Adding texture to a mask is a unique way to “distress” a photo. Keep in mind that black paint on a mask hides the photo, gray paint makes the photo partially transparent, and white paint leaves the photo opaque. When a texture is applied to a mask, all color is automatically dropped, leaving behind various shades of white, gray, and black. In this instance, we’re beginning with a two-layer document. The top layer is the photo and the bottom layer is pure white. When we add a mask and apply a texture to it, bits and pieces of the underlying white layer will be revealed.
Step 1: Add a Mask to the Photo Layer
Activate the photo layer (Layer 1) and click the Add layer mask icon at the base of the Layers panel. Option-click (PC: Alt-click) the mask to make it active (you should see only white). In the next step, we’ll paste a texture directly into this mask.
Step 2: Paste a Texture Into the Mask
Open a texture. In this example, we’re working with a texture from the Flypaper Textures collection. These are some of the finest textures available anywhere. If you decide to make a purchase after viewing them, enter the code MARKSJ during checkout to receive 15% off your order.
Choose Select>All, then Edit>Copy to float the texture to the clipboard. Return to the original image and choose Edit>Paste to paste the texture directly into the activated mask.
Without deselecting, go straight to Edit>Transform>Scale. Use the transform handles to scale the texture until it looks good. Press Return (PC: Enter), then choose Select>Deselect. Option-click (PC: Alt-click) the mask to reveal the scene complete with a texture that is hiding parts of the photo. Pretty cool, huh!
Since the image and the texture appear washed out, ensure that the mask is still active and choose Image>Adjustments>Levels. Drag all three Input Levels sliders until the texture interacts nicely with the photo.