Mask AI workflow: create an actual layer mask in Photoshop and Affinity Photo

As we learned from the webinar by Joel Wolfson and from various threads here, the steps to create an actual layer mask from Mask AI when used as a plugin (opposed to just create a “cutout” pixel layer with transparent and opaque pixels) are as follows:

A) In Photoshop:

  1. Duplicate the layer you want to use Mask AI on
  2. Attach an empty mask to the duplicated layer
  3. Launch Mask AI plugin, do your masking and hit “apply”
  4. The result will be an unaltered layer, just the layer mask attached to that layer will now contain the greyscale masking information (black for transparent parts, white for visible parts)

There is a downloadable Photoshop Action (ATN file) created by @AiDon to automate the task of creating the duplicate layer and attaching the layer mask to it.

B) In Affinity Photo you have to do this:

  1. Duplicate the layer you want to use Mask AI on. In AP you have to make two duplicates but you don’t need to attach an empty layer mask now, because the Photoshop way does not work in Affinity
  2. Launch Mask AI plugin, do your masking and hit “apply”
  3. The result will be a “cutout” pixel layer with transparency applied
  4. Now CTRL-click the thumbnail of the altered layer to get a selection of the visible pixels
  5. When yo see the “marching ants” selection indicator, create a layer mask for the second duplicate you produced in step 1 by clicking the tiny mask symbol below the layer list.
  6. Now you have a complete (unaltered) copy of your original layer with an attached greyscale layer mask, just like described for Photoshop above. Additionally you have the cutout layer that you can keep or just delete now to reduce file size

Either way you now have a real greyscale layer mask that can be further refined or altered using the tools of your favorite program.


Mask AI’s latest update of today (version 1.0.4, though change log states the latest version is 1.0.3) brings a

New Features

  • Windows support for Photoshop layers/layer mask creation

Could not test this but it seems that part A) of the posting above is now obsolete. Mask AI will produce a copy of the current layer along with a greyscale layer mask all by itself.
You have to enable this setting in the preferences:

Sadly this doesn’t work in Affinity Photo, so the steps described in part B) of the posting above are still needed to get the desired result.

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