Masking A-Z in Affinity Designer

Masking in Affinity Designer is a very handy technique for photo editing and the merging of layers. In this blog, we will provide a detailed guide on masking in Affinity Designer and the three main ways of applying masks. These consist of applying Layer masks, applying clipping masks, and applying built-in masks in adjustment layers. We will also look at the distinction between pixel masks and vector masks.

What are masks?

Masks are applied onto a layer to hide or reveal portions of the layer to achieve a desired effect. Masks are applied as separate layers, but these layers affect the layers below them. If a layer is a parent layer, it affects the child layers below it just like a parent-child relationship. Masks can be created in a way to affect only individual objects by using the clipping method.

Masks in Affinity Designer work non-destructively, meaning that they can be edited freely as a separate layer. You do not need to duplicate a layer if you want to apply a mask to it, because its pixels will not be modified.

Masking A-Z in Affinity Designer

How to create an empty mask layer?

To apply masks, users can create an empty mask layer as an initial step. To create an empty mask layer,

  • Go to the Layers Panel.
  • Choose Mask Layer.

How to delete a mask layer?

To delete a mask layer,

  • Go to the Layers Panel.
  • Click on Mask Layer.
  • Press the Delete/Backspace key to delete the mask layer.

How do masks work in Affinity Designer?

What is Layer masking in Affinity Designer?

Pixel masks are made of pixels. These pixels can be black, white, or even shades of grey.

The Black pixels hide completely throughout the masking process. White pixels show the layer completely. On the other hand, grey pixels display the layer partially. The shade of grey determines how much of the layer is hidden.

The following are the two types of layer masking in Affinity Designer,

  • Pixel masking
  • Vector masking

What is Pixel masking?

The main function of pixel masking in Affinity Designer is to reveal or hide portions of a layer. As a matter of fact, its function is related to the uses of the erase tools.

To edit a pixel mask,

  • Go to the Layers Panel.
  • Click on the icon of the Mask Layer.
  • Choose one of the following methods depending on what you want to do with the layer mask.
  • If you wish to delete parts of it, paint over the layer using the Erase Brush Tool.
  • If you wish to restore parts of it, paint over the layer in white or grey using the Paint Brush Tool.

What is Vector masking?

Vector masking is more popular than pixel masking in Affinity Designer. The primary function of vector masking is to erase a portion of an object using a line or a shape. The object will be cropped to the mask’s outline.

To add a vector mask,

  • Our mask will consist of a vector object. Draw a shape or a line and make sure that it is filled.
  • After drawing the vector object, go to the Layers Panel and drag the created object over the thumbnail of the layer you want to mask.

How to add a pixel mask to a vector layer in Affinity Designer?

To add a pixel mask to a vector layer follow the below steps:

  • Go to the Layers Panel.
  • Select the vector layer you want to add a pixel mask to.
  • Switch to the Pixel Persona from the Persona toolbar.
  • Perform one of the following tasks,
    • If you want to erase a portion, pick the Erase Brush Tool and paint over the layer to obtain the desired effect.
    • If you want to restore the mask applied, pick the Paint Brush tool and paint over the layer with the colour white or grey.

How do you Apply A clipping mask in Affinity Designer?

Clipping masks allow you to clip a layer onto another. The clipped object will be limited within the boundaries of the other layer. This is a great technique for vector editing as you can create any shape imaginable in a non-destructive manner.

The relationship between the clipped layers is just like a parent and a child. The parent layer acts as a mask which confines the child layer. The child layer fills the parent layer and the parts which are outside of this boundary will be hidden.

In Affinity Designer, both vector objects and pixel layers can be clipped used to clip. 

Masking A-Z in Affinity Designer: Clipping mask

To create a clipping mask,

  • Choose the two layers you want to clip.
  • There are two ways to perform the clipping task as follows,
    • Go to the Layers Panel, and drag the object you want to be clipped onto the thumbnail of the other layer.
    • Go to the Layers Menu, click Arrange, then choose Move Inside. These options will automatically clip the layers together.

There are two methods to unclip a clipping mask displayed as follows,

  1. Go to the Layers Panel, choose and drag the clipped object layer away from the parent layer.
  2. Choose the clipped object layer. Then, go to the Layers menu > Arrange > Move Outside.

How to apply Adjustment Layers selEctively?

In Affinity Designer, Adjustment Layers are equipped with a built-in mask. Adjustment Layers are applied non-destructively as they are created as separate layers. Adjustment Layers can be hidden or revealed selectively as they have the same properties as mask layers.  

When you an adjustment layer to a pixel layer, it becomes masked automatically. Adding an adjustment layer to a vector layer automatically makes this layer the child layer. 

Masking A-Z in Affinity Designer: Pairing adjustment layer and masking

To mask an adjustment layer,

  • Go to the Layers panel, and click the Adjustment layer option.
  • If you want to erase any portions from the mask, choose the Erase Brush tool and paint over the layer.
  • If you want to restore the mask, choose the Paint Brush Tool to paint over the layer for the desired outlook. 


In conclusion, it is very easy to apply various masks in Affinity Designer. In this blog, we explained what Pixel Masks and Vector masks are, as well as the ways to create and use them. We also discussed the methods to apply clipping masks and how to apply Adjustment Layers selectively. We hope you found this blog helpful.

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