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Use layer masks

A layer mask is like an additional sheet you can place over a layer or layer group to hide parts of it. Layer masks are nondestructive because even though the parts they hide are no longer shown, the original layer is fully preserved and if you turn off or remove the mask, the full layer will reappear. You can also go back to make adjustments to layer masks after adding them.

Place a mask over a layer or layer group
  1. In the Layers sidebar, click to select a layer or layer group.
  2. Do one of the following:

    • Choose Format > Mask > Add Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Layers sidebar, Control ⌃–click a layer or layer group and choose Add Mask. You can also Option ⌥–click Add Mask to add mask and hide the layer.

Edit a layer mask

When you place a layer mask over an image, it is completely white by default. The completely white parts of a mask are 100% transparent, meaning everything below the white areas is visible. If you paint over the mask with pure black, the areas you paint over are completely hidden. Pure white is 100% transparent, pure black is 0% transparent, and shades of grey range from 1% to 99% transparency — the darkest grey is 1% transparent, 50% grey is 50% transparent, and off-white is 99% transparent.

  1. Select the layer over which you have placed a layer mask.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Format > Mask > Edit Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Layers sidebar with the view set to List, click the layer mask thumbnail located to the right of the layer thumbnail. If the thumbnail has a blue outline, that means it is selected.
  3. Select the Paint tool and paint on the mask to edit it.

If you’d like to gradually reveal a layer from a completely hidden state, select the Color Fill tool and fill the layer mask with pure black or press Command ⌘ + I on your keyboard to invert the mask. Then, you can paint with white or grey to reveal the layer.

Tip: When working with layer masks, the keyboard shortcuts D (which resets the primary and secondary colors in Pixelmator Pro to black and white) and X (which switches between the primary and secondary colors) are especially useful.

Turn a layer mask on or off

Do one of the following:

  • Select the layer over which you have placed a mask. Then, choose Format > Mask > Disable Mask or Enable Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).

  • In the Layers sidebar, Control ⌃–click the masked layer, and choose Disable (or Enable) Mask.

  • Shift ⇧–click the layer mask.

When a layer mask is disabled, its thumbnail will be dimmed.

Permanently remove a layer mask

Do one of the following:

  • Select the layer over which you have placed a mask. Then, choose Format > Mask > Remove Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).

  • In the Layers sidebar, Control ⌃–click the masked layer, and choose Remove Mask.

Move or copy a layer mask from one layer to another

To move a layer mask:

  • In the Layers sidebar with the view set to List, drag the layer mask thumbnail from one layer to another.

To copy a layer mask:

  • In the Layers sidebar with the view set to List, hold down the Option ⌥ key and drag the layer mask from one layer to another.
Create a layer mask from an image

You can create a layer mask from any image on your Mac. Any areas of the image mask that are 100% black will be hidden, areas that are 100% white will be opaque, while any other colors in-between will partially hide the layer.

  1. In the Layers sidebar, select a layer you would like to mask.
  2. Choose Format > Mask > Choose Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
  3. Select an image to use as a layer mask and click Add Mask.
Create a layer mask from a selection

In Pixelmator Pro, you can create layer masks from selections. Any areas outside the active selection will be hidden, any partially selected areas will be partially hidden, and any fully selected areas will be fully shown.

  1. Make a selection in your image.
  2. Do one of the following:

    • Select the layer you would like to mask. Then, choose Format > Mask > Add Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • In the Layers sidebar, Control ⌃–click the layer you would like to mask, and choose Add Mask.
    • Option ⌥–click Add Mask to hide the inside of the selection instead of what's outside of it.

    After doing this, you can make changes to the layer mask by editing it.

Move and resize a layer mask

You can move a layer mask independently from the layer it is masking.

  1. Select the layer or layer group over which you have placed the mask.
  2. Choose Format > Mask > Edit Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
  3. Select the Arrange tool and drag the mask in your image to move it or drag one of the mask's handles to resize it.

Tip: To move a masked layer together with its mask, simply move the layer itself.

Invert a layer mask

Inverting a mask makes the opaque areas of the masked image transparent and vice versa.

  1. In the Layers sidebar, click to select a layer mask.
  2. Do any of the following:
    • Choose Format > Invert Colors (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).
    • Press Command ⌘ + I on the keyboard.

Important: It's also possible to invert the colors of the mask using the nondestructive Invert color adjustment and Invert effect. However, it's important to keep in mind that any other tools you use to edit the mask will be affected by the Invert adjustment or effect as well. For instance, if you choose a white brush to paint with, it will paint black on the mask.

Replace a layer mask

You can replace the contents of a layer mask with any other image on your Mac.

  1. In the Layers sidebar, click to select a layer mask.
  2. Choose Format > Mask > Replace Mask (from the Format menu at the top of your screen).

Pixelmator Pro User Guide