How Do I Create a Photoshop Clipping Mask?
By David Weedmark
If you want to put a photo inside some text, or make your artwork take on the form of any shape, Photoshop clipping masks are the way to go. Clipping masks are composed of two layers. A photo or artwork layer is placed above a mask layer. When you join the two layers in a clipping mask, only the parts of your photo that have corresponding pixels in the mask below it are visible. Any blank pixels in the mask -- the space around the letters of a word, for example -- are clipped from the photo.
Open any image in Photoshop, such as a photo or other artwork.
Select the "Text Tool" from the Toolbox and type the text you want to mask the photo with. This appears as a new layer in the Layers panel. You can also use any shape, like a rectangle, ellipse or something you created yourself, to use as a mask.
Resize the object in the mask layer so it's in the ideal position for the mask effect. If you're applying text to a photo, use a thick, bold font and make it as large as possible. This makes more of your photo visible inside the text when you apply the mask.
Rasterize the mask layer while it's still highlighted in the Layers panel by selecting "Rasterize" from the Layer menu and selecting "Layer." This converts the vector text or shape into pixels. Clipping masks aren't an option until the mask layer has been rasterized.
Drag the mask layer below the layer containing the photo or artwork in the Layers panel. If your photo is a Background layer, first create a copy by dragging the "Background" layer onto the "New Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Drag the "Background Layer" into the trash or hide it by clicking the "Eye" beside its thumbnail in the Layers panel. You can now drag the mask layer below the "Background Copy" layer.
Select your "Background Copy" layer in the Layers panel. Click the "Layer" menu and select "Create Clipping Mask." You can also create a clipping mask by putting the cursor between the Background Copy layer and mask layer in the Layers panel, holding down the "Alt" key and then left-clicking. The mask is applied to the photo, and an arrow between the two layers appears in the Layers panel, indicating that a clipping mask was applied.
Zoom in and out of the canvas as needed to ensure your clipping mask appears the way you want it. If you need to make adjustments, press "Ctrl-Z" to undo the clipping mask. You can also remove a clipping mask at any time by Alt-clicking the line between the two layers in the Layers panel, or by selecting "Release Clipping Mask" from the Layers menu.
Apply effects to the clipping mask, like a drop shadow or outer glow, just as you would any other layer. Note that these effects are applied to the mask layer, not the layer containing your photo.
- After you create a clipping mask, any layers you put between the artwork and mask layer become part of the clipping mask.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.