An example of an inverted layer mask in Photoshop.

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How to invert a layer mask in Adobe Photoshop.

Learn how to generate and invert layer masks with quick shortcuts.

Inverting layer masks for better control.

A layer mask is a nondestructive editing tool, which means you can use it to make edits to your work that are easy to undo. With layer masks, your edits only affect the area of your image that you specify. For intricate editing tasks, you need an intricate layer mask. This is where inversion comes in. Simply mask what's easiest (like the subject of a photo) and invert it to produce the results you want (like masking just the background). 

An example of an inverted layer mask in Photoshop.

Swap your mask with a quick invert.

Layer masks are effective for hiding and showing different parts of an image. Invert them to instantly work with the unmasked area rather than the masked area — simply press Command+I on Mac or Ctrl+I on Windows. 

An example of a photo that was edited using a layer mask.

Why invert a layer mask?

You may find it easier to mask the area you don’t want to edit rather than the area you do. Inverting a mask is simple and gives you plenty of opportunities to experiment along the way. Use inverted layer masks for dozens of different projects, whether you’re refining hair or trying to remove a background.

An example of a photo that was edited using the Brush tool in tandem with masking.

Stress-free edits.

When you use the Brush tool in tandem with masking, painting white will reveal your adjustments or add to your mask, while black areas will conceal your adjustments or subtract from your mask. With this technique, you can fine-tune masks across layers for precise and consistent edits that you can easily undo if necessary.

An example of a photo with a mask.

Masks play well with any tool.

Layer masks (which are pixel-based and can have feathered edges) and vector masks (which are shape-based and have sharp edges) work with all the Photoshop tools you might already be familiar with — including the Brush tool, the Pen tool, the Gradient tool, the Eraser tool, and more.

How to invert a layer mask.

Follow these steps to quickly invert a layer mask.


1. Create it:

Select the layer you want to add a mask to in the Layers panel and click the layer mask icon, a white rectangle with a black circle inside.


2. Select it:

Use the Select and Mask workspace to place your mask over one area of your image. You can also use your Brush tool to paint on your mask with black or white, depending on what you’re trying to do (black conceals, white reveals). 


3. Invert it:

Use Command+I on Mac or Ctrl+I on Windows to invert the mask, rendering its opposite. You can also use Image › Adjustments › Invert. 


When to add layer masks.

Not quite sure when to use an inverted layer mask? Here are some common examples of when you’d need one. 

Edge Detection slider superimposed on a photo of a mushroom.

Banish your sharp edges.

Sharp and jagged edges, whether they’re from pixelation, aliasing, or another issue, can often be difficult to fix. Using layer masks, you can apply blurs and gradients to smooth the severe edges.

Two images faded together, made using layer masks.

Fade images together.

To blend one image or solid color into another, apply a layer mask to the image or solid fill layer that’s on the top. Invert that layer mask by hitting Command+I on Mac or Ctrl+I on Windows. Then, with your layer mask selected and white set as your foreground color, paint into your layer mask with the Gradient tool to allow the top image to blend into the bottom one.

An example of a photo edited using Smart Filters and layer masks.

Filter smarter, not harder.

You can use Smart Filters and layer masks at the same time, to add, remove, and preview different effects quickly without changing the underlying image.

Adobe Photoshop

Do more with Adobe Photoshop.

More ways to edit nondestructively.

Layer masks are just one way you can change your image without making it permanent. Discover how these other Photoshop tutorials can help you create stunning work. 

An example of a composite photo.

Learn to blend.

See how an Adobe Creative Resident uses layer masks and other Photoshop features to create dazzling composites.

 

Make a photo composite

An example of a photo collage.

Create collages and double exposures.

Using overlays, you can blend photos to suit your preferences. See how to do it without ruining your original images.

 

Learn how to overlay

A product photo with a transparent background.

Go ghostly.

Transparent backgrounds help you transport whatever you want to a new background or setting. See how to create transparent backgrounds with layer masks.

 

Discover transparent backgrounds

An example of a photo that has been de-texturized.

De-texturize.

Unsightly texture gumming up your photos? With Smart Objects and blend modes, you’ll have pristine pics in moments.

 

Remove texture

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