Non-Destructive Layer Masking in Photoshop

Non-destructive editing techniques are vitally important in Photoshop to ensure maximum flexibility and efficiency. If you edit your images destructively (altering the actual pixels), you cannot go back, and you cannot change your edits individually in case they do not play out the way you planned them. Consequently, there are a lot of tools in Photoshop that allow you to edit your images none-destructively.

But what about the layer masks you create? Do they allow non-destructive editing too?

Sometimes, creating these masks for certain areas takes longer than the actual adjustments. Unfortunately, Photoshop does not provide any dedicated means for editing these masks non-destructively too. In the video below, however, I will show you a simple technique for combining two or more masks while retaining each of them so that you can edit them later if you need to.

In a Nutshell…

The basic idea of this technique is to use nested masks. You can put an adjustment (or a whole set of adjustments) inside a group. By adding a layer mask to that group and additional layer masks on the adjustment layers inside the group, you effectively intersect these masks without actually changing any of them. You can also create multiple levels of nested masks if you need to.

With nested masks, you retain full editing capabilities for each individual mask without losing any data in any of them. You can change them, delete them and move them without affecting the other masks.

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