Photoshop image masking is a crucial part of effective photo editing. No matter what image editing software you use, masking pictures is helpful to have better control over selective adjustments. Masking in image processing is a core concept for all types of masking. 

Want to learn what masking is? Its benefits and types? Then, continue reading this article to understand masking pictures better. Furthermore, you will get a step-by-step process for creating an image mask. 

Let’s get started!

What is Image Masking?

A Young Woman Before Image Masking Service
Figure 01: A Young Woman Before Image Masking
A Young Woman Looks More Attractive After Image Masking Service
Figure 02: A Young Woman After Image Masking

Image masking is a non-destructive photo editing technique. It is a core feature of image processing software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Vectornator. 

To mask an image or create an image mask is to overlay the image layer with a detailed grayscale layer or a path that filters what parts of the image are shown.

Image masks are used to conceal and reveal parts of your image. Photo editors use Photoshop image masking to flexibly edit images. 

By applying an image mask to an adjustment layer, the photo editor can target specific areas of the image for a more enhanced edit.

Why is Image Masking Important?

Image masking is an important tool in the photo editor’s toolkit. The expert can use image masks to non-destructively make changes during photo editing. Non-destructive means the edits do not permanently alter the image. As a result, the editor can revert back to the original whenever needed. 

Benefits of Image Masking

What are the benefits of using Photoshop image masking during editing? There are many types of masking used to achieve advanced edits.

The benefits of Photoshop image masking include the following:

  • Hide and Show Any Image Portion
  • Modify One Area of an Image
  • Remove and Replace Image Backgrounds
  • Different Edits in One Image
  • Make Collage Images

Hide and Show Any Image Portion

Image masking is a simple way to show or hide any specific portion of an image.

The photo editor can isolate elements in the photograph by creating image masks around them. For example, image masks are used to crop images from their background. 

Modify One Area of an Image

Want to selectively edit only one portion of your image? You can do that with image masks! 

For example, an eCommerce store sells different color variations of the same product (like a top). In that case, a skilled photo editor can apply image masks to selectively change the color of the top, leaving the rest unchanged. 

Remove and Replace Image Backgrounds

The most common use for Photoshop masking is background replacement. 

Apply image masks to select the subject of the photograph. Then, you can remove it from the image, leaving only the background. By inverting the selection, you can select the background and replace it with your desired backdrop. 

Different Edits in One Image

Want to apply different edits to various portions of your image? You can do that with image masking! 

Create image masks for the different parts of your image. Then, you can easily adjust the settings for each selected portion individually. 

Make Collage Images

Use image masks to combine different images. For example, you can isolate a subject from your photo with masks and copy it to another image. 

A collage is a collection of various elements of images. You can use Photoshop masking to create a collage from different images. Also, you can separate and blend different images into one image! 

Types of Image Masking

There are various types of image masking tools and techniques in photo editing software. In general, image masking techniques in Adobe Photoshop are also available in other photo editing software too. 

Since the information is transferrable, I’ll only focus on image masking in Photoshop. Just remember that similar concepts apply to other image editing programs such as Luminar or Capture One as well.

Types of Image Masks:

  • Standard Layer Mask
  • Alpha Masks
  • Clipping Masks
  • Vector Masks
  • Gradient Masks

Let’s explore each of these types of image masks in more detail. 

Standard Layer Mask

Layer masking is the most simple way of creating masks in Photoshop. A layer mask is what people refer to when talking about Photoshop image masking. 

The standard layer mask hides or reveals portions of an image by adjusting the visibility of the layer created. For example, if we paint black on the mask, the mask will be 100% invisible (i.e. transparent). Conversely, painting the mask white makes it 100% visible. Therefore, anything in between, i.e. grayscale, has varying opacity levels. 

Standard layer masking is a simple and effective way of selecting exactly where a layer is visible all with the help of the Photoshop brush tool.

Alpha Masks

Alpha masks, also known as alpha channel masking, are a more complicated form of masking. 

The alpha mask is a step up from the standard layer mask. Apply the alpha mask for more complex subjects like flyaway hair, feathers, or fuzzy fur. 

Photo editors make complicated adjustments easily using alpha masking. For example, you can select the edges of someone’s hair or perfectly select the leaves on a tree. 

Clipping Masks

Clipping masks use one layer to determine the visibility or transparency of another layer. 

One important use of clipping masks is to fill a text layer with a picture in Adobe Photoshop. So, you can apply a clipping mask between the image and text, which results in the image only being visible within the text layer.

Vector Masks

Before learning about vector masking, you must know about the two major image file formats; raster and vector. In short, raster images are made up of pixels, while vector images are made up of resolution-independent paths. 

Vector masks are important in graphic design to maintain the sharp edges of an image. So, rather than using pixel-based masks, the vector mask creates masks using paths with multiple anchor points. 

When are vector masks important? Well, vector masks are not usually used during standard photo editing. However, they are very important when working with text or graphics, which are usually in vector format. 

Gradient Masks

A gradient mask is similar to the standard layer mask, except that it uses a gradient adjustment rather than a brush tool to refine the mask. 

Use Photoshop gradient masks to blend one image into another. A gradient mask helps establish a clean transition between the visible and transparent layers. You can do so by using black and white in the gradient, making part of the layer transparent. 

What are Image Masks Used For?

Image masks give the photo editor control over where to make adjustments in a photo. For example, you can refine the adjustment along a specific section of an image only. 

Image masking is used for various edits, including the following

  • Background Removal
  • Blending Multiple Images
  • Confining an Image Into a Shape
  • Adding Transparency To an Image
  • Selectively Applying Adjustments

History of Image Masking

Image masking existed long before Photoshop and other photo editing software. The earliest forms of image masking can be traced back to analog image editing techniques like hand-cut masks used in darkroom photography.

During the 1970s, masks were created using a precision knife and masking film. By layering the masking film over the image, you could trace parts of the image you wanted to keep using the precision knife. The masking film would protect the areas needed and the rest cut away. 

With the invention of digital image editing software, the image masking process has become more streamlined and accessible. Today, image masking is widely used in fields like graphic design, digital marketing, and web design.

What is the Future of Image Masking?

The future of image-masking technology is likely to be influenced by advancements in artificial intelligence and computer vision. 

Developments in AI-based photo editing will lead to more sophisticated and accurate image segmentation and object recognition algorithms, giving finer control over the masking picture process. 

Additionally, with the increasing popularity of virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR), there is likely to be a growing demand for effective image-masking solutions to create realistic environments and seamlessly integrate digital content into the real world. 

As a result, the future of image masking is promising and has the potential to revolutionize several industries, from entertainment to advertising, and beyond.

Image Masking Software

What image masking software can you use to create various masks? 

Popular Photo Editing Software used by Professionals for Image Masking:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Luminar NEO
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Amadine
  • Affinity Designer

How To Mask an Image?

Want to learn how to create an image mask using Photoshop? As described earlier, there are many types of masking available. Described below is the standard layer mask for basic edits. 

Step-by-Step Process for Image Masking in Photoshop

Creating a standard layer mask is simple in Photoshop. It can be done in just three steps, which are: 

  1. Create a New Layer Mask On Your Current Layer
  2. Adjust Your Layer Mask Using a Black Brush
  3. Refine Your Layer Mask To Blend Your Adjustment

Now, you can hide or show the mask created to make selective adjustments.


Now you know how to create image masks in Photoshop. I hope you understand the importance of image masks in image post-processing. 

Masking pictures are a crucial part of photo editing. A photo editor must master image masking to make stylized edits. 

I hope you learned something useful from this Photoshop image masking article! The goal of this masking picture guide is to help photo editors master one of the most important techniques in image post-processing. 

Thanks for reading! Keep editing! 

Image Masking FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Masking Pictures. 

What exactly is image masking?

Image masking is a non-destructive photo editing technique. You can conceal and reveal parts of your photos with image masking.

Can I remove backgrounds using image masking?

Yes, you can! Image masking is suitable for objects with complex shapes, including hair and fur

How can I create a composite image using masking?

You can combine two or more images to create a composite image. For example, you can keep the sky from one image and the subject from another picture.

This page was last edited on 6 February 2023, at 5:45 pm