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Photoshop Masking: Clipping vs. Layering Masks

Photoshop Masking: Clipping vs. Layering Masks
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Photoshop is one of the most powerful tools to work with. Indeed it is complicated and not easy to grasp. But once you get to know the basics of this tool, you will never back out. Among the various notorious uses, clipping masks and layering masks are noteworthy. They are widely popular and used by many, but also confusing to some too.

To clear the confusion once and for all, here, at Clipping Pixel, is our take on clipping vs. Layering Masks.

What are clipping masks?

Despite the weird name, the clipping mask is a pretty awesome thing because it’s going to make your life easier. Like the layer mask, it is a non-destructive working method.

Combined with a standard layer, shape layer, or text layer, it allows you to limit the content of one layer to the dimensions of another layer. For example, filling the characters of a text with a texture or a photo, or more broadly, filling a shape with another image.

The layer below serves as a sort of template, thus limiting the display of the image above.

You can also use the clipping mask to limit the action of an adjustment layer to the one layer preceding it in the stack. When you apply an adjustment layer in Photoshop, all layers below it are affected by that adjustment. The clipping mask will thus make it possible to use an adjustment in a non-destructive way. At the same time, it limits its effect to the only layer concerned.

How to Work with A Clipping Mask?

The clipping mask is made between two consecutive layers, in which the first is clipped by the element that contains the second layer. To use this tool, we have to select the top layer, and with the right mouse button, click on it. A menu will be displayed in which we have to find the option “Create clipping mask.”

The layer icon will move to the right to display an arrow indicating that it works as a clipping mask for the top layer.

This option allows us to work and modify the image to find the best composition we need. For example, if it is a text or a moldable element, we can modify it without changing the clipping mask.

What Is Layer Masks?

Layer masks are, in Adobe’s words,

“Resolution-dependent bitmap images edited with the paint and selection tools.”

We can say that layer masks allow hiding or preventing seeing a part of the layer with a more straightforward language. And they will enable you to edit them over and over again. This virtue admits that we can make mistakes, and we can vary its content again and again until we find the desired result.

How to Work With Layer Masks?

To use the layer mask, we must select the layer in the “Layers” panel on which we want to act. And in the lower options of the panel, click on “Add layer mask.” This will create a white box on the selected layer to be used as a mask over our image.

When we cover this white box with black (which we have to select previously with the mouse), the areas it covers will be hidden. And it will show the layer immediately below. This is because we can use the full range of grays. So from white lets, you see everything, through grays that offer multiple transparencies, or black that hides the covered area in its entirety.

This mask is linked to the image, but we can unlink it by clicking on the link between them and moving them independently.

Final Words

Layer and clipping masks are a beneficial way to manipulate images in a non-destructive way. In the above article on clipping vs. Layering Masks, we tried to show you the difference by describing the process. We can complicate it as much as we want once we know their differences. And we can use them on every occasion depending on the elements we work with.

See more: Things to Consider Before Deciding Whether to Sue

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