Solution

In this solution, I'll start with an interface design for a simple web site. It has a header bar, a menu bar, and a content area as shown in the example here.

I'll paste in the flower images that I blended together earlier in this Web site design chapter. As you can see in the example below, the images are bigger than the header area. I want them to be contained within the header region, but I still want to be able to move them around. The solution may seem simple at first—a layer mask on each layer will do the trick. But what if I decide to change the header height later? I'll have to modify all the masks.

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Images for header area

Enter the clipping mask. First, your document must have a shape layer that contains the shape of the "masking" area. Put the layers you need to mask directly on top of this shape layer.

In the Layers palette, move the cursor to the boundary between the shape layer and the layer above it. Hold down the Alt key (Option on a Mac). The cursor will change into two overlapping circles, as shown in this example.

Holding the Alt (Option) key changes the cursor

Click once. The top layer will be clipped by the bottom layer. If you examine the Layers palette,

Holding the Alt (Option) key changes the cursor you'll notice that the thumbnail for the top layer now has a black arrow next to it, and our shape layer's name is underlined.

Clipping one of the layers with another

Now let's do the same with our second image. Move your mouse up to the edge of the next layer in the Layers palette, hold down Alt and click.

Both layers have now been clipped by the base layer, as shown in the example below.

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Clipping another layer

Creating a clipping mask for multiple layers

You can move the individual layers around, and they will remain clipped by the shape of the base layer. The image below illustrates this point.

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Moving a layer with a clipping mask

As a final flourish, I'm going to use the solution from "Fading an Image into the Background" to fade the right edge of the second flower into the background. Our final result is shown below.

Adding a layer mask
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