When editing an image, there’s often a fine line between making it better and destroying it completely. One of the most useful tools in Photoshop to prevent destructive editing is also one that’s often overlooked—the layer mask.

A layer mask is an edit within its own layer, but the layer doesn’t actually have any pixels or any of the image in it at all. The layer mask contains only the effect you’ve added, which is why they’re so useful. Using layer masks allows you to go back and readjust without affecting any of the other edits you’ve made. Making each edit on a layer mask prevents you from re-doing any steps, but it will also allow you to apply an effect like Curves to only a portion of the image instead of the photo as a whole.

Ready to learn more about how to use layer masks? The easiest way to gain a better understanding of using layer masks is to watch them in action. Check out this excellent video tutorial explaining the basics of layer masks and how to use them.

Pretty cool, huh? Now, open one of your own images and play with a few layer masks to check out the feature first-hand.

About The Author

When Hillary Grigonis isn't writing, she's shooting—with her camera that is. A freelance writer and photographer, she's always keeping track of the latest photography news and gadgets. Follow her on Facebook or Google+.

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