Once you’ve added a mask, you can now add or subtract using a variety of tools. You can freely switch between the Brush, Radial Mask, and Gradient Mask tools while working.  Once you’ve chosen one of these tools, a new toolbar appears.  Let’s explore the essential controls.

Global Mask Controls

Once you start to edit a mask, you’ll see global mask controls.  These make it easier to visualize a mask or edit its contents. These controls are found under the Mask menu in the toolbar.

  • Fill. This option attaches a mask filled with white that reveals all details of the filter.  Use the Brush tool to paint with black and subtract from the mask.
  • Invert. Inverts any mask that you’ve created so that its opacity and transparency values are reversed.
  • Clear. This option hides the results of the filter entirely.  Use the paint brush or gradient tools to add details back to the image.
  • Copy. Copies the current mask to the clipboard. To use this, create a new layer and paste it into the new layer.
  • Paste. Pastes the current mask stored on the clipboard for use on another layer.
  • Show Mask/Hide Mask. This controls the visibility of the mask.  It makes it easy to view the mask as a rubylith (red) overlay. You may also continue drawing while the layer mask is shown, for even more precision. Alternatively you can click the eyeball icon.
  • Density. Controls the transparency of pixels outside of a mask so the overall the mask fades into the background better.
  • Feather. Blurs the edges of a mask to more naturally fade the mask adjustments into the image.

Layer and Tool Mask Extras

Here are some extra techniques you can use when masking a layer or adjustment layer.

  • While masking or erasing, right-clicking the mouse causes a context window of parameter settings of the brush, and includes additional controls for pen pressure sensitivity.
  • For handy reference, in the Layers panel on the upper right side of the Side Panel, you’ll see a thumbnail image of the current mask.
  • To quickly switch between Paint and Erase modes, use a shortcut key X.
  • To quickly change the Diameter of the brush, use the shortcut keys [ and ]. This is very convenient and greatly speeds up brush work.
  • To quickly change the Softness of the brush, use the shortcut keys Shift + [ and Shift + ].
  • If you hold down the space bar in Painting mode you can switch to Move the image.  This is very convenient when zoomed in for detailed brush strokes.


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