Using Channels to Create Masks!

One of the most powerful uses of Adobe Photoshop is the ability to composite multiple images into one. This is something that you aren’t able to do in Lightroom and it allows photographers to have complete control over their images to a creative or practical end.

The process of compositing images can be done in a number of ways. One of these is to utilize channels to build a mask of the areas you want to hide, and those areas you want to reveal on an image. This is the method we’ll look at today.

Masks are a black and white representation of the areas that will be visible and invisible in an image. The saying commonly goes “White is on, black is off,” or “Black conceals, white reveals.” Both sayings mean the same thing. On a given layer, the areas of the mask that are white will be visible, and the areas that are black will be hidden. Masking allows us to have complete control over a composite.

As I said before, there are many ways to composite images. While we can use Channels to get a good starting place, we can also use tools like the Select and Mask Utility to further refine the masks we use in our composites.

In the tutorial below, I show you how to use Channels to create a mask of the moon and move it into another image. Check it out!


  • Jeff McLain

    Jeff McLain is a photographer, videographer, digital technician, and location sound mixer. After his photography education, Jeff got his start as a freelance photo assistant in San Francisco working on editorial, catalog and advertising shoots. His skills in Photoshop and computing allowed him to help photographers bridge the gap between the film days and all-digital workflows, and he stood at the forefront of the advent of the career of the "Digital Technician." Jeff then moved laterally to video capture. Locally, he is the Director of Arrowroot Productions, LLC, a commercial videography business. His background as a multi-instrumental musician has also benefited his understanding of sound design and audio capture, which can be a technically challenging aspect of film-making. He is regularly called by filmmakers and television networks to record sound-for-video. He has been a freelancer for over 20 years and takes a 'real-world' approach to his perspective of the photographic and video industry and the skills needed in today's market.