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How to Copy a Mask in Photoshop

Published: 19/05/2021

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Photoshop consists of a large number of useful tools which equip you with complete functionality while image editing. Among these features, layers and masks are undoubtedly essential parts of the software, which provides immense editing flexibility. Today, we will lay the basics of how to copy a mask in Photoshop to streamline your editing workflow. 

How to Copy a Mask in Photoshop Using 4 Different Methods

In simple words, layer masking is a non-destructive way of hiding or revealing a part of a layer. Therefore, it is a much more flexible option than deleting one, which means that you have better pliability in editing images and showing your creativity. 

You can use layer masking for various purposes, such as creating a combination of multiple images in one frame, limiting edits to a section of the layer, or cutting out objects for use in other images. You can also use layer masks to change the opacity of certain elements of the layer. Or, you can change the contrast, brightness, or color level of a section in the image using the layer masks.

An example of layer mask usage is when you need to make a composite image using several views of a property. You can create an eye-catching visual by using layer masks, resulting in a fusion that shows several views of a place in one single image. Here are a few ways which allow you to duplicate a layer mask and paste it on another layer for quick, uniform editing. 

Using the Duplication Method

  1. Open an image in Adobe Photoshop CC.
  2. Add layers to the image (supposing that you are creating a composite image).
  3. Now create a Layer Mask by selecting a layer and clicking on the add vector mask option at the bottom of the Layers panel. 
Using duplication method when copying a mask in Photoshop
  1. Now work on your layer mask by using tools present in the toolbar. For this specific image, we used a border selection using the Marquee tool.
  2. Now to copy the layer mask, hold down the ALT key on Windows or Option key on Mac. Drag the layer mask thumbnail while holding down the key to the other layer.
  3. A duplicate layer mask will be added to the other layer.
A duplicated layer mask added to another layer
  1. Remember that dragging the mask thumbnail without holding the Alt/Option key will move the mask to another layer rather than duplicating it.

Using the Vector Mask Button

In this method, steps 1-4 from the previous method will remain the same. After creating layer masks, you can:

  1. Press CMD + D on Mac or CTRL + D on Windows to deselect everything.
  2. Select the mask thumbnail by using CTRL + Click on Windows or CMD + Click on Mac.
  3. Click on some other layer on which you want to duplicate the same mask.
  4. Click on the Add Vector Mask button from the lower section of the Layers panel.

Using the Edit Menu

We will use the top menu options Select and Edit in this method for copying masks. Go with steps 1-4 as we did in earlier methods to open the image and create a layer mask. After that: 

  1. Select the layer from the Layers panel that requires a copied mask.
  2. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel.
  3. Now ALT + Click (Windows) on the layer mask thumbnail, or OPT + Click if you are using Mac.
  4. Now go to the Menu bar, and choose Select > All. You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD + A.
  5. Go to Edit and select Copy to copy the mask.
  6. Now select the mask thumbnail of the layer that requires masks.
  7. Go to Edit and select Paste. 
  8. Get rid of the Selection by clicking on Select > Deselect. 

Using the Load Selection Option

Here is another method that can help you copy the masks. Once you are done with steps number 1-4 in the top method, you can go ahead with this method.

  1. Click on the thumbnail of the masks you want to duplicate.
  2. In the properties panel, click on Load Selection.
  3. Alternatively, go to Select > Load Selection. 
  4. Now expand the Adjustments panel. Click a New Layer Type button. Alternatively, go to the Layer menu and select New adjustment / Fill Layer. 
  5. Remember to have the selection loaded beforehand to avoid a blank mask.

Copying a Layer Mask to a Layer Group

Using the same ALT + Drag or Option + Drag, you can copy the layer mask and paste it on a layer group. It will apply the mask to the layer group. This is a great way to save time as a group may contain numerous layers.

Copying a layer mask to a layer group in Photoshop

What’s the Difference Between a Layer Mask and a Vector Mask?

  • Layer Mask: Layer masks are pixel-based. Layer mask creation is as simple as using white on a black background or building a high contrast image.
  • Vector Mask: Instead of a fixed image, a vector mask is a geometrical shape. Vector masks are not dependent on pixels. You can create a shape for your vector mask using the pen tool or the shape tool. You can easily alter the curve of its shape. Or you can size it up and down.

Both types of masking remove a section from the layer or reduce its opacity which lets you perform edits in a creative way. Also, duplicating these masks and applying them on another layer gives the added functionality of using similar effects on multiple layers very quickly. 

Conclusion

Copying layer masks in Adobe Photoshop CC is a straightforward process. You don’t need any practice to learn it as it involves minimum steps and easily accessible tools. In return, the ease this feature provides with editing is definitely worth it.

PFRE Team
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