A simple Rectangular Marquee selection.


A second selection is added using the Shift key.


A second selection is subtracted using the Option key.


The intersection of two selections is created using both Option and Shift keys.

There are so many times when you make a selection in Photoshop and it’s not quite right. But if the selection just needs a little more here and/or a little less there, there’s an easy fix.

You can press the Shift key to add or the Option key to subtract a new selection to any existing selection, no matter how the existing selection was made or what tool you’re making the new selection with (Lasso, Marquee, Magic Wand, Quick Selection). Hold both the Shift and Option keys at the same time and you’ll get the intersection of the new and old selections. You can do this as many times as you like.

It’s that simple.

Sure, you can use the Add to selection, Subtract from selection, or Intersect with selection options in the top toolbar, but these key commands are easier.

Read more about masking here.

View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


There are at least two good reasons to become more familiar with Photoshop’s key commands related to masking. First, while many of these functions can be accessed through menu items, not all of them can; these features are essentially hidden to users who don’t know the key commands. Second, key commands that make masking and selections easier and faster.

Here’s a list of the most important Photoshop key commands related to masking.

Option click displays a mask in black and white.

Shift click disables a mask.

Option Shift click displays a mask in red at 50% opacity.

Double click on a mask displays options for changing the color and opacity of mask.

Command click loads a mask as a selection.

Shift Command I click loads an inverted selection.

Shift Command click adds to an existing selection. (gradients add at 50% then 10% increments)

Drag and drop to move a mask from one layer to another.

Option drag and drop to copy a mask from one layer to another.

Delete fills a mask with the Background color.

Option Delete fills with the Foreground color.

Control click on a mask to bring up a contextual menu of options …

      Disable Layer Mask

      Delete Layer Mask

      Apply Layer Mask

      Add Layer Mask to Selection

      Subtract Layer Mask From Selection

      Intersect Layer Mask With Selection

      Layer Mask Options …

As masks are often painted, brush key command are useful too.

Numbers change brush opacity. (1=10%, 2=20%, 3=30%, etc)

X to reverses foreground and background colors.

[ makes a brush smaller.

] makes a brush larger.

Shift [ makes a brush softer.

Shift ] makes a brush harder.

Read more about masking here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Photoshop Masking Key Commands

October 17, 2012 | Comments Off on Photoshop Masking Key Commands |

Photoshop key commands make masking faster and easier. Here’s a list of  the most useful ones. The best way to memorize them is to use them. (Note for PC substitute Alt for Option.)


The following key commands do not require clicking on the mask.

X                               reverses Foreground and Background colors

Numbers                    number keys change the Opacity of a brush

[ and ]                       makes a brush smaller and  larger

Shift [ and Shift ]       makes a brush softer and  harder

Opt Delete                  fills a mask with the Foreground color

Command I                inverts a mask


The following key commands require clicking on the mask.

Control Click                        displays mask options

Opt Click                              displays a mask in black and white

Shift Opt Click                      displays a mask as a red overlay


Command Click                    loads the mask as a selection

Shift Command Click            adds the mask to a selection

Option Command Click          subtracts the mask from a selection

Shift Option Command          loads the intersection of two masks

Shift Command I                   inverses a selection


Drag & drop                           to move a mask from one layer to another

Option drag & drop                to copy a mask from one layer to another


Find more Photoshop masking resources here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

In this Photoshop Quick Tip I demonstrate all the masking key commands in Photoshop. They’re real time savers!

View more Quick Tips here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Julieanne Kost demonstrates how to streamline Lightroom 3’s Develop module by taking advantage of her top 10 favorite shortcuts & time-saving features in order to eliminate many of the repetitive image adjustment tasks when editing large volumes of images.

Visit Julianne’s blog for more shortcuts and tips.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


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