Do You Need a Little Help Understanding Layer Masks in Photoshop?

Layer masks are probably the most significant tool/concept within Photoshop, but for the beginner, they can be a little bit confusing. This helpful tutorial will clear up any concepts that you might find baffling. 

Here, landscape and commercial photographer Mark Duffy details the various ways in which to use and manipulate layer masks in order to combine separate layers and/or photos together. Pay particular attention to his use of shortcut keys, because learning these commands early on will save you an enormous amount of time in the long run. His advice on using smart objects for a non-destructive editing workflow is wise, as there are few things more annoying than having to start a complex edit again because you messed up a layer early on.

Smart objects allow you to resize a layer without destroying pixels, but probably their most powerful attribute is the ability to apply certain filters to them. Why is it powerful? Because the filters you apply to a smart object can be re-edited and fine-tuned as much as needed without having to create a new layer. Simply double-click on the specific filter you need to adjust, and voila, the filter's dialogue box reopens. There really are very few disadvantages to working with smart objects. However, be warned: they will greatly increase your file size. This is important to keep in mind if you're working from an external hard drive or if you have a lot of layers in your document.

Did you learn something new about layer masks from Duffy's video? 

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8 Comments

Mark Duffy's picture

Nice one, thanks so much for featuring my video. I really do hope this helps people get an understanding to what is to me, the most important tool in Photoshop.

Peter Reali's picture

I couldn't follow your video, you go way to fast and your voice is quite muddled.

Mark Duffy's picture

Sorry about that, i tried to make a faster video as people had said my other videos were too slow.

Tony Stoffle's picture

Thanks Mark, no messing about, tons of ideas, personally I don't use photoshop but layer masks part of s/w I use. Much better idea using layer masks to blend multi exposure than gradients, Thanks man, T

Laurent BENOIT's picture

thanks for the intention. If I may : no need for the music, really.

Mark Duffy's picture

Nothing i can do about my voice but i had been criticised before that my videos took too long so i tried something by doing a voiceover over faster cut videos. I'll try to do slower videos.. but don't appreciate the mass killing joke not at all funny.

Laurent BENOIT's picture

hey Mark, it was harsh sorry, I also understand (realize now) the joke the was not funny either.
Please put it on the account of slightly different meaning, and bad translation from the non US/English speaker that I am,
let me delete this right away.

Mark Duffy's picture

All good no worries. I was mislead to do a faster paced video and its annoying but i will do a better paced video, though my accent is quite fast, so i wont be doing a Conor McGregor as i dont want to sound like a robot lol.