Clipping Masks in Photoshop

    ●  Clipping Masks can present some difficulty to Photoshop users, and not just beginners.

    ●  The problem is usually which image goes above the other to get the proper effect.

Learn About:

Shapes in Photoshop Clipping Masks Patterns Effects

  •   This tutorial is used in the Portrait Project.

Other People's Work:

Here are examples of work inspired by this tutorial.


Step #1: Open a Picture in Photoshop ~

Open a picture of yourself in Photoshop.

Sometimes the layer is locked, preventing you from working …

layer is locked

… if so, Double-click on the Background layer and click OK - that unlocks the layer so you can move it around.

lipping mask b

Step #2: Crop Tool ~

Get the Crop Tool or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (c) …

crop tool

… and crop your Photo (if necessary.) You only need your head and shoulders remaining in the image.

Step #3: Select the Shape Tool ~

Select the Custom Shape Tool behind the Rectangle Tool …

… and in the Menu Bar, make sure that the Shape button is selected, not the Paths button.

shape layers

Step #3: Pick Your Shape ~

Click on the Custom Shape Picker arrow and click on the brush append arrow to open the menu.

If you want, find the Flower 5   shape and double-click it - but you can choose any shape you want.

lipping mask f

Of course you can use any other shapes you wish …

Step #4: Drag the Shape ~

Drag the shape over your face.




Holding Shift keeps the shape in proportion and holding Spacebar while you are drawing repositions the outline.


Step #5: Layer Order ~

In the Layers palette, move the shape layer BELOW the photo layer.

Step #6: Clipping Mask ~

Right-Click on the top layer and select Create Clipping Mask

Save your file.

Step #7: New Layer below the Mask ~

Select the shape layer in the Layers palette.

Hold Cmd(⌘) cmd key while you click on the 
Create a New Layer
icon at the bottom of the layers palette.




This will add a new layer below the current layer, rather than above it. That's where we need this new layer to be.


Step #8: Fill Pattern ~

Go to: Edit > Fill or hit the keyboard shortcut: Shift (⇧)+F5 and in the dialog box, change to Use: Pattern.

Step #9: Pattern ~

Click the dropdown arrow next to the current pattern, then click on the brush append arrow arrow that opens the menu.

From the menu, select Nature Patterns or any others that interest you …

lipping mask m

… hit Append and fill the background with any pattern you want …

lipping mask n

… and fill the background with any pattern you want.

Step #10: Pattern Filters ~

With the pattern layer selected, go to: Filter > Filter Gallery

… and go to: Artistic > Underpainting or Artistic > Watercolor.

lipping mask p




Apply any other filters you want! Go Nuts!


Step #11: Effects ~

Select the shape layer again …

… click on the fx  at the bottom of the Layers palette and select Bevel & Emboss.

Step #12: Make Some Room ~

Hold    and click on the shape layer and the image layer.





This selects two layers at the same time!


Click the Move Tool or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (v) …

move tool

Click-and-drag to move the flower into the upper-left corner. Make a bit of it disappear off the top and left edges.

lipping mask r

Save the file.

Step #13: Text ~

Select the top layer in the stack. We want to add a text layer above it.

Select the Text Tool

text tool

Type your name or whatever on the canvas.

lipping mask s

Step #14: Rotate the Text ~

Hit the keyboard shortcut: Cmd(⌘)+T and adjust the text.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Press Enter to save the transformation.

Step #15: Blending Mode ~

Scroll through the Blending Modes and find one you like …













Try Multiply, Screen or Overlay or whatever you like best …



If you see other blending modes you like as you're scrolling down, don't be afraid to experiment.



Blending Modes are awesome! 

Hint: You can scroll through the different Blending Modes by hitting Alt (⌥)+Shift+Plus:

Step #16: Apply Blending Modes to the Text ~

Add Bevel and Emboss to the Text Layers too!.

bevel and emboss


Last Step: Save the file as a .jpg

Go to: File > Save for Web and save make the size approximately 500 pixels wide.

Save the file as a .jpg and attach.