Clipping Masks from Layer Transparency

The concept of creating clipping masks from layer transparency sounds like something straight out of a science journal. In fact, it's nothing more than the transparency of the bottommost layer in a group being used to mask the content of the upper layers. Layer clipping masks are used, for example, whenever you need to place an image inside text or the outline of image content; most notably in posters advertising films or exotic holiday places. You can clip as many layers as you like to create the effect you are after. However, they must be successive layers in the layer stack.

To create a clipping mask from layer transparency, make sure that the layer you want to use as the mask source is positioned below the layer whose content you want to mask (Figure 8-4). Choose Layer^ Create Clipping Mask, or Ctrl+Alt+G (Windows), ^+Opt+G (Mac OS). You can also hold down Alt (Windows), Opt (Mac OS) and click the line separating the two layers (Figure 8-4). When the mask is created, the thumbnail of the upper layer is offset to the right and a downward-pointing triangle is added to differentiate the layer.

Figure 8-4: A clipping mask being applied, showing a base layer (Background) and a layer containing the transparency (Logo) used to clip the content of the layer above it (Insert).

To release the clipping mask, choose Layer ^ Release Clipping Mask, or Ctrl+Alt+G (Windows), ^+Opt+G (Mac OS). You can also hold down Alt (Windows), Opt (Mac OS) and click the line separating the two layers. In case the shortcuts sound familiar, they are the same for a creating clipping mask.

By default, the blend mode of the bottommost layer in a clipping group applies to the clipped layers. However, you can override the default behavior and preserve the blend mode of the clipped layer(s). To do so, choose Layer ^ Layer Styles ^ Blending Options, or double-click an empty section of the layer tile to call the Layer Style dialog box and then, under Advanced Blending, deselect Blend Clipped Layers as Group and click the OK button. This way, the original blending appearance of the layers is preserved.

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