How to use creative clipping masks in Photoshop – N-Photo 152 video tutorial

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There are all sorts of tricks you can do with layers in Adobe Photoshop CC, from blend modes to filters. But one less well-known technique is clipping masks. Perhaps this is because it’s seen mainly as a tool for designers – but this powerful feature can be equally useful for photographers. Whether you want to create eye-catching conceptual art like this or more simple layouts and photo frames, clipping masks can be incredibly useful.

Essentially, a clipping mask requires two things: a shape, and something to fill it. For our shapes here we’ve used a series of simple flourish designs. (You’ll find a layered PSD file among the project files, below, with a choice of flourishes.) We simply copy our hand image on top of a flourish layer, then ‘clip’ the hand to the flourish so that only the parts directly above the hand shape are visible. From here, we can repeat the process to build up the effect while adding depth with colour changes, shadows and strokes. We’ll look at the basics here, and you’ll find a full walkthrough in the accompanying video.

Download the project file(s) to your Downloads folder

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James Paterson

The lead technique writer on Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, James is a fantastic general practice photographer with an enviable array of skills across every genre of photography. 

Whether it's flash photography techniques like stroboscopic portraits, astrophotography projects like photographing the Northern Lights, or turning sound into art by making paint dance on a set of speakers, James' tutorials and projects are as creative as they are enjoyable. 

He's also a wizard at the dark arts of Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity Photo, and is capable of some genuine black magic in the digital darkroom, making him one of the leading authorities on photo editing software and techniques.