Alibony Lessons for Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Digital Photography

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Photoshop Elements: Create a Layer Mask

Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 6

February 7, 2008

Unlike Photoshop, Photoshop Elements only applies layer masks to adjustment layers; there is no tool or menu option for adding a layer mask to an ordinary layer. However, there is a way to add a layer mask using a clipping group.

Layers Palette with Clipping Group Result
Layers palette with clipping group Layer mask result

To create a layer mask:

  1. Open a new image and fill the background layer with a solid color.
  2. Create a new Levels adjustment layer above the image layer. In the Levels window, do not make any changes and click OK. Notice that the adjustment layer contains a layer mask filled with white.
  3. Create a third layer above the Levels adjustment layer and fill it with a contrasting color.
  4. Select the top layer and press Ctrl+G to clip the layer to the layer below. You have created a clipping group that groups the two layers together; the layer mask attached to the adjustment layer now affects the top layer, too.

  5. Paint the mask on the Levels adjustment layer:

    1. Select the mask on the Levels adjustment layer.
    2. Select the Brush tool and choose a large soft brush. Alternatively, you can make a selection and fill the selection with black.
    3. With the mask selected, paint on the picture with black to hide the pixels on the top layer and show the pixels below. (The black paint will show on the mask, not the picture.)

    Layer mask screenshot

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Updated on July 31, 2013