Use Clipping Groups to Mask One Layer with the Contents of Another

After spending any amount of time working in Photoshop, you eventually wonder how to cover only a part of one image with another. The answer to that question brings me to one of my favorite aspects of Photoshop—clipping groups. Although the somewhat difficult-sounding name may turn some beginning users off, clipping groups are quite easy to create and use.

In a clipping group, the bottom layer is used as a mask for any layers above it in the group. Consider Figures 6-10 through 6-12. Figure 6-10 shows the background I used in a banner for a DJ at a local radio station. Because the DJ is on air during the afternoon "drive time," I wanted to show him in the side-view mirror of a car. I picked the image shown in Figure 6-10 as a starting point.

To conceal the existing image in the mirror, I added a new layer and painted with gray just over the part of the mirror I wanted to replace, as shown in Figure 6-11. Then, I brought in a picture of clouds and one of the DJ. To get those two images to display only in the area of the mirror— specifically in the area where I painted with gray— I used them in a clipping group with that painted gray layer. Figure 6-12 shows the final result.

QUICK TIP

You can recognize clipping groups in the Layers palette because the bottom layer's name is underlined, and the thumbnails of the other layers in the group are indented next to a small arrow pointing down.

Starting image

Figure 6-10 To create a fun banner for the afternoon DJ at a local radio station, I start with this image of a car and side-view mirror.

Starting image

Figure 6-10 To create a fun banner for the afternoon DJ at a local radio station, I start with this image of a car and side-view mirror.

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Figure 6-11 I add a new layer and cover the existing image in the mirror to prepare for adding in the DJ.

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These two layers are masked by the bottom layer in this clipping group

These two layers are masked by the bottom layer in this clipping group

Figure 6-12 After I use the DJ and clouds in a clipping group with the layer covering the previous image in the side-view mirror, the result is just what I was looking for.

TRY IT To create a clipping group, first make sure the Layers palette is visible by choosing

Window I Layers. Then, position all the layers you want in your clipping group next to each other in the Layers palette; the layer that will mask all the other layers of the clipping group should be at the bottom of that group.

After the layers are in position, hold down the ALT (Windows) or OPTION (Mac) key and move the cursor over the line separating two of the layers in the Layers palette. When you see the cursor change to display two overlapping circles (as shown in the following illustration), click. Repeat this process until you've added all the necessary layers to your clipping group.

■ Indicates that clicking now will add the Joe layer to the clipping group

■ Indicates that clicking now will add the Joe layer to the clipping group

Alternatively, you can also create a clipping group by first linking the layers in question and then choosing Layer I Group Linked.

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