Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Technique Tuesday - Quick Masks in Photoshop

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Quick Masks in Photoshop

Version 7+

You can download a pdf version of this tutorial here

The quick mask has been included in Photoshop for several versions – You can access it from the bottom of the tool bar. ( In CS4 it appears as a rectangle with a circle – and you click on that icon to turn it on or off ) in previous versions there were 2 icons – one to turn it on and one to turn it off. I am using CS4 so my screenshots show the one icon. If you are using an earlier version it might look a little different

The Quick mask is a method of making a selection.

It is a more visual method as it displays a coloured overlay in the areas that are to be masked that can be painted on in black white or shades of grey to add or subtract from your selection.

Because you can easily see where you are applying your strokes it is often an easier way of making a selection.

There are several methods of using the quick mask to make a selection. You can start with a selection made with any of the normal selection tools such as the marquee tool as I have here with this photo of Hannah


Then click on the quick mask icon at the bottom of the tool bar


The masked area appears as a red overlay


You can now make some alterations to the mask by painting directly on the image

When you click on the quick mask icon your default brush colours automatically change to black and white.

When you paint with the black you add to your mask


When you paint with white it subtracts areas from your mask


You can also use the eraser to erase areas from your mask.

If you paint in a shade of grey on your mask then you will see the opacity of the red overlay is lighter – this will result in a feathered edge to your selection where it fades out


When you click on the quick mask icon again – your mask will turn back into a selection .

The quick mask is particularly useful for making selections out of creative brush work


This type of selection would be much harder to achieve using traditional selection tools

Once you are happy with your result press the quick mask icon again to return to normal mode and delete the area that is selected


There are of course many other ways you can use the quick mask

You can apply a gradient to your mask to achieve an easy fade out effect

Just press the quick mask icon and then use the gradient tool .

Choose black to white or black to transparent and drag your gradient across your image in the direction you desire


Click again on the quick mask button and your gradual selection has been completed for you.

It wont show as gradual in when you see the “ marching ants”


but when you hit delete you will see the feathering has been applied


Have some fun experimenting with the quick mask tool

It doesnt have quite the same capabilities as the normal masking option but its great when you want to make a difficult or fancy selection.

I created a layout using the above technique and photo


This layout uses a background from my Willow Wishes Page Kit ( lightened )

and the leafy border is from Autumn Agenda

The word art is by Tina and is from her Travel Word art Set


  1. Anonymous4:27 am

    Thanks so much Lauren


  2. Cathiemarie9:51 am

    Ooooooh wow, what fun I'm going to have with these new tricks you've taught us. Thank you so much Lauren

  3. Excellent..love that creative brush idea. Thanks Lauren,


  4. Lauren - I just have to say how much I love your tutorials! I download them each week and keep in a folder. Your examples are always fantastic too!!!

  5. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with us! We really appreciate it!