The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Easy Clipping Groups

January 01, 2007 by
Place a photo inside text
Place a photo inside text

Here's a fun, neat little effect that, surprisingly, doesn't seem too overdone. It's called creating a clipping group, and all it takes is an image and a word in which you want to bring that image through. The trick is in the placement of the text and image layers, and the holding down of a special modifier key to make the magic happen.

Step 1: Open the image, double-click the background layer and rename it to make it editable. We're going to use a picture I shot one morning while at the sawmill down the road from my parent's house, deep in the piney woods of East Texas.

Step 2: Create some text by clicking on the Type tool in the main toolbar (looks like a big T), and type a word. It doesn't matter what color your text is. What does matter, however, is that you pick a really big, thick font, preferably a sans serif (see note below) slab (extra thick) font. For example, I chose Impact at 120 point.

NOTE: Serif refers to the little "feet" or "sandals" you see on the descenders and ascenders of some fonts, such as Times. These are called serif fonts, and are typically used as body copy in newspapers (studies show they are easier for the eye to follow in large blocks). Sans serif means "without feet" or "sandals" such as fonts like Helvetica and Arial. These fonts are typically seen used as headlines, and for large blocks of online text (studies show that sans serif fonts are easier to read in large blocks online--go figure).

Step 3: Move the type layer *below* the image layer. If you don't do this, the technique won't work.

Step 4: Hold down the Option key (PC: Alt) and click between the two layers, as shown below. The cursor will morph into two over-lapping, black and white circles; that's when you click. Your layers palette should now look like this:

And your document should look like this:

At this point you can click back on your type layer and move it around with the arrow tool, to get just the right logs to show through. You can also play around with the type size and so on.

For even more fun, play with effects on your type layer. I added an outer glow, a drop shadow, and last but not least, a 2 pixel stroke. I also sampled a bit-o-brown from the image, and filled yet another layer with it which I moved to the bottom of my layers stack. Here's my final image:

Until next time, may the Photoshop force be with you :)