Gradient Mask

Both of the pictures below are not bad on their own, but they would have more effect if they were combined so we're going to learn how to use a gradient mask to do that. :)

image 1 image two

Click on thumbnail to see larger image
Click thumbnail above to see larger image.

We'll be working with the Fill Tool, Masks and Layers. This tutorial is at the intermediate level and was written for PSP 7, but you should be able to work through it in other versions as long as you know your way around.

You'll need two images that would compliment each other if they were merged together and are approximately the same size.

You can download a zip file containing the images I'm using in this tutorial. Extract the psp files into a folder and remember where you put them.


First we'll need to create our mask.

Create a new image with a transparent background. Size isn't really important for this one. I made mine 200x200 but you can make it 300 or 400 square if you like.


Activate the Fill tool fill tool.

Set your foreground color to White and your background color to Black.

foreground white, background black, textures null

Set the Stroke Style to Gradient. (Fill style doesn't matter - you can leave it set at black or you can set it to Null). Texture swatches set to Null.

Set Style to gradient

Click directly on the Gradient swatch to bring up the dialog box.

click the swatch
  • Click on the little arrow to the right of the Gradient to bring up the presets.
  • Choose Foreground to Background (should be the first one on the left in the top row of your presets unless you've changed something in there).

Check your Gradient settings:

  • Style - Linear (top)
  • Angle - 90
  • Repeats - 0
  • OK
check your gradient settings
5. PSP 7

Now that we have our gradient ready we'll need to create and edit a mask.

Open your Layer Palette if its not already open. (Press the L key on your keyboard) Click the Create Empty Mask icon. Create empty mask

Notice that a mask icon appears to the right of the layer name.

Notice the mask icon to the right of the layer name
5. PSP 8 & 9

Now that we have our gradient ready we'll need to create and edit a mask.

Open your Layer Palette if its not already open. (Press F8 on your keyboard) Click the Create Empty Mask icon. Create empty mask

Notice that a Group is formed with the Mask layer above the original Raster 1 layer.


PSP 7: Important! In order to create our mask we must use the edit mask feature. Just filling with our gradient will not work if we don't do that. Go Masks > Edit and then flood fill your image with the selected gradient.

PSP 8 & 9: You can skip the Masks > Edit part. Just flood fill your image with the selected gradient.

Edit your mask

It will appear that nothing happened. That's ok...
PSP 7: To see your mask go Masks > View Mask.
PSP 8 & 9: To see your mask click on the Mask Overlay Toggle on the right side of your layer palette.

The area on the left (you can see the checkerboard clearly through it is the part that the image that will show through. The area on the right that is dark red is the area of the image that will be masked/hidden. Areas in between will show up in varying increments.

Note: If the entire image is solid red at this point, you missed step 6. Undo back to before you flood filled and start with step 6 again to make sure that you're editing the mask.

Now you can see your mask

Now we need to save our mask to disk.
PSP 7: go Masks > Save to Disk

It should open up to the masks folder in PSP. If it doesn't, you'll need to find the folder. It's normally at
C:\Program Files\Jasc Software Inc\Paint Shop Pro 7\Masks

PSP 8 & 9: go Layers > Load/Save Mask > Save Mask To Disk

I have a sub-folder in my masks folder to hold my own masks.

Give your mask a name (I called mine "fade") and click the "Save" button. PSP will automatically give your mask the .msk extension so there is no need to add that.

You may now close the image you used to make the mask without saving it. We won't need it anymore.

save the mask to disk

name your mask and save it

Ok, our mask has been created and saved to disk. That was the hard part. :)

Now we'll open the images we want to merge/blend together. When you have them both open go Shift+D to make a copy of each one and then close the originals.

The images should be approximately the same size so if you need to make one of them smaller to match the other do that now. If you're using the images from the zip file I provided, I've already done that so they're ready to go. :)


Activate the image you want to be on the top. - If one image is slightly larger than the other put that one on top. I used grad2.psp (the one with the most red) for my top layer. From the Layer Palette, drag the background to the other image. This will place that image as a layer on top of the other image.

drag from the layer palette

grad1.psp now has two layers

Ensure that Layer1 is the active layer and
PSP 7: go Masks > Load From Disk
PSP 8 & 9: go Layers > Load/Save Mask > Load Mask From Disk

load mask from disk

The mask is now applied to your image.

mask applied

To see if you like the gradient applied in the other direction,
PSP 7: Go Masks > Invert
PSP 8 & 9: On the Layer palette, select the name of the mask layer.
Go Layers > Invert Mask/Adjustment.

Use the Undo button or go Ctrl+Z to undo if you decide you prefer it as originally applied.

mask applied

Inverted mask on my image. I decided I liked this angle better so I stayed with it.

mask inverted
12. Important!

PSP 7: Now we need to delete the mask. Go Masks > Delete. Answer Yes when you're asked "Would you like this mask merged into the current layer?".

PSP 8 & 9: Right click on the Group in the Layer palette and choose Merge > Merge Group


Add some text on a new layer and apply whatever filters you like to that text.

That's it! Not too hard eh? If there is the slightest chance that you may want to make changes to this image in the future, save a copy (with layers intact) in psp format now. Then you can merge the layers (doesn't matter if you Merge Visible or Merge All), optimize/resize for the web if necessary, add a frame and save to send to the group or post to your website.

If you enjoyed this tutorial I'd love to hear from you. If you need help with anything here or if the steps aren't clear, please let me know and I'll try to explain it better.

Make a mask | Masking edges | Lettering with a Mask

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