Masking Made Easy

What is a mask?

To understand masks in Affinity Photo, I like to think of masks that people use in real life. In the real world, people use masks to hide their face. They can take masks on and off to show or hide their face. They can even take a mask part way off, to show just part of their face.

And best of all, masks don’t damage people’s faces! They just hide them. 🙂

In Affinity Photo, masks are used to hide layers. Masks can also be used to partially hide layers. And just like masks in real life, masks do not damage or erase any part of your layers. They just hide them.

White Reveals, Black Conceals

A common rhyme used among photo editors is “white reveals, black conceals”. What this means is that a pure white mask will completely reveal a layer, and a mask that’s pure black will completely conceal a layer.

The way I remember that black masks hide layers is to think of night time. Everything at night is dark, and you can’t see anything. The same goes for a black mask. You won’t be able to see the layer.

Masks can also have some white parts, and some black parts, thus revealing some parts of a layer, while hiding other parts. A typical example of this is to hide the background of a photo, while keeping the subject visible.

Here’s what a mask would look like if we wanted to hide the sky, but keep the trees visible.

Gray Masks

Masks, like people, are not always black or white. Sometimes they are gray.

A gray mask will partially hide a layer.

Why would you want to partially hide a layer? That brings us to another important aspect of masks: adjustment layers and filters have pre-built masks.

If you applied a Brightness and Contrast Adjustment Layer, you could brighten the entire photo (because adjustment layers have a white mask by default). By making some parts of the adjustment’s mask black, those areas of the photo will not be brightened, because the adjustment layer is hidden in those parts of the picture.

If you wanted to apply just a little bit of brightening in some parts of the picture, you could paint grey on the mask, thus partially hiding the Brightness and Contrast Adjustment Layer, while keeping it partially visible.

Selections and Masks are Best Friends 

Selections and masks go hand in hand. Whenever you make a selection in Affinity Photo, you will probably turn it into a mask.

Here is a fun, easy tutorial that demonstrates selections, masking, and refining the mask by painting directly on it.

For a more in-depth look at selections and masking, check out this video.

Advanced Masking Techniques

Now that you know the basics of how masks work, check out this video for some advanced masking techniques that will blow your mind!

Have fun masking! 😀