Grouped Photo Masking

with 5 Comments


Grouped Photo Masking
by Jen White

There are times when one photo mask just isn’t enough to get the job done. Utilize one of the amazing benefits of groups by using them to combine photo masks for stunning results.

For this tutorial, you will need:

  • a photo
  • several coordinating photo masks

NOTE: Groups have been available in PS for years but were only recently introduced to PSE in version 15. This tutorial will not work for versions earlier than PSE 15.

If you’d like to practice with the photo and masks I’m using for this tutorial, you can download them here.


Step One: Prepare the Workspace

  • Create a new document (File > New > Blank File) at 300 ppi with a white background. (PS: Choose File > New.)
  • Get the Move tool.
  • In the Tool Options, uncheck Auto Select.


Step Two: Add a Photo

  • Open a photo (File > Open).
  • Holding down the Shift key, click and drag the photo onto the new document.


Step Three: Add a Mask

  • Open a photo mask or anything being used as a mask.
  • Holding down the Shift key, click and drag the photo mask onto the document.

CAUTION: For best results, make sure your photo masks are always smaller than the photo you are clipping to them.


Step Four: Create a Group

  • In the Layers panel, the photo mask layer should be the active layer.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Group Layers.

You should now have a group that has one layer in it. When a layer is in a group, the thumbnail of that layer will be indented to the right.


What Is a Group?

Think of a group as a manila folder–the kind you might find in an office setting. The layers inside the group are like the pieces of paper inside the folder.


Step Five: Clip the Photo to the Group

  • In the Layers panel, click and drag the group below the photo layer.

  • In the Layers panel, click on the photo layer to activate it.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask.


Step Six: Add More Masks to the Group

  • Open a different photo mask.
  • Holding down the Shift key, click and drag the photo mask onto the document.

  • In the Layers panel, click and drag the new photo mask layer into the group.

Note: When dragging the layer down, let go of the mouse when Group 1 gets an outline around it.


Here is what my document looks like after adding three masks to my group.


Move Individual Masks

  • In the Layers panel, click on an individual mask layer to activate it.
  • On the document, click and drag to move the mask around.

Here is what my document looks like after moving the masks around to include more of the subject.



Things To Try

  • Duplicate individual masks to make them less transparent.
  • Resize individual masks.
  • Rotate individual masks.
  • Reduce the opacity of individual masks.

Here is what my document looks like after duplicating the second mask to make it more opaque.



Photo: Alex Iby


After posting your results online,
return here and include the link in the comments.


How will you use this technique with a photo and photo masks from your own stash? Here is how I used this tutorial on a scrapbook page using a photo of my grandson and masks from Beloved by Katie Pertiet.


Page: Ten Days Old by Jen White
Photo: Kaila Gustafson
Kit: Beloved by Katie Pertiet
Font: Amastery Script



Experience the delight of designing beautiful pages you LOVE and are proud to share with others!
This class has a total of 12 modules, each featuring a deep dive into how to master a specific design style. Join us for a great adventure in upping your scrapbooking game!

Learn more about the Design Beautiful Pages class!


Download PDF



jenwhite-48x48Author: Jen White | Contact Us
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5 Responses

  1. Renee
    | Reply

    Great tutorial Jen. I never thought of using a group for masks but I can see where this will come in very handy when trying to mask a larger photo. Congratulations on your beautiful (and photogenic) grandson!

  2. Diane
    | Reply

    Great to see a tutorial that uses the Group function. I have PSE and never been fully sure of how to use this feature.

  3. Nell Covington
    | Reply

    Thanks for the great lesson. Don’t know what I’d do without you and all the great folks who have shared lessons through the years. Congrats on the precious grandbaby. May you have many wonderful experiences together!

  4. Nancy M Olson
    | Reply

    My first effort using this tutorial. Needs some additional work, but I’m pleased how it came out. Thanks Jen.

  5. Nancy M Olson
    | Reply

    Thank you for this easy-to-follow tutorial. We have a great grandbaby due in May and I can’t wait to use this grouping technique.

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