Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Photoshop

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Making One Layer Fit Into Another


There’s another masking feature that comes in really handy. It’s called a clipping mask, and it’s another type of mask that we use with layers. Its main purpose is letting you use a shape on one layer to mask layers above it. Clipping masks have a ton of good uses, but one great example is creating some type of card—be it a credit card, membership card, or gift card.

Step 1: Create a New Blank Document

We’ll kick this one off by creating a brand new blank document. Click on the File menu and choose New (or just press Command-N [PC: Ctrl-N]). In the New dialog, type the size of the final image you want to create. In this example, I’ll create a document that is 800x600 pixels at a resolution of 72 ppi. Click OK to create the new document.

Step 2: Create a Rounded Rectangle Selection Filled with Black on a New Layer

Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M). Create a rectangle in the middle of the canvas. Then click the Select menu and choose Modify>Smooth. Enter 15 pixels for the Sample Radius and click OK. This creates a rounded rectangular selection. Now click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a new blank layer. Press D to set your Foreground color to black, and press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill the selection with black. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect.

Step 3: Copy-and-Paste the Photo You want to Appear on the Card onto a New Layer

Open the photo that you want to appear on the card. In this example, we’re creating a membership card for an airline, so we’ll use a photo of an airplane. Press Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to select the photo. Press Command-C (PC: Ctrl-C), then switch documents, and press Command-V (PC: Ctrl-V) to copy-and-paste the photo into the card image we just created. Make sure it’s on a layer above the card layer in the Layers panel.

Step 4: Create a Clipping Mask to Force the Airplane to fit Inside the Card

Click once on the airplane layer to select it. Click the Layer menu and choose Create Clipping Mask, or just press Command-Option-G (PC: Ctrl-Alt-G). This forces the photo of the airplane to only appear inside the boundaries of the layer below it. Even better, select the Move tool (V) and move the airplane photo around. You’ll see that you can move it around anywhere you want and it still only reveals itself inside that original card shape. In fact, you can resize it, as well. Just choose Edit>Free Transform, or press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T), and resize at will.

Step 5: Add a Rectangular Selection Filled with Gray on a New Layer. Reduce the Opacity

Create another new layer and use the Rectangular Marquee tool to make another rectangular selection. Don’t worry about how wide the rectangle is at this point. Set your Foreground color to a light gray color (I used R: 205, G: 205, B: 205 here), and use the Paint Bucket tool (nested below the Gradient tool) to fill the selection by clicking on it. Choose Select>Deselect. Drop the opacity of the gray rectangle layer to 70%. You’ll see the rectangle appears outside the boundaries of the card, though. Just click the Layer menu and choose Create Clipping Mask again, and the same thing that happened to the airplane photo will happen to the rectangle.

Step 6: So what is Really Going on Here?

The natural question to follow all this cool stuff is what the heck is really going on here? Think of it this way: the bottom layer (or base layer) of a clipping mask is the shape you want to see in the final image. In this case, it’s taken the form of a membership card, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. It could be any shape—circle, square, logo, clip art, text, etc. That base layer tells Photoshop what shape or object you want to see in the end. Everything else that appears on top of that layer is what you’ll actually see in the image.

Step 7: Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Clip it so it Affects Only the Card Shape

Let’s change the color of the airplane photo a little. Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Turn on the Colorize checkbox, and drag the Hue slider to 207, Saturation to 55, and Lightness to –9. Click OK. See how the Hue/Saturation adjustment not only affects the airplane, but the entire white background? Go ahead and create a clipping mask of this layer, too. This allows you to use an adjustment layer to only affect the layer below it. One more thing: drag the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer below the gray rectangle layer to only apply the adjustment to the airplane photo.

Step 8: Add Some more Rectangle Shapes on their Own Layers and Clip Them

Add a few more blank layers and create some rectangular shapes on them. Then create clipping masks of all of them so they fit into the card. Here, I’ve added a black shape and positioned it at the bottom of the card. I’ve also added some red, white, and blue rectangles and put them over the light gray rectangle.

Step 9: Add Logos, Text, and Graphics to Finish off the Card

Add any logos, text, and graphics to the card. I had each of these in a separate file and just copied them into this document. Make sure you place them on layers above all of the other graphics. In fact, it’s even better to place them in a group on top of everything else. There’s no need to create clipping masks, though, because they don’t extend beyond the boundaries of that original card shape.

Step 10: Duplicate the Black Card Layer to Create a Drop Shadow

If you want to really put the finishing touch on our membership card, then create a drop shadow below everything. Click on the black rounded rectangle layer that has served as the base layer here. Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to duplicate it.

Step 11: Add a Drop Shadow by Blurring The Layer and Reducing the Opacity

Click the bottom copy of the black rectangle layer in the Layers panel to select it. Then, click the Filter menu and choose Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to 5 pixels and click OK. Finally, use the Move tool (V) to move the layer down and to the right a little and drop the layer’s opacity to around 50%. Notice as you move this layer around, it doesn’t affect the clipping masks above. That’s because Photoshop is just looking at the one layer beneath all of the clipping mask layers and we haven’t moved that one.

Idea 1: Here’s Another use for Clipping Masks: Putting a Photo into Text

Another really popular technique that clipping masks are used for is to make a photo appear inside of text. Just create a Type layer (more on that in Chapter 5) and move a photo onto a layer above it using the Move tool. Then click on the photo layer and create a clipping mask with it. Now you’ll only see the photo inside of the shape of the text.

Idea 2: Clipping Masks also Come in Handy for Wedding Album Page Design

Clipping masks can also be used to place a photo into a shape. This works great when creating album page designs for weddings, family photos, or even senior portraits. You can use any of the selection or Shape tools (more about Shape tools in Chapter 5) to create a shape on a layer. Then put a photo on the layer above it. Add a clipping mask to that photo layer, and now it only appears inside of the shape. There are lots of possibilities here, but this wedding album page design is one.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account