Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Working with layer masks


Painter 11 Essential Training

with John Derry

Video: Working with layer masks

In the last video, I introduced to you the concept of Alpha Channels or Channels and as you remember, a Channel is basically the same thing that a selection is and it just represents varying levels of transparency. Layer masks, which we are learning about in this video, extend the concept of an Alpha Channel by associating it with a layer. So the first thing we want to do is learn how we create a layer mask. And what I'm going to be doing is applying it to this little statue figure, which we cut out earlier and give the illusion that this is actually protruding from the water.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 49s
    1. Welcome/demo
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 3m 45s
    1. What Painter can do
      1m 15s
    2. Let's paint!
      2m 30s
  3. 23m 16s
    1. Starting Painter for the first time
      6m 39s
    2. Creating, opening, and saving files
      4m 52s
    3. Sizing image resolution for output
      6m 16s
    4. Extending the canvas
      2m 36s
    5. Creating and using templates
      2m 53s
  4. 37m 46s
    1. Navigating Painter
      8m 46s
    2. Rotating the canvas
      3m 3s
    3. Using the Tool palette and Property bar
      6m 41s
    4. Understanding Tool palette selectors
      8m 58s
    5. The Brush Selector bar: an art store in a palette
      4m 2s
    6. Configuring palettes
      6m 16s
  5. 28m 37s
    1. Accessing and controlling color with the Color palette
      8m 27s
    2. Mixing color in the Mixer palette
      10m 41s
    3. Color sets: choose 'n' use color
      9m 29s
  6. 37m 13s
    1. Understanding the six axes of motion
      3m 19s
    2. Introducing tablets: Intuos3 and Intuos4
      8m 6s
    3. Introducing tablets: Cintiq
      7m 49s
    4. Customizing your Wacom tablet: part 1
      4m 57s
    5. Customizing your Wacom tablet: part 2
      9m 25s
    6. Maximizing your tablet's pressure response
      3m 37s
  7. 14m 56s
    1. Understanding the selection tools
      2m 16s
    2. Making selections using the Lasso tool
      3m 20s
    3. Making polygonal selections
      2m 51s
    4. Making selections using the Magic Wand tool
      6m 29s
  8. 42m 34s
    1. Understanding layers
      8m 1s
    2. Using the Preserve Transparency control
      2m 50s
    3. Using the Pick Up Underlying Color control
      4m 36s
    4. Resizing and rotating layers using the Transform tool
      5m 45s
    5. Making selections using channels
      4m 23s
    6. Working with layer masks
      9m 52s
    7. Adding text
      7m 7s
  9. 37m 40s
    1. Understanding the Brush Creator workspace
      6m 11s
    2. Exploring brush properties using the Randomizer
      8m 15s
    3. Exploring brush properties using the Transposer
      4m 45s
    4. Using the Stroke Designer to create custom brushes
      9m 39s
    5. Managing brush variants
      8m 50s
  10. 38m 25s
    1. Adjusting brush size: three techniques
      3m 3s
    2. Fine-tuning your stroke in the Brush Controls palette
      5m 12s
    3. Working with texture-aware media
      8m 59s
    4. Painting with Artists' Oils brushes
      10m 45s
    5. Painting with RealBristle brushes
      3m 39s
    6. Working with hard media
      4m 57s
    7. Painting with markers
      1m 50s
  11. 20m 21s
    1. Understanding the Image Hose
      3m 26s
    2. Controlling the Image Hose
      8m 32s
    3. Creating a nozzle file
      8m 23s
  12. 22m 11s
    1. Warmup exercises
      7m 54s
    2. Draftsmanship: drawing media
      10m 56s
    3. Doodling
    4. Creating outline sketches utilizing the conceptual squint
      2m 38s
  13. 17m 28s
    1. Understanding cloning
      3m 1s
    2. Tracing a clone's source using Tracing Paper
      3m 27s
    3. Painting a cloned image
      5m 55s
    4. Creating a Quick Clone
      2m 46s
    5. In-document cloning
      2m 19s
  14. 25m 51s
    1. Understanding the vocabularies of paint photography
      8m 51s
    2. You must destroy detail
      6m 20s
    3. Focusing on the subject
      4m 1s
    4. Adapting color in a photograph for photo painting
      6m 39s
  15. 28m 17s
    1. Under-painting
      6m 26s
    2. Auto-painting
      5m 25s
    3. Using manual controls for auto-painting
      11m 53s
    4. Restoring detail using the Restoration palette
      4m 33s
  16. 18m 44s
    1. The photo as wet oil paint
      6m 47s
    2. Cloning the canvas and building detail with multiple layers
      11m 57s
  17. 25m 58s
    1. Applying surface texture
      6m 53s
    2. Matching the color palette between two images
      4m 10s
    3. Marbling
      9m 27s
    4. Exploring the Growth effect
      5m 28s
  18. 25m 10s
    1. Understanding frame-by-frame animation
      2m 9s
    2. Creating an animation with onion-skinning
      11m 51s
    3. Using a movie clone source
      11m 10s
  19. 17m 46s
    1. Using each application for its strengths
      4m 24s
    2. Working with Photoshop's PSD file format in Painter and Photoshop
      4m 51s
    3. Configuring color management
      8m 31s
  20. 33m 26s
    1. Setting preferences
      7m 37s
    2. Customizing keyboard shortcuts
      5m 5s
    3. Saving and restoring palette layouts
      4m 4s
    4. Creating custom palettes
      3m 36s
    5. Accessing favorite brushes using the Tracker palette
      5m 55s
    6. Organizing custom workspaces
      7m 9s
  21. 8m 17s
    1. Undo, undo, undo
      3m 33s
    2. Painting on layers
      1m 57s
    3. Save often, save early
      2m 47s
  22. 10m 7s
    1. Resetting brushes: Painter's panic button
      2m 0s
    2. Resetting workspaces with the Shift key restart
      6m 12s
    3. Troubleshooting brushes with the brush checklist
      1m 55s
  23. 16s
    1. Goodbye

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Painter 11 Essential Training
8h 39m Beginner Jul 24, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In Painter 11 Essential Training, John Derry, one of the original Painter authors, demonstrates basic and advanced creative techniques that can get beginners up and running. He also shows old hands the new features that can get a creative vision out of the head and onto the canvas. John demonstrates how to establish an easy workflow in Painter by using a Wacom tablet, and he explains how to create, edit, and publish projects. Exercise files accompany the course.

Download the Painter/Photoshop Consistent Color Management PDF and the Brush Troubleshooting Checklist PDF from the Exercise Files tab.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the Painter 11 interface
  • Exploring Painter's brushes and painting styles
  • Creating and using templates
  • Working with layers and channels
  • Adding text to a canvas
  • Designing captions and text for photos
  • Integrating Painter projects with Photoshop
  • Creating animation sequences with Painter
Painter Wacom
John Derry

Working with layer masks

In the last video, I introduced to you the concept of Alpha Channels or Channels and as you remember, a Channel is basically the same thing that a selection is and it just represents varying levels of transparency. Layer masks, which we are learning about in this video, extend the concept of an Alpha Channel by associating it with a layer. So the first thing we want to do is learn how we create a layer mask. And what I'm going to be doing is applying it to this little statue figure, which we cut out earlier and give the illusion that this is actually protruding from the water.

Layer masks are the perfect tool to do that, because it's going to enable me to determine exactly how transparent or opaque portions or the bottom of this are going to be. If we go over to the Layers palette itself, I'm going to create a layer mask. So there is a couple of ways to do it. I can go down to the row of icons down here and if we go to the one at the far right, I can click on there and you will see that two things have happened. For one thing in the Channels palette, we have created a channel. But it is a channel that is associated with this layer.

Hence the name layer mask, because we are going to use its transparency capabilities to determine which parts of this layer are transparent or opaque. Notice in the Layers palette that right now there is a dark outline around the little thumbnail. This is telling me that the color information of this layer is now targeted. If I were to use a brush, I would paint with color on that layer. If I want to work in the layer mask, I have to click on it and you will see what happens is now it's targeted.

It shows us that it's targeted by putting the black outline around it. That means when I paint now, I'm going to be painting with a density, basically, in this layer mask. Remember we have 256 levels of density from white to black and once again remember that white reveals, black conceals. Right now, our layer mask is 100% white. That means it's 100% able to show me any pixels that are on this layer. Now let's go in here. I'm going to open up my Color palette for a moment so I can get to my colors.

We have this set up so that my main color is black and the secondary color back here is white. With that setup, I can either in the Color palette or over here on the Tool palette, which I'll be using, I can click on this little toggle. You can see I can switch these two colors back and forth. I can also use the Shift+X key to do the same thing. So right now, I'm no longer clicking on there. I'm actually using the keyboard shortcut to do that. The reason this is important is when you're doing masking work, you really only need black and white to do the masking.

So by being able to toggle these two colors back and forth like this gives me very elegant way to instantly switch between adding opacity and adding transparency, because as we remember white reveals and black conceals. So by having black there right now as my color when I paint, I'm going to painting the transparency into this layer. So before I get started, I instantly make sure that I have both my black and white setup, which I have just done there. I make sure I have targeted my mask so I'm not going to be painting in the color information of that layer.

I also want to make sure that I have my brush setup. So with all of these things setup I'm ready to go, but if you don't stop to do that, you could very easily start painting and something doesn't go right and you have to adjust those things, if you want to draw with masks safely. So let's go in now and I'm going to switch to black and I'm going to start to paint in here. You will see that as I paint and because this is an airbrush, it very slowly builds up color and its pressure control. I can very slowly kind of decide how much I want to make an area of this invisible.

Now you could do a similar thing with the Eraser tool, for example, which will look like you are doing the same thing I'm doing here. The difference is that is destructive. Once you have done that, you can undo it. You can use then Undo tool, but later on, after you have done a bunch of things there is nothing to bring back what you've erased. What we are doing here is painting into this mask, which visually looks the same, but the difference is this mask is nondestructive. I can switch to white and start to paint in here and you can see I can bring this back and I can switch back and forth between black and white as much as I want and continue to bring back and erase my image.

So that's one of the very important concepts around why a layer mask is so powerful. I have the ability to do this nondestructive editing and not worry about losing some of the actual color layer pixel information of my image. So let's once again switch to black. I'm going to start thinking in terms now of this kind of disappearing into the water. So I'm just applying very light feathering strokes here to get this to slowly sort of go down into the water. The water is fairly transparent in my mind's eye and I'm just using that kind of visualize how I want this to look as if it's going beneath the water and say it's kind of right around there.

So up to about one dark edge is the water line and then it starts to disappear into it. So that looks pretty good. I am going to go ahead and at this point I realize I'm going to want to reduce the scale of this a little bit. So I'm going to go up to the Edit menu and now you'll notice-- this is a good lesson right here. If you wanted to Free Transform it, it's grayed out. Why is it grayed out right now? Well, we are targeting the layer mask. We need to target the actual pixels in the color layer in order to be able to do that.

When I go back to there now, you will see that it's enabled. So if you go up and Free Transform is not enabled, it means that most likely you've got your layer mask with a particular layer you are working on targeted rather than the color information. So now I'm free to transform this and I'm just going to reduce the scale, just a little bit and hit the Return key. So now I have got this setup, I'm going to kind of place it where I imagine it coming out of the water, somewhere around here.

The next thing I want to do is I want to create a reflection because it looks a little unnatural. It's there but it doesn't seem to have any weight, because unlike everything else here which is reflecting in the water, it's not and so to make this coherently in the scene, it makes sense for it to have a reflection. So if you remember from earlier, if I hold down the Alt or Option key, while I'm in the Layer Adjuster tool, I can click and drag this layer and it will create a copy for me. So now I have got two of these in here and what I'm going to do is take this and I basically just want to flip it.

So I'm going to go into my Edit menu and go down here and say Flip Vertical. So now I have got this flipped and right now think about how a reflection works. The farther it gets away from the object, the more transparent it's going to get and right now we don't have that going on. So I don't even need it in place here. What I'm going to start to do is once again if I started painting here with my airbrush right now. In fact, I'll do it just to show you what can go wrong. See, we don't want that to happen, because I'm targeting the color information.

If I click on the layer mask itself, now I can go in here and if I switch to white, I can bring back all of these information. So now I can start afresh and what I want to do is we'll flip back so that we are going to painting in transparency. I'm going to enlarge my brush a bit here and what I really want to happen is I want this to be pretty transparency as it gets down towards the bottom here. I think I'm also going to want to do some cutting off at the very top, because we don't really see the top of this in the water because it's submerged.

I'm just going to go in here and really kind of get rid of this altogether. Feather it just a little bit, so it's got a soft edge to it and here we go. Now let's go ahead and get the Layer Adjuster and we'll set it in here. I'm just going to put it roughly where I would feel like that is the spot at which it's going to be reflecting. Now I'm just going to take advantage of the Opacity slider in the Layers palette and see I can start turning this down and all I'm going to do here is just visually kind of slowly turn it down, so I see what it looks like. Yeah, that's about where the reflection would be.

You don't want it to be too obvious. So I'm just keeping it very, very slight. I also because I'm in the Layer Adjuster tool, I can use my arrow keys. I'm just going to nudge this. You could see how it's moving a little bit to the left and right. I'm just using this now as well as Up and Down arrows key to just finesse it into the spot that gives the feeling I want. It might need a little bit more opacity in it. I can also at this point still go back and target that layer mask and use my airbrush to do any additional size adjustment.

I'm going to go up here and enlarge my brush a bit, and let's just-- So now we've got our elements. In fact, if I click and drag my Layer Adjuster, I can click-and-drag on the image and as long as I select both of those layer elements, I can now actually pick this up and move it around. Now this gives me the opportunity to turn it right where I want it and everything is already set. So I would say right about there. So that is just a quick explanation of how I can adjust elements to give them different degrees of transparency by taking advantage of an Alpha Channel that is simply been attached to a layer and at that point, it's just known as a layer mask, but you are doing nothing more than dealing with an Alpha Channel.

It's just one that happens to have this unique connection to a layer element. So the major thing, the walkaway with this, is layer masks are major nondestructive compositing tools that you can use to blend various layer elements together and by adding this technique to your arsenal, you can create a wide variety of visual results.

There are currently no FAQs about Painter 11 Essential Training.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Painter 11 Essential Training.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.