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Combining Vector and Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop offers two kind of masks: pixel and vector based or Layer and Vector masks. You probably already know that and I wont discuss nature of this masks but rather how to combine them. First of all have you ever tried to combine Layer and Vector mask? You can do that, don’t you know?
Combining Layer and Vector masks

Creating Vector Masks
In this example I will use one of custom shapes in Photoshop to add frame or border around image (this set with custom vector frames will be available soon on this blog). If we take a look at new layer which is created automatically when using Shape layers drawing mode (1) for custom shapes we can deconstruct that we actually have created Fill layer (2) with Vector mask (3). You can also invert vector mask.
Custom shape in Photoshop on separate layer created from Fill layer and Vector mask using Shape layers drawing mode
Custom shape in Photoshop on separate layer created from Fill layer (2) and Vector mask (3)
using Shape layers (1) drawing mode

I wont stop there and I will add another frame on layer above in the very same way by choosing vector custom shape and drawing it using Shape layers drawing mode from Options bar. Now i have 2 Shape layers ( 2 Fill layers with 2 Vector masks). What if I want to modify one of 2 frames? I can do that using Direct selection Tool (white arrow) and selecting anchor points, or I can make things easier and create Layer mask then paint with brush on areas which I want to modify, to hide actually in this case.
Two Shape layers with vector image frames
Two Shape layers with vector image frames

Add Layer mask to layer with Vector mask
Click on layer with Vector mask you want to modify (actually to hide non-destructively some details) to select it then click Add layer mask from bottom of LAYERS palette.
Add Layer mask to layer with Vector mask.  Activate Brush tool (B), right click and choose brush tip
Add Layer mask to layer with Vector mask (1).
Activate Brush tool (B), right or Cmd/click and choose brush tip (2)

Hide details from Vector mask using Layer mask
Next step is to click on newly created layer mask (which will be added after Fill thumbnail but before Vector mask) to target it, to choose any of available brushes and to paint on mask using black color. If you make mistake just change color to white and paint on layer mask with white color to reveal hidden details. You can also change color (double click first - fill thumbnail ), opacity, blend mode or even to add layer effect from Layer Style dialog.
Click on Layer mask to target it then paint with Brush tool
Click on Layer mask (1) to target it then paint with Brush tool (2)
Here is my final result using only two vector frames and combining Layer and Vector mask:
Image frame created combining Layer and Vector mask
Image frame created combining Layer and Vector mask
Conclusion
Masks are one of most powerful features in Photoshop and one of building blocks. Best of all masks in Photoshop are non-destructive and you can change and modify them at any time even after saving and reopening PSD (recommended) file. For best and outstanding results combine Layer and Vector mask and sky is the limit.

PS: You can download plenty of free vector image frames and brushes from freebies section.

Product used for this tutorial: Photoshop CS5

Reference:
Photoshop Help / Masking layers

Vector mask 123708953198301228

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