Have you ever heard the term non-destructive? Yes! Then take the same idea to the digital artwork. Masking is nothing but editing an image without hampering the original one. Confused? Well, don’t worry! We are here to help.

GIMP Maks allows editing an image without altering the original file. Just as wearing a mask gives us a new avatar, GIMP Mask does the same.

Masking in digital image editing is crucial, and it allows designers and artists to apply whatever filter they like to the image keeping the original one intact.

If you are new to masking and want to know in-depth about it, this article is for you. Furthermore, if you have previously used image editing software, e.g., Photoshop, and have an idea about masking, this article will guide you to do the same in GIMP. So without further ado, let’s roll!

Read: GIMP vs Photoshop

What is Masking?

Masking is a technique to protect the original image. The Mask of a pixel layer is placed right above the image, and modifying the Mask reveals the underlying pixels, i.e., the original image. Upon applying a layer mask to a pixel layer, you must paint the image white or black.

This white/black painting is essential to show/hide the underneath layer. Using white paint, you can reveal parts of the image. In the same way, the black brush is used to hide a specific portion of the picture. The overall transparency depends on the alpha channel, which you must apply on the layer. 

Masking lets you choose the area you want to use for creating artwork. Don’t worry! The Mask is not visible in the final output, and you can do whatever suits you the best.

Is Masking Important?

You might have to do repetitive back and forth whenever you’re creative and digital artwork. And if you edit the original image, it will be challenging to return to it after prolonged editing. 

Therefore, if you apply a mask to the original image (pixel layer) and apply adjustment layers above it, the original image stays unaltered. 

An overlay works on top of the image to give you a fine-edited image. Thus, the main motive of using Mask in digital editing is served, and editing is non-destructive to the original image.

GIMP Mask is also helpful for creating complex images that require intensive editing and are constructed with numerous layers.

How to Mask in GIMP?

Here’s how you can mask in GIMP. Go through all the steps carefully to achieve successful masking.

Step 1: Open Your Image.

As mentioned in earlier tutorials, go to File > Open As Layers to open an image.

Step 2: Adding a Layer Mask

Next, you need to add a layer mask to the image you just imported. You can do it in two ways. 

First, look at the extreme bottom-right corner of GIMP, and hover over the icons. The second last icon is your Layer Mask.

Second, locate the pixel layer in the Layers Section, i.e., the image you have imported will be visible as a layer in the layers panel. Right-click on the layer and select Add Layer Mask.

Step 3: Choose the Transparency Option

When you click the Add Layer Mask option, you’ll see an “Initialize Layer Mask to:” option.

The most popular are White (full opacity) and Black (full transparency). The White (full opacity) option adds a layer mask to your image, with the image being fully displayed on the workspace. 

Alternatively, selecting the Black (full transparency) option will make the canvas fully transparent.

There is another option that you can select, i.e., Selection. But that is for some other tutorial.

Step 4: Painting the Layer Mask

Once you have applied the Mask, it’s time to paint on it to prepare the image for further editing. In this example, we will make the image transparent and add another colour layer behind it. 

After adding a layer mask and selecting a brush, the foreground and background color will change to Black and white. Remember, White revels, and Black conceals. 

Note: Notice a white border when the layer mask is selected. It is of utmost importance to choose the layer mask when painting with a brush; otherwise, it will affect the original image.

Instance 1: White (full opacity)

Using a brush, paint across the image you want to hide, setting the foreground color to Black. You’ll notice transparency, along with the brush, is applied wherever you paint.

Instance 2: Black (full transparency)

Selecting the Black layer mask, It will make the canvas invisible. Select a brush, set the foreground color to white, and paint the portion of the image that you want to reveal.

We suggest you use a White layer mask, as the object in the image always remains visible. Paint carefully, and you’re done.

Step 5: Add a Colored Background

Now that you have selected the main object in the image (or the portion you want to keep for editing, in this example, the balloon), it is time to add another layer beneath the original layer.

Next, select the Bucket fill tool and choose a foreground color. (we are going with Red). Click on the empty potion selecting the new layer. And enjoy!

Also Read: How to Download and Install Fonts to GIMP and 10 Cool Free Fonts for GIMP


GIMP Mask is somewhat similar to Photoshop Mask with few differences. However, when you follow the instructions mentioned above, it will be seamless. You can easily erase unwanted potions from an image by painting with different brushes. If you want more brushes to simplify your work, check out our article on the best gimp brushes. Got any questions? Let us know below! Sayonara!

Stories are my passion, and I bring them to life through my writing. As a content writer with expertise in tech, online gaming, and marketing niches, I bring a unique voice to the intricacies of these subjects. When I'm not writing, you can find me rooting for Arsenal Football Club, tapping my foot to the beat of Linkin Park and other rock and Hindi songs, or getting lost in the storytelling genius of Christopher Nolan movies. My love for the art of storytelling extends beyond the written word, as I enjoy bringing my own visions to life through short filmmaking


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