How to Make a Clipping Mask in Photoshop for Background Removal

There are many real estate tricks and strategies you can master in order to be more efficient in editing your real estate photographs. One of the most useful techniques you can add to your list of skills is to remove background elements in your images.

There are quite a few editing methods to go about it, some do a more decent job than the others, and still some are too tedious for most photographers to accomplish regularly. Today, we will be focusing on one of the easiest ways to remove image backgrounds: a clipping mask.

What is a clipping mask?

A clipping mask is essentially a group of layers to which a special mask is applied. The bottommost layer determines the visible boundaries of the group while the upper layer determines the elements within those boundaries.

For instance, you have a circular shape as the bottom layer with an image of your property listing as the layer above it. Applying a clipping mask between the two allows the top layer to take the circular form of the bottom layer, essentially having one opacity.

This works only for successive layers and is a great tool for removing background or seemingly making the background transparent by only making the foreground visible.

How Do You Create A Clipping Mask?

Now that we have thoroughly defined it, let’s discuss how to create a clipping mask.

Step 1

First have your shape layer ready. This defines how you want your image to take form.

Step 2

Next, have your photograph ready and drag image on top of your shape layer.

Step 3

Select the photograph layer, click on Layer then Create Clipping Mask. This makes the images automatically adapt to one another.

Step 4

From here, your two layers are now linked. You may still move your top layer around or adjust the image size to fit better within the shape’s boundaries.

Step 5

Once you are happy with the outcome, select both layers and Merge them together to form one final image.

How To Make A Clipping Mask In Photoshop For Background Removal?

When utilizing a clipping mask to remove backgrounds, you will need to start with your photograph first, but essentially the steps remain the same. Here’s how to achieve it:

Step 1

Open your photograph in Photoshop, and then create a layer above it.

Step 2

Using one of the lasso tools, trace along the subject that you want to make visible and then click Select and Mask. This then leaves you with just the traced out portion of the photograph.

Similarly, you can also use the pen tool to trace around your subject and create a shape. Drag the shape layer below the photograph layer, select both images and Create Clipping Mask.

How do I make a clipping mask transparent in Photoshop?

When creating a clipping mask, you will need two visible layers: one to hold the elements and one to hold the shape of which your elements will fill up.

Because of how the process is patterned out, you cannot make a clipping mask transparent in Photoshop. However, there is another type of mask that you can use for the purpose, called a Layer Mask.

A layer mask gives you more flexibility when editing by hiding parts of a layer that you can gradually brush back in without losing any of the fine details, and essentially have a transparent background as result.

What is the difference between a layer mask and a clipping mask?

Both a layer mask and a clipping mask have the ability to hide and reveal certain parts of your images.

One essential difference between the two types of masks is that a layer mask controls the visibility of the layers without needing to edit the layer itself. The shape of the mask is only made visible wherever it overlaps with the contents of the layer it has been applied to. Also, it only allows you to attach a mask to one single layer.

Clipping masks, on the other hand, essentially allow you to clip multiple photos and drop image on top of the image, within the visible boundaries of the base layer or shape it is clipped to. Clipping masks also allow you to see the mask itself, whereas layer masks don’t. Meaning if certain contents of your photograph do not fill the base canvas or overlap with the layer mask, these parts will not show up at all.

How Do You Create A Layer Mask?

Similar to creating a clipping mask, a layer mask only takes a few quick steps to achieve.

Step 1

First, open up your photograph on Photoshop

Step 2

Using the selection tool, select an area within your image and click Add layer mask at the bottom of the Layers panel. This then displays a white layer mask thumbnail on top of a black space, showing you what is contained within the selected area.

Step 3

With your brush tool selected and your color on White, you can start to brush in hidden parts of the mask. Painting areas white reveal the content you had previously concealed.

Step 4

Similarly, by changing your brush color to black, you can gradually hide layers of your mask by painting over them.

Continue to do steps 3 and 4 until you are satisfied with how fine-tuned your mask edge is.

What would be an advantage to using a clipping mask instead of a layer mask?

Positioning your image with the shape is one of the most important steps in either masking process. One advantage that a clipping mask has over the layer mask is that once the layers are linked together and you decide you want to move around the photograph layer to better fit the shape layer, you can freely do so with a clipping mask by simply dragging it around.

However, with a layer mask, the photograph layer will automatically take and hold the form of the shape layer, meaning you first need to unlink the layers and select the image layer in order to adjust it. While it is not necessarily much of a hassle, it does give you a few more steps to think about.

With a clipping mask, you are also able to freely adjust the perspective of the image layer and even add a blending mode, which will not affect the shape layer underneath.

You’re All Set!

Whether you choose to utilize a clipping mask or a layer mask boils down to your preferences. Both kinds of masks work perfectly fine when removing backgrounds and enhancing property images, and practicing on both can give you a better grasp as to which one you are more comfortable using for your photography business.

These do not only function as a great background remover, but they are also great tools for when you want to change the background itself. Adding in a textured image or even a plain white background can bring new life to your photos. These work well for product photos wherein you can paste image after image on the new background and produce stunning visuals that amplify your marketing strategy.