PS-36: How to Move the Mask without moving the layer

04 January, 2015

When you create a mask for the layer, the link will be automatically creates between the layer and mask. Sometimes we need to move the mask around without moving the layer and how do we do that?

Also moving the mask is different between layer mask and vector mask. we will look at both in this tutorial.


01. Here we have a simple rectangle (with grids) with circular mask applied. To see the full rectangle i have reduced the density for the mask to 50 percent, the border is just for reference.

(fig 1.0)

02.When you select the layer (by clicking on the empty space) it will select the layer thumbnail which is indicated by a square around the thumbnail. If we move the rectangle the circular mask also moves along with it, because of the link created between the two thumbnails in the layers palette.

You can also select the mask (by clicking on the mask thumbnail) thumbnail from the layers palette and move the circular mask; since it is linked, again both moves together.

(fig 1.1)

03. To move them separately, un-link the chain (click on the chain symbol between the thumbnails) and select the mask thumbnail and move. This will move only the mask and the rectangle stays in one place. Once you made the adjustment, re-link the chain back (clicking between the thumbnail space again).

(fig 2.0)

04. Here i have a same Rectangle grid with a shape layer applied as a mask.

(I have deleted the layer mask and added the vector mask, if you do not delete the layer mask, you will see two masks side by side.)

(fig 3.0)

05. If we unlink the chain and select the mask thumbnail (notice the layer thumbnail is still active) and moving the mask will again move both together.

When it comes to Vector mask, the link does not matter. But how do we move only the mask and not the rectangle?

(fig 3.1)

06. When you have a shape layer as a mask, you cannot move the mask with the 'Move tool,' you have to use the Path Selection tool. Even if the link is active or deactive, you can move the path individually.

(fig 4.0)

07. Make sure to re-link the mask with the layer once you are done, because the link does not matter if you have the Path selection tool; once you switch to move tool, the link matters.

(fig 4.1)

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