Apply Multiple Layer Masks to Single Layer in Photoshop CC 2015

Apply Multiple Layer Masks to Single Layer in Photoshop CC 2015

Layer masks are building blocks of Adobe Photoshop. I am using masks every single day and in almost each and every document created in Photoshop. Most of the time one layer mask is enough, but there are certain situations when you will need more than one mask. Ha, I can use vector mask next to the layer mask and problem solved! Well, it will work sometimes, not always. What if you want to mask vector shape? Photoshop will not allow you to create layer and vector mask! Is there a solution? Yes, that's why I am writing this quick tip. For the matter of fact, you can apply 11 layer masks to any single layer in Photoshop, let me explain you how.

Why to apply multiple layer masks, anyway

I came in situation while creating gallery on the wall composition. For highlights I am using Curves adjustment. Some masking is required and that's done using layer mask. Now where is the problem? Light is never distributed with the same strength all around, in other words, as it travels from the lamp toward floor it is weaker. That's been the case with lights which comes from the lamps that I have studied.
Curves with only one layer mask

So I need another layer mask which will make this effect possible. In particular, I need gradient white to black to reduce the amount or strength of the highlights toward the floor. Since we cannot have two layer masks applied to the same layer I found solution to put a single layer with highlights (Curves) into layer group and then to create a layer mask with gradient.
mask applied to the group

Density slider

Another thing to consider is a Density slider in the Properties which can be used to reduce the strength of dark areas in the layer mask (black and gray colors will hide the effect/adjustment applied). Select layer mask then open the Properties panel and drag Density to the left. So, do not be frustrated if you an get desired final result from the first try, sometimes is difficult to guess shade of gray to use for the gradient. Just remember Properties > Density and everything will work just fine.
density slider for the layer mask

You can apply up to 11 Layer Masks to a single layer

As mentioned above, I could continue creating layer groups and to end up with 9 levels of nested groups (plus top level group) what gives me ability to apply 11 layer masks to a single layer. It is too much, I agree, but it is possible in case you come in situation. Same thing can be done with any layer in Photoshop regardless of its type: Shape, Adjustment, Type layer...
multiple masks applied to the single layer

Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop CC 2015

Photoshop Help / Masking layers


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