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Clipping Mask

Use an image to create text

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.

Text as image
Figure 1.  Clipping mask example


Layers panel
Figure 2.  The Layers panel for Figure 1 above


Text repositioned
Figure 3.  In this example, the clipping mask and image were merged and repositioned over another copy of the image

To create Text from an image  Windows Media Player  Quick Time Player  Flash Player  (3:02)

  1. 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.
  2. Activate the Type tool Type tool.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Type the desired text.
  6. In the Layers panel, move the Type layer beneath the image.  At this time, you will not be able to see the text.
  7. 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 intersecting circles Clipping mask.
  8. 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.
  9. Use the Move tool Move tool to position the text where you want.


You can also use Add a layer style Add 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.

Merge clipped layers

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.

  1. Make one of the clipped layers the active layer in the Layers panel by clicking it.
  2. Hold down the shift key and click the other layer.  This will make both layers active.
  3. Press Ctrl + E (Command + E).  This will merge all active layers.
  4. Reposition the merged layer to the desired location.


Unclip layers

  1. 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 Clipping mask remove.
  2. Click while holding down the Alt key (Options key).  The two layers will become unclipped.