Grouping Layers in Photoshop with a Clipping Mask

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You can combine multiple layers into one layer using the Clipping Mask feature in Photoshop CC 2018. You create a clipping mask by selecting the top layer and then using the Create Clipping Mask command. The layers beneath the top layer are then clipped to the shape of the top layer, and are positioned under it in the layer stack (meaning they appear in front of it, but behind other objects). That sounds complicated, but it’s easy when you know how! This tutorial shows you how to group layers in Photoshop with a clipping mask.


How do clipping masks work?

A clipping mask restricts edits to a particular layer or group of layers (called the target) based on a source layer or group of layers (called the mask). For example, if you apply a black-to-white gradient as a clipping mask to an image, all pixels darker than 50% gray become transparent; all pixels lighter than 50% gray are unaffected. That way, you can easily overlay your image with other images and create cool special effects.


How can I create a clipping mask?

A clipping mask allows you to apply changes made to one layer (the clipping mask) to other layers. When you create a clipping mask, Photoshop applies any edits you make on a top layer to all underlying layers at once. This is particularly useful when working with groups of similarly structured objects—such as logos, icons or geometric shapes—that need to be uniformly modified.

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How do I ungroup clipped layers?

If you ever want to separate an item from its clipping mask, then you’ll need to rasterize that layer first. Go to Layer > Rasterize > Layer, or right-click on the clipped layer and choose Rasterize Layer. This turns your layers into pixels, so you can now change your mind about grouping them.


Working with nested clipping masks

Creating nested clipping masks is different from grouping layers. The resulting composite image shows only pixels that are visible in both of its source images, creating an effect similar to putting one picture on top of another. You can apply blending modes and opacity settings to clipping masks just as you would to any other layer, giving you greater control over how each image interacts with its underlying composition. [Source: Adobe]

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