By Karl Rosencrants, Shutterstock Contributor

A clipping mask works in a similar fashion as a layer mask by hiding the content of the layers it effects. However, the applications of a clipping mask are a little different. Below, I’ll outline two different uses for this helpful type of mask.

In this first example, the clipping mask allows you to create text with a custom designed overlay, leaving all the elements intact so they can be changed later.

First, create your background layer and your text. Leave the text as a Text Layer. Here I have added a 5px stroke and an outer glow using Layer Styles.

Above the text layer, create your custom design. In this layout, a vector design of lines has been imported from Illustrator and pasted above our text.

When using a clipping mask, the bottom layer “clips” the layer above it in the Layers Palette. In the areas the clipping layer is transparent, the clipped layer will become hidden. In the areas the clipping layer is visible, the clipped layer will be visible.

To activate the mask, simply hold ALT or Option and click on the line between the two layers that you want to “clip.” Or, with the top layer selected, click Layer > Create Clipping Mask. You will know that you have successfully created your clipping mask because the upper layer will now be indented in the Layers Palette.

Examining the design, you can see that the lines design has now been masked, so it’s only visible where the text is present. The text keeps the Layer Styles.

The great part about laying out a design this way is that every element can still be freely edited. The text can be changed using the type tool to spell out a new word, and the clipped layer can be edited as necessary, allowing you to retain complete versatility, quickly and easily.

Another useful application for a clipping mask is to isolate an adjustment layer to only one layer in a design layout.

In this layout, there are many photographs, each on its own layer, making up a collage.

If the client would like to see one of the pictures in black and white, rather than removing all the color data from that layer, retain your ability to edit by adding a black and white adjustment layer. To do this, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer and choose Black & White.

At first, the adjustment layer will affect all the layers below it, changing the entire design to black and white.

However, by moving the adjustment layer to just above the image that needs to be black and white, and holding Alt or Option and clicking the line between the two layers, you create a clipping mask, applying the black and white adjustment layer only to the layer directly below it.

Just like the last layout, using clipping masks keeps your design layouts simple and stress-free, and allows you to make adjustments to all the components of your layout.