Masking groups of layers

About now, you may be growing fatigued with the topic of layering masking. But one more option requires your immediate attention. You can group multiple layers into something called a clipping group, in which the lowest layer in the group masks the others. Where the lowest layer is transparent, the other layers are hidden; where the lowest layer is opaque, the contents of the other layers are visible.

Note Despite the similarities in name, a clipping group bears no relation to a clipping path. That is, a clipping group doesn't allow you to prepare transparent areas for import into QuarkXPress and the like.

There are two ways to create a clipping group:

4 Alt-click the horizontal line between any two layers to group them into a single unit. Your cursor changes to the group cursor labeled in Figure 12-35 when you press Alt; the horizontal line becomes dotted after you click. To break the layers apart again, Alt-click the dotted line to make it solid.

Group cursor

Group cursor

Figure 12-35: Alt-click the horizontal line between two layers to group them.

♦ Select the higher of the two layers you want to combine into a clipping group. Then choose Layer ^ Group with Previous or press Ctrl+G. To make the layers independent again, choose Layer ^ Ungroup (Ctrl+Shift+G).

Figures 12-35 and 12-36 demonstrate two steps in a piece of artwork I created for Macworld magazine. I had already created some text on an independent layer using the type tool (the subject of the next chapter), and I wanted to fill the text with water. So I added some photographs I shot of a swimming pool to a layer above the text, as shown in Figure 12-35. Then I combined text and pool images into a clipping group. Because the text was beneath the water, Photoshop masked the pool images according to the transparency mask assigned to the text. The result is a water pattern that exactly fills the type, as in Figure 12-36. (For a full-color version of these figures, see Color Plate 12-1.)

Clipping group

Figure 12-36: After combining pool water and type layers into a single clipping group, Photoshop applies the type layer's transparency mask to the pool layer.

Note If you're familiar with Illustrator, you may recognize this clipping group metaphor as a relative to Illustrator's clipping mask. One object in the illustration acts as a mask for a collection of additional objects. In Illustrator, however, the topmost object in the group is the mask, not the bottom one. So much for consistency.

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