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Beginner’s Tip: Choose Masks, Not The Eraser Tool

By Emily Cariaga on June 14th 2013

First of all, this is a beginner’s tip. Most experienced photographers, post producers and Photoshop fanatics are well aware of why you use masks instead of the eraser tool. But for all of those who don’t know, you surely will after reading this post and will then be able to reap the benefits in all your many years to come.

As we all know, the eraser tool deletes everything you click on while the eraser tool is selected. And unless you have duplicated the layer you are working with or are an avid ctrl/cmnd z-er, you can never get these deleted parts back. But what if you make a mistake? That is where the beauty of layer masking comes in.

[Rewind: Check out our Vintage Photoshop Actions]

To do this, first click the mask button on the layer you are working with

a white box will then appear next to your layer’s thumbnail.

The white parts of this box symbolize which parts of the layer are visible and the black parts will symbolize which parts of the layer are hidden. So if you begin painting on your layer with a black brush, it will start to hide the parts of your layer that are painted black.

Yes, I know this looks exactly like what happens when you start painting with the eraser tool, but trust me it’s different. Because if you change your brush color from black to white and start painting white on the black areas of your layer again, your original image will begin to show, it hasn’t been deleted!

You can paint away parts of your image and paint them back by toggling between black and white brushes as many times as you want, without deleting anything. Now go forth and mask away! And put away that eraser tool forever, your future self will thank you.

If you’re more of a visual person, check out this video by Howard Pinsky via Ice Flow Studios:

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Emily is a Lead Photographer at Lin and Jirsa Photography in Orange County, CA. She loves kittens, camping and sleeping in.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for posting.

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