Stupid question about layer masks in photoshop

So, I don’t work a whole lot in photoshop, and full disclosure, I’ve never used layer masks. I’ve always just erased out parts of layers I don’t want. But I have a situation where I need to use layer masks.

When I hover over the “layer mask” icon in the panel, it says “vector mask” and when I click it, it adds a vector mask, not a layer mask. I can’t find anywhere to change this.

What am I doing wrong?


It sounds like you already have a layer mask created for this particular layer. So the second mask added to the layer would be a vector mask. Look at the layer in the Layers palette and see if there isn’t a white (or maybe black) icon to the right of the layer icon indicating a path. If there is, and I suspect there is, click on the mask and have at it. Layer masks take a little getting used to, but, once you get the hang of them, you’ll love them. Whatever you paint / brush / draw over in black is masked. You can either start with a white mask and paint in black to conceal or you can start with a black mask (which will conceal everything on that layer) and then paint / brush / draw in white to reveal that layer. Masks can apply to layers, groups of layers, adjustment layers, etc. Very useful and powerful for non-destructive editing.

Hmm, I’m not sure about it defaulting to a vector mask, but you can always create a layer mask by creating a selection (using any of the selection tools and then select Layers/Layer Mask/ form the top menu and choose either reveal or hide selection.

Masks are super useful since they are not destructive and keep all of the info “outside” of the mask in case you need it.

You can also create your layer mask and then click “q” on your keyboard to edit in quick mask mode, which lets you “paint” or draw or erase, etc. your mask. Heck, if you want to get really crazy you can even run filters on your mask.

I use masks all the time. They’re extremely useful IMO. You can also “break the link” on your mask if you want to move it, rotate it, scale it, etc.

You’re right! I have a hue layer/mask and I need to mask out some blues that I lost and need to get back.

So can you not use a layer mask on an adjustment layer?

Just a little confused with it all.

adjustment layers are layer masks. If you select an adjustment layer you can "paint in whites, grays, etc. or use the eraser, or use selections and fill with white, etc.

An adjustment layer comes with a layer mask by default. Paint on it with Black to expose underlying, un-adjusted, layer content.

Well I feel dumb now. Thanks guys!
And how does it work if I want to “undo” or restart if I erase out part of a layer mask?

That’s the great thing about a layer mask. You can change it without permanently affecting the image. If you’re painting in black on a layer mask and want to “undo” what you did (separately from using command-z), you can just switch to white and paint over the black part. If you want to completely start over, you can select all and delete the contents of the layer mask.

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To answer your question about “Vector Masks”, use the Pen Tool and create a shape then click the Vector Mask button. You will have a shape outline to work with instead of just using a regular mask. Much more precise when editing an image.
I use the combo of masks when editing out a person. Use the pen tool to cut out the body and those clean cut areas and create a Vector Mask, then use the Layer Mask when cutting around the hair which out can get those hard to cut out areas for.

Don’t feel dumb. Things are almost always easy if you just know how. Feel glad you learned something new!

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