How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop

How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop | angiemakes.comImage Sources: Design Love Fest, Mairi Hughes, Angie Makes, and Angie Makes.

One of my absolute favorite tools to use in Photoshop is the clipping mask. It is such a versatile tool and can be used to create some stunning results. I’ll walk you through a use for clipping makes in the images below, and be sure to watch the video at the bottom that also covers some creative ways for bloggers and designers to use the clipping mask tool! Ahem. Like creating this super cool post layout (Available with the Mary Kate blog kit here!)

But first, let’s get on with how to apply a clipping mask to some hand brushed text.

I’ve started by creating a new document and placing some sweet hand brushed text. (See this tutorial for a set by step on scanning in and cleaning up your brush lettering.) So let’s go! Here’s exactly how to use a clipping mask in Photoshop.

How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop |

Then, I picked out a really cool watercolor background that I wanted to be clipped inside of my text. I chose File / Place to place it on a layer above my brushed text.

How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop |

There it is below, covering my “Be thankful” text.

How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop |

Now is where the magic happens. Take a look below to see what I do to clip the text. I am just holding down the alt key then hovering over the space between the two layers. You should see a Venn diagram looking set of overlapping circles. Then simply click to create the clipping mask. To release the clipping mask, continue holding down alt and click again.

How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop |

Viola! Your text looks great and your clipping mask was a success. You can select the clipped layer, in this case my purple / black flower pattern and move it around until you like the way it looks.

How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop |

The Finished Product:


How to Make a Clipping Mask in Photoshop |

Now, let’s talk about how to use the clipping mask to create some sweet images for your blog posts… like this one!

If you’re making an image for web, size it appropriately. I’ve sized mine to fit my blog content posting area. I’ve made it tall so it will look good on Pinterest. The dimensions I chose are 900px by 1200px.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 7.07.50 PM

Next, make a shape on your document. I used a pentagon by using the polygon shape tool. You can use whatever shape (or object!) that you like.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 7.08.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 7.08.37 PM

Now, go to file / place to place the image that you would like to crop inside your shape.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 7.08.58 PM

Now place your image directly over your shape that it will be clipped (aka cropped) into.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 7.16.03 PM

Now is where the clipping mask action happens. Here it is. Again, we’re hovering in  between our shape and image layer then hold down the alt key until we see the venn diagaram (double overlapping circle) shape. Click to mask and Click again to unmask.
Drag your image layer until it looks right.


Feel free to add more layers, shapes, and images until you have a lovely collage. Don’t worry, there are many collage templates for photoshop available. Here is just one that comes with our Mary Kate Blog Kit. 

I cover both of these clipping mask techniques in this short video tutorial below. Hope you enjoy working with clipping masks. Share your creations in the comments below!


66 thoughts on “How to Use a Clipping Mask in Photoshop

  1. Angie, I just have to say that I love you! I love that you live in Texas, I love that you speak Spanish (I am assuming because of your comment above). Hablo espanol tambien! But most of all, I love this tutorial! Thank you for such a great site and blog! I could spend hours looking at all your cute designs. Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge. Okay, I am done. Haha, hope that wasn’t too much love for you. :)

  2. I LOVE this! I’m getting things all squared away for 2015 and going through your blog posts! This, along with your brush lettering tutorial rocks! Cannot wait to apply then to a few of my upcoming projects! :)

    1. Lindsay,

      Ah! Thanks so much. I’m so glad you found both those posts useful. I’m loving your site btw. Nice job! :) I’ll have to feature it.

  3. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I’ve been looking for a reliable one for quite a while and yours was extremely helpful!

  4. Hi Angie! How did you do that clipping trick for the bicycle? The one included on the first picture? Thanks! :) <3

  5. Hi Angie,
    Bought your Mary Kate theme and I love it. This is going to help me to personalise it. It takes me ages but I´m learning to build my blog step by step.

  6. I’m having some trouble with this. I’m on a Mac and I’m working in PSE 13. When I hold down alt and hover between the two layers, there is a square box with an arrow pointing downward instead of two overlapping circles. When I click, it makes the brush strokes disappear completely, leaving the text unchanged. Is there a simple fix to this?

  7. Like the post above, I updated PS and AI within creative cloud…probably shouldn’t have! The little overlay Venn icon is no longer used and it’s a weird box with an arrow. It does nothing! I’m using a template from the chickaboom blog kit with that helps!

  8. I LOVE YOU!!! Lol….thank you so much for sharing this tutorial. Everything I’ve learned so far, I’ve done on my own and through trial and error, but I have been wanting to learn to do this so bad! ♡

    1. Hi Britt!

      What version of Photoshop do you have? I have the latest and while the two circles don’t appear, you see a square when holding alt and it works just fine. :)

  9. Great article posted by you really! I picked out a really cool watercolor background that I wanted to be clipped inside of my text. I chose File / Place to place it on a layer above my brushed text.

  10. Thank you for this tutorial! I am so excited that you are giving tips for Adobe Photoshop Elements, and not just Photoshop. I currently use Elements, but it is difficult to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *