Photo Processing,  Software

How to Save a Layer Mask as a Separate File in Photoshop for use in the Future

Have you ever wanted to process a photo several times using different techniques that required creating a time consuming layer mask.  You ended up not processing the photo again due to the time it takes to create the mask.

Or maybe the photo didn’t turn out the way you wanted but you didn’t want to invest the time to create the layer mask again.

I use layer masks a lot to selectively sharpen and reduce the noise in my bird and nature photography.  It can take quite a bit of time to create a layer mask to selectively sharpen a bird in a photograph.

See below for how to save your layer masks as images and reload them into Photoshop to use as layer masks in the future.

Save Layer Mask
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To Save a Layer Mask

  • Select the layer mask that you’d like to save by clicking on it.
  • Go to the Channels Tab and select the layer mask
  • Copy the layer mask – Edit Menu –> Copy (Command C – Mac, Control C – Windows).
  • Create a New Document – (Command N – Mac, Control N – Windows) that will be the same size as the photo you are working on.
  • Go to the new document and paste – Edit Menu –> Paste (Command V – Mac, Control V – Windows) the layer mask.  This will create a new layer in the document with the mask.
  • Flatten the image and save the mask in the folder where your photo is stored.  In Lightroom, I also give the mask a keyword of “Layer Mask” so I can easily find all the saved masks.
Save Layer Mask Channels Tab

To Use a Saved Layer Mask

  • Open the saved mask image in Photoshop just like a normal photo.
  • Go to the tab in Photoshop with the layer mask image that you just opened.
  • To copy the layer mask, go to the Select Menu –> All (Command A- Mac, Control A – Windows) and then copy – Edit Menu –> Copy (Command C – Mac, Control C – Windows).
  • Go to the tab in Photoshop with the image where you want to use the mask.
  • Create a duplicate layer –  Layer Menu –> Duplicate Layer (Command J – Mac, Control J – Windows) and add a layer mask by clicking on the “Add Layer Mask” icon at the bottom on the layers tab.
  • Select the layer where you want to add the mask and then click on the Channels Tab.  Click on the layer mask and activate it by clicking on the checkbox.
  • Paste the layer mask –  Edit Menu –> Paste (Command V – Mac, Control V – Windows)
Save Layer Mask

You should now have a separate layer with the saved layer mask.

Written by Martin Belan

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