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Layer mask in Gimp explained for the beginners

Lots of people think using a layer mask is only for the advanced Gimp users, fortunately this isn't the case at all. Let me explain you the basic usage of layer mask on a easy to follow step-by-step example.

  Author: mat | Version: 2.8.0 | 5th June 2013 |  

Open any image you want in Gimp.


Create a new layer by clicking the Create a new layer button (see picture).

If you don't see the layers window press Ctrl + L to activate it.


Choose the Foreground color option and click OK.

My foreground color is black.


Now right-click the new layer ...


... and choose Add Layer Mask... from the menu.


Leave the layer mask option set to White (full opacity) and click Add.


Notice a white thumb next to the layer thumb. This white thumb represents the layer mask.

Imagine layer mask being a piece of paper you put in front of your face. You masked your face in a way nobody can see it. Let's now cut some holes in this paper so your eyes will be visible or with other words, let's unmask the part of the layer.


Choose the Paint Brush Tool.

If your Foreground color isn't set to black, then do so by pressing D key.


Now start painting over the document to uncover the layer/mask.

It's like you are cutting the holes in the paper so you can see through the mask you are holding in front of your face.


'Cut' some more holes in to the layer with the paint brush.


Let's say you don't like the way you cut the holes into the paper that's why you want to glue the pieces back on to the paper.

You can do that by switching the foreground color to white - press X key.


Now paint over the areas you want to mask back.

Remember, black color uncovers the mask, white color covers the mask.

You can now cover all the holes you made with the white paint brush.


Now choose the Blend Tool.


Then click and drag your mouse in a direction similar to mine (or in any direction for that matter) ...

You can repeat this step as many times as you want.


... you will achieve a gradual unmasking of the layer. Pretty neat right?


To disable or even delete the layer mask, right-click the masked layer and choose Disable Layer Mask (you can enable it back again at any time) or Delete Layer Mask if you want to get rid of it completely.

Here are a few useful examples of Layer Mask usage in Gimp:

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