SigTutorials > Photoshop Signature Tutorials > Beginner Signature Tutorials > Clipping Mask Tutorial

Clipping Mask Tutorial

Posted on December 26th, 2009. Written by JaspervD.

This tutorial is split into two parts. The first part will teach you how to successfully create a clipping mask. The second part focuses on how to create the following signature.

This sig may look rather daunting and difficult, but is actually a rather simple sig which was done almost entirely through Clipping Masks. But more about this signature later on, first lets have a look at the wonderful world of clipping masks!

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Creating A Clipping Mask

What a clipping mask really does is kinda hard to explain, thats why I will just show you step by step on how to create one!

So for practice, open up a new canvas at any dimensions, I will be using 420 pixels x 200 pixels. Create a new layer (Ctrl+N) and fill it with white using the paint bucket, this will be our background. Create a new layer and on it type some random text in black, you should have have something like this:

The text layer is the base layer which will act as the mask that will make everything on the masked layer visible.

Next create a new layer above the base layer,  find a good stock image (I used a picture of Doutzen Kroes) and paste it in.

Now we will create our clipping mask with these 2 layers. A clipping mask will make everything on the top layer visible, if there is something on that same location on the base layer. To do this right click on the stock layer and choose clipping mask:

And here is how it should look with the clipping mask enabled.  As you can see the base layer is used as a mask on the stock layer.

This technique is really easy and you can use it for a lot of cool effects! Just play around with it yourself to find out what other things you could do with it.

In this example we used a text layer for our base, common other base layers are:

  • Splatter Brushes
  • C4D Renders
  • Marquee tooling such as the Rectangular Marquee
  • Pen tooling

Creating a signature using clipping masks

Now that we know how to create a clipping mask, lets use it to create the following  signature.

Resources you will need:

  • A render with some nice action in it, I used the following one: render
  • Some splatter brushes: splatter brushes

Creating the background

Create a new photoshop document (I used 420px by 170px) and insert your render into the document. Now duplicate (right click on the layer> duplicate) the render layer a few times and move them around so they fill the entire canvas like this.

Select all of the duplicate layers using your mouse and holding the ctrl key, now merge (right click > merge layers) them into one layer. Now you can use some effects on this layer using Filter > Filter Gallery. Just do some random filters which you like, here is my result:

Now add your render one more time, this time resize it. (Edit > Transform > Scale) Remember to hold shift when you do this to keep your render in proportion! Try to place your render in the center of the canvas with the best part of the render in focus (in my case the head + bow).

Now that we have finished the background, its time to create the effects using clipping masks!

Clipping mask effects

For our clipping mask we will need 2 layers, as you learned in the first part.

A base layer: the layer that will determine what part will be visible.
The mask layer: this layer will be put on top of the base layer, and the one visible.

To create our mask layer create a new layer and go to Image > Apply Image. For now, hide this layer using the little eye in front of the layer.

Now lets create our base layer. Create a new layer, select the Brush Tool (Shortcut key: B) and load your downloaded splatter brushes.

With these brushes we are going to make the base that we will use for our clipping mask.

Select one of the splatter brushes you like and brush a bit on the canvas. Remember to brush onto a NEW and empty layer (ctrl+N). As you can see, only brush on the canvas around your render

See that white brushing? This is the base for our clipping mask.

To finish this clipping mask, select the layer mask (the one we just made and hid from view) and create a clipping mask with it like this:

Once you have created the clipping mask, select the apply image layer mask and move it a bit to the left or right using the move tool, else nothing will happen!

To sum the above steps up:

  • new layer > apply image (1)
  • new layer > brush around the render (2)
  • create a clipping mask: move layer (1) above layer (2), right click on (1) > clipping mask
  • select the move tool > move layer (1) a bit to the left or right
  • your done 🙂

and here is the result (nothing that special yet):

Now create another clipping mask like you just did:

And our chaotic signature is almost done! Now we will just need to do some final enhancements to make the signature look good.

Final Adjustments

The base of our sig is now done, all we need to do know are the basic steps I use in all of my sigs to improve it:

  • Create a light source
  • Create a border
  • Add some text
  • Adjust the colors
  • Sharpen / blur
  • Burn / Dodge

Every signature needs a good light source, as you can see by looking at the highlights and shades on the render, light is coming from the top right. I created a light source in that area using a 400px soft white brush, I brushed once in the top right corner

Now I added some borders on the top and bottom. Create a new layer and using the Rectangular Marquee Tool make a selection at the top, now select the Paint Bucket and Fill this selection with a black color. Your first border is done. Now simply duplicate this layer and move it to the bottom.

I don't really like the colors in this signature, thats why I first added a Black & White Adjustment layer (Layer > New adjustment layer > Black & White)

I added some color to the signature (although I really like the black and white version!) using a gradient map (Layer > New adjustment Layer > Gradient Map). The gradient is part of the default photoshop gradients, just search for it or find one you like yourself.

And here is the result after this step:

The signature looks a bit to chaotic, we want people to focus on the render, not the background. This can be done by making the background darker, and the render lighter. (This will make the render stand out more) If you want to learn the next few steps in more details please read the following tutorial here.

To do first create a new layer and go to image > apply image.  On this layer  play around with the Burn Tool (this makes areas on your signature darker) and the dodge tool (this will make areas on your sig lighter)

As you can see the background is darker, making the render stand out more. Now finally sharpen the signature one time (Filter >Sharpen > Sharpen) this will almost always make your signature look a lot better!

Now all we need to do is add some text, some general tips:

  • Don't place your text in the corner, place it next to the area where you want people to look at (in my case the face)
  • Use an easy to read font, don't go all crazy with downloaded fonts, verdana or arial always look amazing!
  • Try to give the text the same colors as used in the rest of the signature.

For the text I just typed the words Focus inside chaos and I used the same clipping mask technique as in the first part of the tutorial on the text. As you can see my text is really easy, but looks really complex and hard to do (I did it in like 20 seconds)

And here we have our final sig:

In this tutorial you have learned how to use clipping masks using splatter brushes and text as your base layer. You also learned how to create a simple background and what kind of adjustment layers you can use to enhance your signatures.

232 Responses »

  1. made 2 with this new knowledge and blending other stuff too. Thanks alot!

  2. Looks OK though.

  3. WOW! Thanks for this tutorial! I like it 🙂

  4. My first time ever doing something serious.


  6. a big one i planned on using with pict

    ure paper from my printer and framing it, i used most of the beginner tutorials, i used to use cs5 ALOT about 3 years ago and its starting to come back to me now, i thankyou for your tutorials ^^

  7. th

    thanks man 😛

  8. Thanks fo this magnificent tutorial. Here is my result. I hope you like it.

  9. thanks for the tutorial 😀

  10. Do you still have that render? The link is broken :L

  11. This is mine, i did’nt follow everything from your tutioral, but what do you think?
    I’m a beginner.

  12. Here’s my sign 😀
    Thank you so much ^^

  13. Thanks for the tutorial

  14. Thanks for the Tutorial

  15. It’s not perfect but it’s my first try,Sorry for my bad english 😀

  16. My first try with clipping masks 🙂 Looks al-right I think, but right hand side looks bad.

  17. Hello I am Italian but I followed your tutorial translating everything that was written and I was able to accomplish this. Could you tell me if it goes well for a beginner? I hope you understand what I wrote because I can not speak English very well. Hello and sorry for my english.

  18. Tried. Not a perfect one, I hope is okay for a begineer 🙂

  19. Thanks for the tutorial)

  20. My Result 😀

  21. Didn’t really come out as I expected, but still looks cool.

  22. thanks for the tut really helped out.

  23. Thank you for your wonderful lesson but how do I download the tools

  24. very nice tutorial 😉

    thank u!

  25. More steps next time. Far to fast for real beginners.

    Its a nice guide but i cant understand most parts because there is no steps for where to go or to do.

    Sorry but it is fun for people who know a little more about photo shop. Im new and this is unusefull for me.

    • Try some other tutorials first and than get back to this one when you have more experience 🙂

  26. ]

  27. This is probably a STUPID question but…..I’m tired of trying to figure it out myself:

    Regarding Torn City Sigs – in what format do I have to save the art in order to post it on my home page. This is driving me nuts – if somebody has the answer for me PLEASE spell it out.

    This is the first image I worked with- hoping to get better (and quicker)

  28. I tried this but it didn’t go well at all for me. Maybe there’s not enough steps and leaving out too many things for a newbie or something? Right after applying the brushing is where I got lost. There was mention of a hidden layer that I didn’t see anything of earlier. And the moving (1) confused me. I just ended up with my first applied image covering everything else up. v_v;

  29. This is the sig I made from your Tutorial~

    • Text name?

  30. here’s mine

  31. Here’s mine:)

  32. Think my attempt is pretty poor, but thanks for the tutorial

  33. Thanks for the tutorial

  34. Here’s what I did. Can I have a cookie or

  35. Thank you for the tutorial.
    My first attempt: It’s too washed out I think but I will keep trying once I get some better screenshots to work with.

  36. i want to make sig`s to but im not a contributer -_- .. whats the name of the program ?

  37. this is what i made following your tut 🙂 really helpfully thank you 🙂

  38. Here’s my try. I had a real trouble gettin the clipping mask visible. But it was my first try so I guess I have to do have some patience.
    I also had trouble with the burn and dodge tool.

    Awesome tutorial mate! I now know how to use clipping mask.


  39. Here’s what I did, Hope ya like it..Though I changed some of the layers..

  40. Heres what I made of it 🙂

  41. So my first attempt:

    Wasn’t really too happy with it so I tried a second time and got this:

    I think I like the second one best. Thanks for the great tutorial 😀

    • pics didn’t show up 🙁

      1st try:

      2nd try:

  42. Here is my outcome

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