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I want to just edit it as a black-and-white image, like any normal layer.

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Click the Layer Mask on the Layers Panel, then turn off the visibility of the other channels in the Channels Panel by clicking the eye icon next to the [RGB] (or [CMYK]) channel.

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You can then highlight the mask channel and edit it like a greyscale image layer.

(This is really what Option/Alt-clicking the mask thumbnail does)

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I found the answer; Alt-clicking the layer mask opens it for editing. (This is seriously awful UI design.)

  • Answer is correct. Opinion is opinion & others may not agree. FYI, shift-click toggles its visibility too. If you can figure out a simpler method to accessing 3 levels of functionality with a single click, I'm sure Adobe would be happy to hear it. – Tetsujin Sep 9 '18 at 9:54
  • You can edit the layer mask by simply selecting the layer mask thumbnail, and then you can paint on it directly - although by default the layer mask is not visible - it's still fully editable without toggling visibility. – Billy Kerr Sep 9 '18 at 11:02
  • @Tetsujin There should be an ”Edit” option in the context menu of the mask. This is the place people look for options. Alt-clicking is arbitrary and cannot be used unless you know it beforehand. – HappyFace Sep 10 '18 at 9:16

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