active, I simply clicked on the Add Mask icon to add a new Layer Mask based on the selection.
Refine Masks even further
Photoshop CS4 added a new Mask Panel with additional controls (available from the Windows drop-down menu). Now you can Refine the Mask just like you can Refine the Edge of a selection. You can even adjust the Density of the Mask Layer directly (similar to adjusting the Opacity of the Layer itself).
Why Every Photoshop User Should Pick-up a Camera
Tutorial: Layer Mask Basics in Photoshop
Tutorial: Level Basics in Photoshop
Tutorial: Curves Basics in Photoshop
Tutorial: Perspective Basics in Photoshop
Photoshop CS5 – Custom Keyboard Shortcut Reference Guide, Flash and Illustrator too
Keyboard Shortcut Reference Guides for Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5
Tutorial: Fake Lensbaby Effect in Photoshop
Selective Motion Blur in Photoshop
Tutorial: Liquify Filter and the Fat Cat – Part 1
Tutorial: Liquify Filter & the Plus Model – Part 2
Tutorial: Liquify Filter & Average Joe – Part 3
Quick glamour in Photoshop – Part 1
Quick glamour in Photoshop – Part 2
Photoshop CS5 – Extending Macro Depth of Field with Photomerge
Photoshop CS5 – Creating Panoramas with PhotoMerge
Photoshop CS5 – HDR & Canon 7D Raw Files
HDR or Adjustment’s in Camera Raw – Which is it?
HDR with Photomatix 3.2 & Canon 7D Raw Files
Photoshop CS5 – Puppet Warp turns a Frown into a Smile
Photoshop CS5 – Puppet Warp for Text and Shapes
Photoshop CS5 – Content Aware Fill
Photoshop CS5 – Spot Healing Brush with Content-Aware
Tutorial: Content Aware Scaling in Photoshop CS4
Vanishing Point Filter in Photoshop – Part 1
Vanishing Point Filter in Photoshop – Part 2
Tutorial: Breaking the 4th wall in Photoshop
Tutorial: Flying Baby – Breaking the 4th Wall in Photoshop
Fake Magazine Covers Make Great Gifts
Create Photo Puzzles in Photoshop