Photoshop: Linked/Shared/Global Masks, Adjustment Layers and Layer Styles

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I want to be able to create masks that I can apply to multiple layers. Updating one would update every instance. Ideally, this mask would function like a Smart Object, and could contain multiple layers and filters.

Same thing goes for adjustment layers. This is especially interesting with the Adobe Generator: Currently I need to copy my Gradient Map into multiple layer groups, otherwise the Generator will ignore whatever's not inside the layer group to be generated. Updating every single copy is tedious and error prone.

Same thing goes for layer styles. I don't want to manually update every layer that shares the same layer style.

Various aspects of this request are mentioned multiple times in this community, but I consider them all basically the same thing, which is why I'm repeating them here.
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Christopher Deutsch

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Posted 2 years ago

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christoph pfaffenbichler, Champion

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(Edited)
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Christopher Deutsch

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Thanks for putting this together, Christoph! 
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christoph pfaffenbichler, Champion

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You’re welcome, please add your "Me Too" and comments to those you feel meet your point/s. 
Maybe a Forum Administrator will merge this thread into one of the others but I am not sure which one would be the best fit. 
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herbert wegen

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For inspiration look at Photoline: layer masks behave like regular layers, are parented to a layer, and grouped layers can act as one layer mask as well. Any layer can be instanced/cloned, which allows for re-use anywhere in the layer stack - which includes layer masks, of course. Even better, adjustment layers and layer effects can be applied to layer masks in Photoline, and adjustment layers can also be instanced.

Super handy is also the possibility to have a layer opacity from -200% up to +200% - meaning an instanced adjustment layer can be inverted or strengthened as well. Quite smart indeed.

A change to the original source layer(s) or layer groups update in realtime, and the changes cascade throughout the layer stack. It is quite brilliant - far more elegant than Photoshop's current layer masks. Krita and Affinity Photo also make use of similar layer mask parenting.

The trouble in Photoshop is its legacy architecture: layer masks are part of a layer. The only workaround currently possible is to avoid layer masks, and use clipping layers instead. However, this is an awkward workflow, and may lead to obscure and difficult to understand layer stacks. It is not a real solution. Besides, adjustment layers cannot be re-used anyway.
(Edited)