3 Easy Steps to Make a Clipping Mask Using Brushes

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the most used tools in digital scrapbooking is the clipping mask. Why? Because it is so easy to use a mask to give your photos a unique and interesting look. You can even use them to blend your background papers! Clipping masks offer a myriad of ways to create artful pages. Oscraps Creative Team Member Kythe loves to make her own masks using Photoshop/Elements brushes and I asked her to share her process.

This short tutorial will give you the basics of creating masks for you own use to help you show off your photos!

Supplies Needed

  • You can use brushes which you have loaded into Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, or you can use the blank PNGs most designers provide with their brush products. If you need help loading brushes into Photoshop Elements, I’ve got a tutorial for you.
  • Textured brushes/PNGs to form the base of your mask and others to add interest, such as flowers, butterflies, snowflakes, lace, doilies, graffiti shapes, word art, flourishes, etc. Suggestions for brushes are in the tutorial.
  • Photo of your choice.


Each time you change brushes, stamp on a new layer so that you can change size and opacity for each — or even delete the layer if you decide you don’t like it without affecting the rest of your design. Save your layered files and PSD or Tif files so that you can change the layers around or add or remove stamps to them. Also save your file as a PNG file, which merges the layers into one mask so you can re-use as often as you like!

There are NO rules! Just play and have fun!

Kythe’s Tutorial

Step 1 — the Mask Base

  1. Open a new document — I started with a 12 x12 (3600px x 3600px) to provide the most flexibility.
  2. Decide the general shape you want your finished mask to be. Mine will be rectangular, but yours could any shape at all.
  3. Choose a textured brush (or PNG file) for the base of your mask. It’s ok if there are holes or open areas — in fact that will add lots of interest to the mask. I started with brush/PNG 6, from Vicki Robinson’s Texture Brushes 1

Duplicate the layer (keyboard shortcut Ctrl or Cmd J) and rotate and resize it so that it starts to fill in more of the center of the mask.

Step 2 – Building out the Mask

Again, working on a new layer, choose a different brush/PNG — I used a few of Vicki’s brushes from her Watercolor Brushes 1 and 2 set, and stamp in the center areas and along the edges, but taking care to let of the bottom texture peek through, especially along the edges. Play with the opacity slider to get a softer look if you wish — watercolor brushes usually have lots of transparency, so you may want to stamp several times.

Step 3 — Adding Interest

Now let’s have some real fun!

Find some graphic stamps such as Vicki’s Arty Brush Stamps 1 or Arty Brush Stamps 2or Stamped Florals 04 and stamp, on a new layer, along the edges of the mask. You could even try text stamps such as French Script Stamps 05 or even Collage Stamps 02 — just be sure that you stamp in areas that will be visible.

Because I have in mind to create a “musical” page, I’ve used one of the words, a bird stamp and music graffiti from Vicki’s The Music’s in Me kit.

Step 4 — Try it Out!

Now it’s time to test your mask.

  1. Save your file as a PSD and then save it as a PNG with the same name.
  2. Open a new document, add your mask PNG and a photo.
  3. Place your photo above the mask layer and clip it to the mask (with the photo layer active, from the Menu choose Layer>Create Clipping Mask). If your photo is smaller than the mask, activate the Transform Tool (Ctrl or Cmd T) and drag one of the corner handles out to enlarge the photo.

Final Mask Vicki Robinson Designs

Step 5 – Adding Extras

I decided mine need a little something extra, so I went back to my PSD, added a new layer and used parts of brush 7 from Vicki’s Grungy Grids to add a “frame” layer to draw more attention to the photo — but her Grunging Brusheswould have also worked really well, too.

Be sure to save your PSD again.

Here are some samples of other masks Kythe made – aren’t they fabulous?

And look at this gorgeous page Kythe made using P.S. I Love You and another of the masks she made!

Freebie Alert

Sign up here to get one of Kythe’s masks and a coupon for brushes from Vicki Robinson’s Oscraps shop — for free!

If you use Vicki’s brushes to make a mask, be sure to upload it to Vicki’s Designer Gallery! We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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