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Making One Layer Fit Into Another

FORCING THE CONTENTS OF ONE LAYER TO FIT INSIDE THE CONTENTS OF ANOTHER LAYER

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 a greeting card. Plus, I’ll show you a very slick little shortcut for aligning multiple layers more precisely.

Step 1. CREATE A NEW BLANK DOCUMENT

We’ll kick off our greeting card 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, let’s create a document that is 8 inches by 10 inches 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) and 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 family greeting card, so we’ll use a photo of a little girl. 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 rectangle layer in the Layers panel.

Step 4. CREATE A CLIPPING MASK TO FORCE THE GIRL TO FIT INSIDE THE ROUNDED RECTANGLE

Click once on the girl 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 girl to only appear inside the boundaries of the layer below it. Even better, select the Move tool (V) and move the photo around. You’ll see that you can move it around anywhere you want and it still only reveals itself inside that original rounded rectangle shape. In fact, you can resize it, as well. Just choose Edit>Free Transform, or press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T), and resize or rotate it at will. You have total control, and you never have to worry about the photo extending beyond the boundaries of the layer below.

Step 5. OKAY, SO WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON HERE?

Pretty cool, right? So, 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 rounded rectangle, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. It could be any shape—circle, square, logo, 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. It’s “clipped,” though, and the shape below is what’s clipping it (hence the name “clipping mask”).

Step 6. DUPLICATE THE RECTANGLE AND REPOSITION IT USING SMART GUIDES

Let’s finish this up. Click once on the rounded rectangle layer and press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to duplicate it. Your photo will now be clipped to the duplicate, so click on the original rounded rectangle layer and use the Move tool to move it next to the other one. You’ll find that moving layers around and aligning them with each other can be difficult. Smart Guides can help. Go to the View menu and choose Show>Smart Guides. Then make sure you have View>Snap turned on. As you drag the new rectangle layer around, you’ll see guides pop up as you align the top of the layer with the top of another layer in the Layers panel.

Step 7. ADD ANOTHER PHOTO TO THE IMAGE

Go ahead and copy-and-paste another photo for this greeting card into the image. Move it above the new black rounded rectangle layer and go to Layer>Create Clipping Mask again. Repeat Step 6 and this step one more time for the last photo in the bottom left. You’ll see those Smart Guides really help when positioning this one.

Step 8. MAKE ONE MORE COPY OF THE ROUNDED RECTANGLE AND FILL IT WITH ANOTHER COLOR

Make one more copy of the black rounded rectangle layer. Use the Move tool to move it into position in the bottom right. Since black doesn’t really work for this photo, let’s try another color. First, click on your Foreground color swatch and set the color to R: 211, G: 138, B: 152. Then grab the Paint Bucket tool (it’s nested under the Gradient tool in the Toolbox). As long as the layer you want to paint on with the Paint Bucket tool is active, all you have to do is click on the object you want to fill and Photoshop will automatically fill it with the Foreground color. It won’t fill anything else on the layer, though—just the rounded rectangle shape.

Step 9. ADD ANY LOGOS, TEXT, OR GRAPHICS TO FINISH OFF THE GREETING CARD

Add some text and graphics and you’re done. In this example, I copied-and-pasted a few of the scribbles that we saw back in the beginning of Chapter 2, and changed their blend mode to Screen to drop out the black background. I added her name and the year (in the Cooper Std font), as well, to finish things off.

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 MARKETING DESIGN

Clipping masks can also be used to place a photo into any shape you can create. And you don’t have to have only one shape on a layer. Here, I painted with black, using some grungy splatter brushes, on a blank layer to make my clipping mask. Then, I brought in a photo of a person’s tattoo and clipped it to that mask. Add a layer with the company’s logo, and you’ve got a cool marketing design that can be updated just by placing another photo in it.

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©FOTOLIA/ADAM RADOSAVLJEVIC

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