A clipping mask is using one layer to mask the contents of the
pixel containing layer above it. Photoshop calls the layer acting as a
clipping mask the base layer. The content in the base layer controls what is
visible in the layer above it. Transparent areas in the base layer will
hide pixels in the layer above. In other words, where you don't see anything
in the base layer, you will not see anything from the layer above it. Non-transparent areas
in the base layer will show pixels in
the layer above.
Clipping masks are often used to create text from an image. The steps
below show how this is done.
Figure 1. Clipping mask example
Figure 2. The Layers panel for Figure 1 above
Figure 3. In this example, the clipping mask and image were
merged and repositioned over another copy of the image
- Open an image file. If the image you wish to use to create the
text is the locked Background layer, double click the Background name in the
Layers panel and rename the layer to unlock it.
- Activate the Type tool
- Change the font to the desired font family and size. The font
color does not matter because the image will be used to replace the text.
- Click in the document window. A Type layer will be created in the
Layers panel. Where you type in the document window does not matter.
We will reposition the text later.
- Type the desired text.
- In the Layers panel, move the Type layer beneath the image. At
this time, you
will not be able to see the text.
- Press the Alt key (Option key) and place the mouse cursor between the
Type layer and the image layer in the Layers panel. The cursor will turn into two
- Click while holding down
the Alt key (Option key). The image layer is now clipped
to the Type layer and you will be able to see the image through the text.
- Use the Move tool
to position the text where
You can also use Add a layer style
in the Layers Panel to add
any desired effects to the Type layer. A popular layer style to use when
creating text from an image is an outside stroke.
If the position of the text and image combination is not where you want it,
you can merge the clipped layers and reposition the resulting single layer. To merge the clipped
layers, follow the steps below. The result of merging clipped layers can be
seen in Figure 3.
- Make one of the clipped layers the active layer in the Layers panel by
- Hold down the shift key and click the other layer. This will make
both layers active.
- Press Ctrl + E (Command + E). This will merge all active layers.
- Reposition the merged layer to the desired location.
- To unclip two layers, hold the Alt key (Options key) and place the mouse
cursor between the two layers clipped together. The cursor will turn
into two overlapping circles .
- Click while holding down the Alt key (Options key). The two layers
will become unclipped.