Photoshop for Total Beginners 11

Working with Layers and Masks

There are different types of masks; we used the Quick Mask (lets you refine a selection boundary area by hand) tool in Photoshop for Total Beginners – 5.

Today I will show you how to use a Layer Mask (often also referred to as Pixel Mask). A Layer Mask allows you to vary the transparency (opacity) on a layer. Don’t worry, it only sounds complicated.

You will need to open at least two pictures that we will place on top of each other. I will place the image with the coyote over top of the picture of the giraffes.

Select the move tool from the tools panel and drag the image with the coyote over to the other picture.

Click on the mask icon  at the bottom of the layers panel.

Select the brush tool and then click on the size button  on the options bar. This will open the following window.

In here I picked 50 px just for demonstration purposes. You can pick what ever you like.

The foreground color  is the one that will control how things look, here are the rules:

Black = 100% transparent
White = 0% transparent
Gray = transparent, how transparent depends on the shade of gray

I have my foreground color set to black at the moment. On the picture, click and hold down the left mouse button and drag it around on the picture. Because black is 100% transparent, it cuts right through the layer and exposes the layer (image) below it.

Press Ctrl  Z to undo the change. Now lets change the black to a shade of gray. Click on the black foreground square to open the color picker window, I decided on #dfdfdf for my shade of gray.

Now try it again, on the picture, click and hold down the left mouse button and drag it around on the picture.

Notice how it affected the opacity, how it cut through the layer much softer? You can also use a gradient (adjusted to go from black to white) here if you want but that is not something I will get into today, perhaps some other time.

So go ahead and play / experiment / have some fun. You can add as many layers as you like, same rules apply. Here is what my picture ended up looking like.

You can change the shade of gray (change the different opacity levels) as often as you want and apply them as you wish to the image.

Using all the different tools I have shown you in my tutorials so far, you should be able to create some pretty cool pictures…

Cheers until next time.


  1. Great job explaining how to be a bit more tech-savvy……

    So…..if I ever need to use the technique, can I just email you 2 pics and you send back the finished results?? lol

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