Deke’s Techniques 236: Shading an Image with Shapes and Layer Masks in Photoshop

Filed Under

236 Shading an image with shapes and layer masks

So, I ask you, is it a coincidence that Deke is wearing a Kermit-the-Frog colored jacket in this episode of Deke’s Techniques? Is it a coincidence that, upon seeing Monsters University he proclaimed his affection for the plucky, one-eyed, lime-like Mike Wazowski? The clues were there: Deke loves the green man.

This week, he continues to craft his alien mascot begun two weeks ago by using a combination of shape layers and layer effects, this time with the added assistance of layer masks. The technique here is ingenious, especially if you enjoy the editorial process. Basically, he builds the creature’s features with shape layers, paints them with layer effects, and then removes the unwanted parts (a la Michelangelo) with layer masks to reveal the final desired effect.

Along the way, you’ll see how to use the new Isolate Layers command so that you can hone in on the area of your complex image that you want to work on. So if you’re concentrating on the the monster’s mouth, this is all you need to see:

The mouth layers isolated in Photoshop

One of the things I noticed here, is that even though the shape layers Deke uses are expressively irregular, they are often just combinations of primitive shapes (ellipses, mostly, plus some very roughly drawn pen tool outlines). It’s the ingenious use of the Path Operations option that turns them into the monstery goodness that they become. (Well, that and some carefully crafted layer effects.)

Oh, and by the time you’re done watching this video, you will fully understand and appreciate the "Layer Mask Hides Effects" checkbox in the Layer Styles dialog box.

For members of, Deke’s got an exclusive video this week in which you’ll see how he crafted these true-to-life jorts (jeans + shorts) and extra-large underpants for his creature.

Jean shorts and underpants created in Photoshop

How can you not want to try out after seeing that? Go to to get a free week’s trial and make it so.

Next entry:Creating Faux Fireworks against a Synthetic Sky in Photoshop

Previous entry:Friday Fundamentals: Cropping a Photo in Photoshop


Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.