All images, like onions, have many layers, in a photo these layers are flattened, but they are still there, the sky, the foreground, the subject, all fall into different planes and the mind splits them up. If you are trying to give the impression of layers in an image, you may find yourself wanting to mask one layer in front of another, which is where you need to make sure the right objects end up in front of, and behind, the right other objects, which if your composite layers are not already split, can be a problem just using the masking layer option.

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If you have ever wanted to layer one object in front of another in Photoshop, you have probably tried using a mask layer, which is fine if you have clearly defined edges to all objects, or ready made transparent layer, but here’s a very simple way to give the impression of multiple masked layers, including transparencies, just by using some clever positioning, the eraser tool and the blended transparency option.

Open any image and type a new layer showing some text. In our example we’ve cleverly used the text How to mask layers. Now duplicate the layer and hide the original, this is always a good idea to give you a one step fail-safe if you go wrong, and to allow you to compare how the mask looked before it was applies so you can decide if you really want it at all.