Photoshop: How can I use a smart object as a mask?

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  • Updated 2 years ago
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I would like my layer mask to be a smart object. That way, I can use the same mask on multiple layers. When I edit one, they all update.
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Olin Georgescu

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Posted 3 years ago

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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Can you use a clipping mask?
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Olin Georgescu

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In some cases, but it is not as robust and flexible as what i am proposing, and it doesn't work in every case. It's also more difficult to set up.
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Divya Manian, Employee

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Olin Georgescu

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I don't see how linked smart objects allow me to use the smart object directly as a mask. I'd still have to set it up as a clipping mask.
I have multiple layers that I want to use the exact same mask, and be able to edit the mask and have the others update. The layers in question are not stacked directly above each other. In fact some are in entirely different groups. If I could use a "smart mask" it would be trivial.
Currently, it requires changing the way my layers are organized, which does not fit with my workflow.
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Sef

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As far as I know a mask cannot be a smart object. That would be cool though. Jeff's idea about using a clipping mask - ie clipping the layer to a layer that contains pixels in the shape of the mask you want (if I'm reading that right) - is the best workaround that I could imagine. That way, you're clipped to a smart object, and it essentially acts as the mask. You could duplicate that.
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Olin Georgescu

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Ideally, I could use a smart object as a group mask.
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Jaroslav Bereza

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Solution by Christoph works like group mask too. See the color circles: http://sklad.bereza.cz/00-jarda/00_sc...
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christoph pfaffenbichler, Champion

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A Smart Object with Blend If settings in a Group set to Knock Out in a Normal Group (okay, this is getting longish) might be an option.
Or one could do the Blend If inside the Smart Object and save the additional Group ...
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IAH1

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Hi Jaroslav, I found your diskussion and tried to reproduce this work around for "smart layer masks", but I could only partly succeed.
Is your solution really working with greyscale images as a source? When I tried to solve it, it worked a bit with the transparency of the layer (= a white pixel makes everything below invisible).
Also I am not sure about the mode of the "smart object"-layer (because there are only screenshots of the superior folder and it's not in English;). Would be great if you could reply... Many thanks, Alexx
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Jaroslav Bereza

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Hi there is sample file: http://sklad.bereza.cz/00-jarda/cokoliv/SO-mask-example.zip

I suggest you save blending like style preset in presets style panel, so you can apply it with single click. 
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IAH1

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Hi Jaroslav,
many thanks! I am not used to style presets but once I will have a look at them, too.
I did a small adjustment at your file, it doesn't change the result and adds still another folder (which can cause problems with folder nesting limits), but makes it a bit easier for me. And instead of putting black from 0 to 1 in the layer mode I have put a levels adjustment layer above, which is doing exactly the same.
Here my file: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xfq5ml4u7ticgib/SO-mask-example%20new.psd.zip?dl=0
It's not the same comfort like a simple "smart layer mask", but it works as a work around so far. Although I do not really understand why it works ;) These layer mode adjustments are quite abstract and I never saw a good documentation about them...
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Jaroslav Bereza

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@IAH1 If you have current version of PS you can apply "level" as smart-object-filter and it will become part of SO and this filter you can duplicate to others SO...
This could make your layers panel a bit cleaner. Anyway there is bug. Layer bounds are bigger than content after saving and opening file which is pain for me because I am selecting layers on canvas. It will be fixed in future. 

Select SO layer and choose Image > Adjustments > Levels