Tweaking Photo Masks

Here are a few tips for tweaking photo masks to work perfectly with your image.

I like creating masks with a lot of variation in tones as they work great for design work by allowing areas of the design underneath to show. I also don’t make them too opaque for the same reason. For some photographs, however, this may not be the effect you want or you may want areas where the photograph remains rich and opaque.

Here’s an image I made using a photo mask from the Dry Brush Masks collection.

Leslie Nicole Portrait

This is the image before I edited the mask.

Leslie Nicole Mask edits before2

For some images, I might like the slight grunge inside the mask, but for this one, I wanted a cleaner look.

Note: The image itself looks lighter in this version because the mask is less opaque so the image is blending a little with the background.

Tweaking The Mask

Duplicate and Merge For A Darker Mask

While I didn’t need to for this image, if you want the mask to be more opaque, you could duplicate the mask layer, set to the multiply blend mode, adjust the opacity and then merge the two layers.

Keyboard shortcuts:

  • Duplicate a layer: with the layer selected, hold down Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC).
  • Merge 2 Layers: with the top layer selected, click Command + E (Mac) or Control + E (PC).

Make Some Areas More Opaque

In the following image, I both duplicated the mask layer (and then adjusted the opacity and merged) to make it overall darker (and thus more opaque) and I further darkened the mask at the flower. Note: I’ve actually used two masks in this image. A mask for the photo and another mask behind it with a digital paper from the Catharina collection.

To Edit inside the mask:

  1. First create an active selection of the mask by Command (Mac) or Control (PC) clicking it in the layer panel. Making a selection prevents accidentally painting outside the mask area.
  2. Then with the brush tool selected, choose the softest round brush and brush over the layer mask with the foreground color set to black. Start with low brush opacities and build up as needed.

Photo mask edits


Hand-painted, dry brush, digital photo masks and overlays

Brayered Digital Photo Masks.

6 Responses to Tweaking Photo Masks

  1. christy October 24, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Thanks for the helpful hints. Is that your handsome husband?

  2. Viktoria Mullin October 25, 2014 at 1:13 am #

    thanks for the tut! I bought immediately these brushes, I’ll try using them for photo book pages design and in any creative projects with my photos.
    love your site and products!

  3. Su Hall October 25, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I love the rolled paint masks! I love masks! You can use the ‘Blend If’ feature on a mask, too, and get even different effects when you clip your photo. Nice tutorial. Thank you!

    Su Hall recently posted..Renewal and a Tutorial on Smart Objects

    • Leslie Nicole October 30, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Glad you like them! Oh, I’ll have to try the “Blend If” on masks. Thanks for the tip!

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