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Using Layer Masks to Create Transparency

by SnickerdoodleDesigns on 22 February 2014
in Photoshop CS+,Tutorials Pin this scrappy stuff!

Last week we talked about Working with Layer Masks in Photoshop.  Today I would like to share with you a simple way to create a soft edge around your photos, using a layer mask.

Let’s start with this photo. I took this when my husband and I were visiting Ireland; we were taking a horse-drawn buggy ride through the amazing green forests of Killarney.


I would like to create a soft edge transparency around the center of the photo, and place it on top of a paper from Lassie Brianna.

Using the Elliptical Marque Tool, I created a selection around the center of the photograph.


I next made sure that my Properties Panel was open.  If you do not see your Properties Panel, you will find it by going to Window,  in your top Menu Bar, and checking “Properties” in the drop-down box.


I next clicked on the “Add Layer Mask” icon at the bottom of my Layers Panel, and a mask was applied to my photo.  You will see that reflected in the Layers Panel (the black indicating the part of the photo that is masked out).  I have my Navigator open, so in the image below you will see the mask also reflected in the image at the top right.


Now I just need to adjust the Feather radius in the Properties Panel to create the effect that I want.  The higher the value, the great the feathering effect will be.  I set my Feather at 31 px, by dragging the slider to the far right.


If I wanted to refine the edge even further, I could click on the “Mask Edge” button in the Properties panel. The Refine Mask Panel would open, and I could adjust the edge by experimenting with the Smooth, Feather, Contrast, and Shift Edge options.

Another fun option is to click the “Invert” button in the Properties Panel for the result below.  The center will be transparent, so I could drop a picture in there if I wanted. Or include my page journaling or title here… or my favorite quote or poem!  (I’ve created a gift for you using this method. It’s at the end of this post.)


I elected to use my photo with the soft transparency edge applied.  I dropped a paper from Lassie Brianna behind it and had a lovely blended look to my image.


I decided to take the design process a little further.  I applied one of my Irish Lace Styles to one of my new Irish Lace Corners. I duplicated and flipped the corner, placing the 2 corners at the top of the photograph. I can now use this design on layout, but I think I will get it printed postcard size and send a note to some of my Irish friends!


Experiment with different papers and photographs, and I’ll bet you become hooked on masks, if you aren’t already!

Today’s tutorial was written using CS6. The method described is not available in Adobe Photoshop Elements.  If you are PSE user, and would like to know how to create this effect using Photoshop Elements, visit my SnickerdoodleDesigns blog on Monday for a tutorial on how to do so. (UPDATE: This tutorial is now available on my blog: Using Layer Marks to Create Transparency in Photoshop Elements.)

My new Irish Lace Styles, Borders, Corners, and Overlays are now in my CU store. Don’t let that “CU” tag fool you though.  They can be used by anyone! Take advantage of Introductory Pricing now through March 17th. While all products are offered individually, the Irish Lace Collection is your best value. (I’ve also put Laddie Brian and Lassie Brianna on sale for you, through February 28th.)

I created a 5″ x 7″ card for you, using a paper from Lassie Brianna and this method.  Just click on the image below to download!


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sue Rice 22 February 2014 at 7:08 pm

I’m definitely going to use the mask option more often as I continue to learn. Thanks again for a great tut.


2 Sue Rice 22 February 2014 at 7:09 pm

Oh, I forgot to thank you for the card. I really appreciate it.


3 charlyn parker 22 February 2014 at 11:06 pm

that was very helpful, thanks much


4 Pam 23 February 2014 at 10:08 am

I love the soft-edged look … as I use PSE, I look forward to seeing Monday’s tutorial. Thanks for the card!


5 RoseC 23 February 2014 at 12:12 pm

This is great – as always, thank you for your freebie. Between this tut and Michelle’s NAODs class, I’ve a better understanding of how to create and use layer masks. Thanks a bunch. Rose


6 Ephémère13 23 February 2014 at 2:19 pm

Great! This is another way to do a blend of color with another color, Thank you for the tutorial! Merci beaucoup, je le fais d’une autre façon mais je suis contente de le savoir avec un masque car c’est beaucoup plus rapide. Bye….next tuto.


7 Su Hall 23 February 2014 at 4:16 pm

What a lovely addition with the lace! It is gorgeous! Did you buy any lace when you went there? Irish lace has a style all its own and I love it! It’s kind of like an applique and laces mixed together.
Thank you for the tut!



8 Carol 24 February 2014 at 2:03 am

Oh my word, this is so beautiful. I can’t wait to see the tut on Monday for PSE. Thanks so much for this beautiful card.


9 SnickerdoodleDesigns 24 February 2014 at 10:08 am

Those interested, the Photoshop Elements version of this tutorial is now available on my SnickerdoodleDesigns blog:
Thank you for all of your comments.
Yes, Ephemere13, this is also a great technique for blending colors.
Su, I did purchase some Irish lace when we were in Ireland. And you’re right, it is beautiful!


10 Su Hall 24 February 2014 at 3:05 pm

Oh, cool! I can’t help but think of the hours that the women spent turning fibers into beautiful trims for clothing and the home. Their hands working the magic, they created pretties, just like we do. We’re not so different from our ancestors in some ways.
If you use the lace on something, I would love to see.



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