Crop the image to shape with Photoshop or Elements

A clipping mask in Photoshop CC or Photoshop Elements is an easy, non-destructive way to cut an image into any shape you want in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. We’ll be using a custom shape to demonstrate the technique in this tutorial, but it will work the same with text or any layer content with transparent areas. This tutorial is written for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Where there are differences in versions, we have explained them in the instructions.

The Cookie Cutter Tool in Photoshop Elements is a quick and easy way to cut your image into a shape. The cookie cutter tool doesn’t require any instructions, but a Clipping Mask gives you more flexibility and doesn’t limit you to the shapes you set up in Photoshop Elements.

Contents
  1. Convert background to layer
  2. Customize the shape tool
  3. Draw a shape for your neckline
  4. Reorder layers
  5. Create a Clipping Mask
  6. Saving and using a crop
  7. Gradual transparency clipping masks
  8. Add layer effects in Photoshop
  9. Add layer effects to Photoshop Elements
  10. End result

Convert background to layer

Open the image you want to put on the form.

Open the layers palette if it isn’t already open (press F7 or go to Window > Layers).

Double click on the background in the layers palette to convert the background to a layer. Enter a name for the layer and click OK.

Customize the shape tool

Select a shape tool. In the options bar make sure the tool is set to shape layers and select a freeform cutout shape. We’ll use one of the free sharp rectangles from this site. The color of the form does not matter and the style should be set to “No Style”.

Draw a shape for your neckline

Draw a shape on your document at the approximate location where you want to crop your photo. For now this will hide your photo.

Reorder layers

Go to the layers palette and switch the order of the layers by dragging the shape layer below the image you want to crop.

Create a Clipping Mask

Select the image layer in the layers palette and choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask or Layer > Group with Previous , depending on the version of Photoshop (see note below). In Photoshop, you can select the Clipping Mask command by right-clicking a layer in the Layers Palette. Or you can use the Ctrl-G keyboard shortcut in any version of Photoshop.

The image is clipped to the shape below and the layers palette shows the clipped layer with an arrow pointing down at the shape layer to indicate that they have been merged into the clipping group.

In Photoshop Elements and older versions of Photoshop, this command is called “Group with Previous”. It was renamed to avoid confusion when the layer groups feature was added to Photoshop.

Both layers are independent, so you can switch to the Move tool and adjust the size and position of the image or shape.

Saving and using a crop

Now if you want to use the transparent image elsewhere, save it in a format that supports transparency, such as PSD or PNG. You should also make sure that the source program supports the chosen format transparently.

If you want to keep the layers for later editing, save a copy as PSD.

If you want to use the crop in another Photoshop project, you can select “All” then “Copy Merged” and paste it into another document.

If you have a later version of Photoshop (not Elements), you can select both layers, then right-click in the layers palette and choose Convert to Smart Object. Then drag the smart object into another Photoshop document. This keeps the layers editable as a smart object that can be double-clicked in the layers palette to edit.

Gradual transparency clipping masks

The Clipping Mask also works with text or pixel layers, so you’re not limited to using the Shape tool. Transparent areas in the Clipping Mask layer make those areas transparent in the layer above. If your Clipping Mask layer has graduated transparency, the above layer will also have graduated transparency.

To demonstrate this, let’s go back to the shape layer we used to create the Clipping Mask in this tutorial. Shapes can only have hard edges, so let’s convert this shape to pixels. Right-click the layers palette and choose Rasterize Layer in Photoshop or Simplify Layer in Photoshop Elements. Then with the selected layer go to Filter > Gaussian Blur and Blur and set the radius to a larger value, such as 30 or 40. Notice how the edges of the image now disappear.

Cancel the Gaussian Blur if you want to know how to apply the stroke and shadow on the following pages. Go to page 9 for Photoshop or page 10 for Photoshop Elements.

Another way is to select the shape and choose “Select” from the menu: Edit > Feathers

Add layer effects in Photoshop

You can give the image a little extra effect by adding effects to the shape layer. Here we added a stroke and shadow to the shape layer and then added a pattern fill layer below everything for the background.

To add effects in Photoshop: select the Shape layer and add a layer style to the layer. The Layer Style dialog box opens. On the left, click the effect you want to apply and adjust its settings. Use the checkboxes to enable or disable each effect.

Add layer effects to Photoshop Elements

You can give the image a little extra effect by adding effects to the shape layer. Here we added a stroke and shadow to the shape layer and then added a pattern fill layer below everything for the background.

To add effects in Photoshop Elements: Start by adding a layer style with a low shadow. In the effects palette, click the second layer styles button. Then select Drop Shadows from the menu and double click on the “low icon”. Then go to the layers palette and double click on the FX symbol on the shape layer. The Style Settings dialog box opens. Set the shadow style options and then enable the stroke style by checking the box and adjusting the stroke options.

End result

This is an example of what your product could look like!

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