Wednesday, December 29

CoffeeShop Tutorial: Making your own custom cutouts/clipping masks!

I was horrified reading all of your comments on my last post about your own tooth injuries.  However, it did make me realize we are not alone.  Imp is doing great.  Most of the swelling is gone and his skin on top of his tooth is slowly starting to come back.  One of his front teeth is pushed a bit backwards now, but so far so good. I still get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when he smiles at me...  He has the cutest smile and I am glad it is starting to return to normal.   Poor little sweet guy!

I have been posting quite a few cutouts/clipping masks for scrapbooking and digital design and I have had many readers ask me how I create them. Often I use brushes and shapes, but you can also use found objects to make them and it is actually pretty easy if you are familiar with Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. So why don't I show you one way to make your own custom cutouts/clipping masks/digital designs.

You can make a cutout of so many different things. In this example I picked up a leaf from outside and photographed it on white paper (notice the poor lighting conditions). Once you realize how easy it is to make these cutouts you will see designs you want to create everywhere.

Note: Click on images to see them bigger! I want to select the leaf so I need to separate the background. In this case I added a levels adjustment layer and moved the highlight and midtone slide to the left until my white background was very white.

Then I clicked on my background layer and used the magic wand tool to select the white area.

Then I selected the leaf or inverse (shft,ctrl, I)

I made a new blank layer on top of the background but below the levels adjustment layer.  Then I clicked on Select, Refine Edge, and put in the settings you see below.  You can adjust this to taste, this is just a starting point.  Photoshop Elements also has Refine Edge.  This is a great way to smooth out any rough areas on your cutout.

Then Edit, Fill with white (or any color) the selection on the new layer. 

Ctrl-D to remove the selection "ants" and then delete the levels and background layer.  You should only have one layer, your new cutout.

Now you can add a colored background if you want. Just add a color fill adjustment layer on the bottom. I also added a dropshadow effect to the leaf cutout to make it stand out.

If you want to add color to the leaf, add a color fill layer on top and group it to the leaf cutout.

It is easy to add a texture or digital design to the leaf.  Open the design of your choice and then group it to the leaf layer.  Ctrl-T (free transform) to fit.

Adding an image is as easy as adding a texture/digital paper.  Just drag it on top and group it with the leaf cutout.

You can create designs with your cutouts.  After you add a design delete the background color and Merge Down (Ctrl-E).Don't flatten because your cutout will not have a transparent background. Drag your merged cutout to a new document and Ctrl-T it to taste. You can Ctrl-J to make copies of the cutout on that document.  In this case I made three copies of the leaf.

You can also make clipping mask groups using your cutouts.  Here I dropped and dragged three leaf cutouts and Ctrl-T them until they looked like the image below. Then I clicked to select all three leaves and Merged them.

Next I added an image and grouped it with the merged leaf clipping mask.  Then I added a color fill layer on bottom so I could use the eye dropper to select a color in the image to use as a background.

I hope this tutorial will encourage you to go out and make your own clipping masks/cutouts/design elements. Just walk through Hobby Lobby or your backyard and you will be inspired!

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop PSE/Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets or Design Elements in one convenient zipped file AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures.

For complete info on installing all of my actions, click here.


  1. This is very helpful...Thanks!!

  2. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [30 Dec 01:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  3. Thank you! I have been wanting to create my own shapes in Photo shop and had no clue how to do it! This is really helpful!

  4. What a great tutorial! I've been using PSE for at least 5 years and NEVER noticed the Refine Edge feature! I am already a clipping mask addict, but hadn't thought about using my own photos to create new ones.

    Would love to see a tutorial on creating curved shape clipping mask shapes (like all the great curvy frames you've made). I'm lost when I try to create new shapes/masks that are not part of my standard PSE shapes.

    Love your blog!

  5. Very helpful tutorial, Rita! I gave it a Stumble, hope it brings new fans your way!

  6. It is a time consuming process! but you have discussed it in an easy way.

  7. Hi - Great tutorial!!

    I'm not sure if you'll see a comment from an older post, but I wondered if it's possible to save presets for the refine edge you have here in this blog post? I'm not an advanced user, and I can't be going back and forth to blogs where I find this stuff to try to recreate all the numbers. It would just be so simple to save it as a "coffeeshop edge refine preset" and call it a day. ~Thanks!

  8. Fantastic Tutorials. I can not Thank you enough for all the work you did to bring this to us. All of it.. Every single page... front to back. Awesome. I get to learn and many wonderful materials too. T.Y. ~:) LjM

  9. I'm so happy to find your site. I'll give this a try. Thanks so much!

  10. Do you have a tutorial on how to create a wave shape (so popular for border clusters) in Photoshop Elements 11?


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