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Masking 3/3: Clipping mask

or; how to cut out stuff; part two.

This tutorial (in three parts) shows three different masking options in Photoshop - starting with the easiest. If you already are comfortable with one method, you can jump to the one you need:

  1. Layer mask
  2. Vector mask
  3. Clipping mask (this)

The file I will use in this tutorial can be found HERE - if you want to use it.

General tips:

Clipping mask

We've now tried layer and vector masks. Clipping masks work the other way around. It assumes you already have a layer with transparent areas (could have been done with a vector or layer mask), and then uses that layer itself as a mask for one or more layers. If you don't understand what I mean, just have a look.

This is how you do it:

  1. In this example I have a blank document with a text layer. It does not have to be text, it can be any type of layer. This text will be used as a clipping mask.
  2. Next I find a picture of a nice texture I want to apply to the text (I found this one on http://www.mayang.com/textures/ ). I then place or copy/paste it on top of my text layer.
  3. Now, with the top layer (the fur) selected go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask. This makes magic happen.
    The quicker way of doing it is to click between the layers while holding down the Alt key (the mouse pointer will change to show you when you're doing it right)
  4. The text is still editable, so i changed it to something else with the type tool. Any number of layers can use the same layer as a clipping mask (you can put as many layers you want "inside" it), so with the text layer selected I make a new layer.
  5. The new layer was created below the fur, so I move it up one layer.
  6. Now I take a solid red brush and paint on the layer.

Ok, you've now seen how a clipping mask works. It's very simple.
TIP: I find it VERY useful for applying adjustment layers (e.g. levels and curves) to individual layers.