How to Create a Vector Mask in Adobe Photoshop CS4

Written by nicole hamilton
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How to Create a Vector Mask in Adobe Photoshop CS4
Create vector masks in a variety of shapes. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

When you need a layered design with sharp, clean edges, Photoshop "Vector Masks" will help you accomplish that task. Vector masks function similarly to "Layer Masks" since they do not remove any image information and you can edit them at any time. However, they exist independent of the file's resolution, which results in lines that are more distinct. Apply a vector mask to any work path and Photoshop will reveal the layers under the mask through the shape. Photoshop vector masks have existed since early versions of the program and the process for creating them remains consistent through recent CS versions.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Open a layered file in Photoshop CS4.

  2. 2

    Click on the layer you want to edit with a vector mask.

  3. 3

    Choose the "Pen" tool, "Custom Shape" tool or another drawing tool. Click on the "Paths" icon to in the "Options" bar to create a work path using the tool, rather than a shape.

  4. 4

    Draw a shape with the tool.

  5. 5

    Choose "Window," "Masks" to open the "Masks" panel.

  6. 6

    Go to the "Masks" panel and click on the "Add a Vector Mask" icon. This button looks like the "Pen" tool's icon with a plus sign beside it. Alternatively, create a vector mask by choosing "Layer," "Vector Mask" and "Current Path."

Tips and warnings

  • Adjust the appearance of the vector mask in the "Masks" panel. Set the opacity of the mask with the "Density" slider and soften the mask's edges with the "Feather" setting.
  • Choose "Layer," "Vector Mask" and "Hide All" or "Reveal All" to hide or show the whole layer.

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