Layer Mask Review


Today’s Question: Thank you for your excellent presentations at the Chicago Area Photographic School this weekend. In reviewing my notes I realized I missed the “secret” to viewing the full-resolution layer mask in place of the image [in Photoshop]. Can you remind me of that technique?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can view a layer mask in place of the full image by holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and then clicking on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel. This will display the layer mask in place of the image, and you can return to the image by once again holding the Alt/Option key and clicking on the layer mask thumbnail.

More Detail: This technique of viewing the full-resolution layer mask can be tremendously helpful for evaluating the quality of your layer mask, and fixing any “blemishes” within the mask. For example, if you were painting on the layer mask but didn’t quite paint all the way into the corners of the image, it will be very easy to see the problem once you’re viewing the full layer mask. You can then work with that view enabled to cleanup your layer mask.

It can also be helpful to temporarily disable the layer mask so that the adjustment applies to the entire image, and then toggle back to having the layer mask enabled. By switching back and forth between having the layer mask disabled versus enabled, you can often spot areas of the image where the layer mask isn’t quite perfect. To toggle whether the layer mask is enabled versus disabled, hold the Shift key while clicking on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel.

If you are a GreyLearning subscriber, you can view a lesson with more information about evaluating your layer masks within the GreyLearning video training library ( Simply go to the “Photoshop: Targeted Adjustments” course and view Lesson 6, which is titled “Evaluating the Layer Mask”.