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  • Writer's pictureNorthPoint

Pixels To Print: Text Masking

Masking text has been a powerful tool used by designers for quite some time now. Paired with bold typography, it can be really intriguing to add just the right image or graphic within text to bring it to life and make an immediate impact on its viewers. And even better, it only takes a few simple steps in either Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to achieve this effect.

In the process of text masking, a clipping mask is used to cut out an image or graphic into the shape of the text itself.  A clipping mask is a shape (called a clipping path) that masks any object below it, whether it’s a photo, vector drawing, etc. A clipping path, however, can only be text or a vector object, not a photo. 

Below is an example of image masked text, as well as the steps to get there:


1. When using Illustrator, first open an image or vector that you want to show up in your text.  Let’s take this image of the beach, for example.

2. Next, place your text on top of the image.

3. The third step can vary based on the amount of paths present in your text.  In the image above, the text is spaced in a way that will require each letter to be masked individually because they are separate paths. When this is the case,  you will need to convert the text to outline so each letter can be edited. To convert text to outlines, click on Type > Create Outlines or right click on the text and selecting Create Outlines. This creates individually editable objects out of the text, which can be distinguished by the anchor points that can now be found on each letter. Now, instead of having to go through the letters one by one to create a clipping mask on each, Illustrator allows us to combine several paths into one – a ‘compound path’. Select all of the text and go to Object > Compound Path > Make to complete this step.

4. Once a compound path is created from your text, you can now create the clipping mask by selecting the text and image and going to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.  The result should be something like this below! (Once the mask is made, you can still edit it and move around the image by double clicking into isolation mode, or going to Object > Clipping Mask > Edit/Release!) 

If your text is close enough to be one path, however, like this instance below, you can simply skip the outlining and compound path creating steps and go straight to the clipping mask.


The steps to create a text mask in Photoshop are very similar to creating a mask in Illustrator.

1. First, open your background image or create a document and paste the image in. 2. Type out your text in a large bold font and move the text layer behind the image 3. Finally, right click on the image layer and select ‘Create Clipping Mask’ for the image to be masked into your text! To edit or move the photo, select the photo layer and use the move tool to shift your image.  4. Export your newly created text as a .png file to be able to place on any colored background, and you’re good to go!

It’s as easy as that! Text masking is a technique that leaves a big portion of the image behind unrevealed, which in turn helps achieve a mysterious and minimalist look. It can add the perfect pop of photography to a typographically heavy design, or can be used to add an enticing visual to a simple composition! Here are just a few examples of successfully implemented text masking:

Now lets get out there and create some amazingly cool text, shall we?!

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