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How to Invert a Mask in Photoshop

Published: 02/06/2021

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A layer mask in Photoshop is one of the key functions you can do and is something you'll likely use more often than not. There are many things you can do with a layer mask in Photoshop, including inverting it to reveal the hidden areas or to select areas that are hard to select. Learning how to invert a layer mask in Photoshop can help you apply changes to any part of your image easily.

How to Invert a Mask in Photoshop

Whenever you create a mask on a layer, it is a completely white mask by default. This means that the mask is revealing the whole layer. Now when you paint any area of the layer with black, it will conceal that part. 

If you don’t want to obscure the details and just want translucence, you can use shades of grey to paint those areas. The lighter the shade of grey, the lighter will be the proper mask effect.

Now here comes the fun part. You can inverse all of this selection and delete the layer mask in Photoshop from the painted area, apply the effect instead to the deselected area

Non-Destructive Editing Via Masks

The reason why layer masks and inverting them are useful is that the editing is non-destructive. Instead of using the Eraser tool to delete the pixels from your original image, you can apply layer masks, invert a layer mask as required, and delete them if you wish to undo the editing effects.

Adding a Layer Mask in Photoshop

A quick run down to adding layer masks is essential before moving on to invert a layer mask. It is important to understand that in Adobe Photoshop CC, layer masks can be applied to every layer in a multi-layered document. The layer mask will affect the layer it is appended to. 

When created, the layer mask in Photoshop is a white mask by default (revealing effect) unless you paint it grey or black (complete or partial obscuration).

  1. Open the Image in Adobe Photoshop CC to invert a layer mask.
  2. Add layers to create your document.
  3. From the layers panel, select the layer on which you intend to invert a layer mask in Photoshop.
  4. Click on the Add a Layer Mask icon on the bottom of the layers panel to invert a layer mask.
  5. Now, go to the Window menu, and select Properties. Using this panel, you can adjust the Density and Feathering sliders. You can also Refine the Edges here. 
  6. You can now select areas on the layer for masking and paint with the brush tool to hide or reveal sections. 

Inverting an Existing Layer Mask in Photoshop

Inverting a layer mask in Photoshop will reverse the colors in the layer. This simply means that the areas you painted black will become white, representing visibility rather than obscurity, and vice versa.

When you invert a layer mask in Photoshop, make sure that the layer mask is selected on the layer. A white box around the layer mask icon will indicate its selection. As the layer mask is selected, any adjustments that you make will affect the masked area and not your image.

There are three ways to invert a layer mask in Photoshop:

Inverting a Layer Mask in Photoshop Via Image Menu

  1. Create a new mask in Photoshop on your layer and apply the adjustments you wish to make to it. 
  2. Now, if you want to invert a layer mask in Photoshop and apply the effects on the rest of the layer instead, select the layer mask on the layer (make sure the layer is not selected, only the mask is.)
  3. Go to the Image menu. Scroll down to Adjustments.
  4. Select Invert from the submenu. Your layer mask in Photoshop will be inverted.
Inverting a Mask Via Image Menu

Inverting a Layer Mask With Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to save time during your Photoshop workflow. When you use them frequently, you memorize them, accelerating your work even more. 

The keyboard shortcut for inverting a layer mask in Photoshop is CTRL + I for Windows or COMMAND + I on Mac. Make sure the layer mask is active on the layer before you apply the invert layer mask command. 

Inverting a Layer Mask Using the Properties Panel

  1. After you have created the layer mask in Photoshop, make sure it is active on the layer before you invert a layer mask.
  2. Go to the Window menu, and select Properties.
  3. A window appending the left panel will appear, where you can determine the visibility of the layer mask.
  4. You can use the Invert button in this window to invert the entire layer mask.
Inverting a Mask Using the Properties Panel

All three methods will switch everything to the opposite shade in your entire layer mask. The transparency would be swapped in your inverted mask. 

Duplicate Layer Masks and Invert a Layer Mask Simultaneously

Like every other functionality in Photoshop, layer masks can also be handled in more than one way. For instance, if you want to duplicate layer masks onto another layer and have an inverted mask simultaneously, you can do it very easily and quickly.

  • Press and hold ALT + SHIFT (Windows) or  OPT + SHIFT (Mac).
  • Click on the layer mask and drag it onto an entirely new layer mask.
  • You must click on the layer mask thumbnail. Your entire layer mask will be inverted and copied in one go. 

Creating an Inverted Mask

  1. Select the target layer in the Layers panel.
  2. Press and hold the ALT key on Windows or the OPTION key on Mac.
  3. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel.
  4. You will see that instead of the white mask, a totally black layer mask is created on your layer.

Inverting a Vector Mask

  1. Choose a layer from the layers panel to which you want to add a Vector mask.
  2. Draw a vector path using the Pen tool or any Shape tool. If you are using the shape tool, make sure to choose the Paths option from the option bar of the shape tool.
  3. Now click on the Add a Layer mask button twice to create a Vector mask.
  4. Alternatively, go to the Layer menu, scroll down to Vector mask, and select Current Path to create the vector mask. 
  5. Invert the Vector mask using the same Invert Mask methods that you used for the layer mask. 
  6. Select the layer mask first. After that, invert it using the Properties panel, or press CTRL + I on Windows or CMD + I on Mac to invert the vector mask.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Invert Masks?

  • To swap the transparency of the layer mask contents.
  • It is easier to select the background than the object, so you can just make a background selection and invert a layer mask later to select the object.
  • If you use gradients to fill a layer mask, you can invert a layer mask to invert the gradient colors.

Why is the Invert Mask Command Not Working?

If the invert layer mask feature is not working, you first have to make sure your layer mask is selected. If you still have the same issue, try resetting your Preferences by going to the Preferences tab before you keep working on the inverted layer mask. You can access it from the Edit menu on top. 


Creating a layer mask and an inverted mask is a Photoshop feature that will equip you with efficient editing capabilities. The inverted mask is frequently used by professional image editors to create surreal images by blending components of several layers artistically. You, too, can create compelling graphics with multiple layers and an entirely new layer mask if you learn to use the invert layer mask option accurately.


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