Creating a clipping mask in Photoshop will let you use the content of a layer as a mask to reveal a portion of a layer or layers above it. The bottom layer, or base layer, determines the visibility of the upper layers, according to the non-transparent part of the base layer. Other areas are hidden, or masked out.
This is often used to contain an image within the boundary of type. Here is an example where a photo is placed “inside” some type, and the type itself is the clipping mask:
Notice that the base layer (the type “EGYPT”) is underlined in the Layers panel, indicating it is being used as a clipping mask. Also notice that the photo layer in indented, and there is a small corner arrow pointing downward, indicating that the photo layer is being clipped by the layer below.
To create a clipping mask in Photoshop
- Arrange the layers in the Layers panel so that the clipping mask layer is below the layers that you want to mask.
- Hold down Alt (windows) or Option (Mac) and hover your cursor on the dividing line between the layers. When the cursor changes to a square with the little corner arrow, click to create the clipping mask.
- Alternately, you can choose the layer to be clipped, and pick from the menu Layer > Create Clipping Mask.
In addition, you can add more than one layer within a clipping mask. Here in this example, I’ve added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, which allows me to change the color of the layers within the clipping group (in this case the photo) without changing anything else below.
Furthermore, if you’d like to see an example in action as part of a bigger project, I have a video tutorial I created that shows this technique. Just head over to TipSquirrel and take a look at this Rustic Aged Effect with Photoshop.