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What I'm trying to do is make the bounding box, where the transform handles are, perfectly sync with the masked picture. Here's an image of what I'm trying to avoid:

enter image description here

And here's the layer on the layers panel:

layers panel

I figured there's some way to "print" or render the mask onto the layer so that the handles are flush with the actual image. Maybe layer masks aren't the best way to crop if I know that I don't want those parts of the image.

How should I go about this?

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Option 1

Control-click or Right-click the layer mask.. and choose Apply Layer Mask

This "bakes in" the layer mask with the layer removing portions of the image layer which are hidden by the mask. In other words, it sort of "flattens" the layer with the mask, removing the mask. This is a destructive technique, meaning once you do it, you can no longer re-edit the layer mask or get the hidden layer pixels back (short of undo or history).

This leaves behind just the visible pixels on the layer.

Option 2

Control-click or Right-click the layer name in the Layers Panel and choose Covert to Smart Object. This will create an embedded "group" of the layer and its mask resulting in transform handles only encompassing visible pixels. This is a non-destructive technique. It doesn't remove or "bake in" anything. It merely alters how the layer data is accessible and handled. To edit the mask in the future, you would double-click the Smart Object layer.

To read more on Smart Objects, see here: https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/create-smart-objects.html

  • Thank you, but what if Apply Layer Mask is grayed out. What is that signifying? – qarthandso Apr 20 '17 at 15:55
  • Also, when I tried Apply Layer Mask, the transform controls didn't change place. Any idea why that is? – qarthandso Apr 20 '17 at 16:11

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