Lettering technique with a Mask

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We'll be working with Masks, Layers, and the Fill Tool. This tutorial is at the intermediate level and was written for PSP 8 or 9. These instructions will also work in PSP X.      A PSP 7 version is located HERE.

You'll need a background image and a mask image that is black and white.

If you make your own mask image (the black and white one) make it the same shape as your background image: that is, if your background image is higher than it is wide, your mask image should also be higher than it is wide. Don't worry too much about size as long as the proportions are approximate. A mask will resize itself to fit the image you apply it to.

If you'd like to use the images I've used in the tutorial, right click on each image and choose "Save Target As", "Save Image As"...whatever choice your right click menu gives you. Save them to a folder that you'll remember.

Right click to save image to your hard drive Right click to save to your hard drive

Open both the background image and the mask image in PSP.

  • Minimize the black and white mask image so that its out of your way.
  • Activate the background image by clicking on its title bar and go Shift+D to make a copy of it, then close the original so that you still have your original image for another time. We'll be working on this copy of the background image for the rest of the tutorial.

We need to promote our background to a layer so that we can apply a mask to it.

Open the Layer Palette if it isn't already open. (press F8). Double click on the layer name - "Background".
NOTE: PSP may give you a warning about converting the target to a full layer. Just click the OK button.
The Layer Properties dialog box will open. The default new name will be "Raster 1". Change that to "background layer" and click the "OK" button.


Click on the "New Layer" icon. When the Layer Properties dialog box comes up, change the name of this layer to "lower layer"


Arrange your layers so that "background layer" is above "lower layer". You can do this by dragging one layer above/below the other in the Layer Palette, or by highlighting one of the layers and then going Layers > Arrange > Move Up/Down


Click on the Foreground and Stroke Color Swatch to bring up the Material Palette dialog box. Move your cursor over your image (it will turn into an eyedropper ) and choose a color from the background that will compliment the overall image. I chose a medium blue from my image. Click on the color and it appears in the Foreground and Stroke Color Swatch.

It doesn't matter what color is in the Background and Fill Color Swatch.


Be sure that "lower layer" is the active layer (if it's not, click on the layer name to activate it) and then click the Flood Fill tool to activate it. Click one time on your image to flood fill the "lower layer" with the color you chose. You won't see anything change. That's ok.   :)

To see the effect of your floodfill: Click the eye on "background layer" to hide that layer from view. The eye will have a red X across it to show you that the layer is hidden. (PSPX has a little "no" sign instead of an X )
Now you'll see the layer that you just flood filled.


Duplicate "background layer" by right clicking on its name and choosing "Duplicate" from the drop down menu.


Hide the original "background layer" by clicking on the eye beside the layer name as mentioned in step 6.

Now we'll apply the mask.

  • Activate "Copy of background layer" by clicking on the layer name.
  • Go Layers > New Mask Layer > From Image and scroll to the mask image (if you're using mine it should be called tut-mask.jpg unless you changed the name when you saved it). Make sure "Source luminance" is checked and put a tic in the "Invert mask data" box, then click the "OK" button.

You should see something like this now... should see this
If you see something like this instead, don't panic... Just go Layers > Invert Mask/Adjustment or press Shift+K and you'll be all set. don't want to see this


IMPORTANT! Now we need to delete the mask so that we can apply some effects to the masked layer. Go Layers > Merge > Merge Group.


Your masked text is completed but it doesn't stand out very well so let's fix that...

With the "Copy of background layer" layer still active, apply a drop shadow. Effects > 3D Effects > Drop Shadow. I used the following settings:

  • Offset:
    • Vertical = 1
    • Horizontal = 1
  • Attributes:
    • Opacity = 100
    • Blur = 2
    • Color = Black
You should have something like this now

To complete our image, click on "background layer" to make it visible (and the active layer). Let's lower the opacity of the layer so that the letters stand out a bit more.

That's it! Easy eh? If there is the slightest chance that you may want to make changes to this image in the future, save a copy (with layers intact) in psp format now. Then you can merge the layers (doesn't matter if you Merge Visible or Merge All), optimize/resize for the web if necessary, add a frame and save to send to the group or post to your website.

If you enjoyed this tutorial I'd love to hear from you. If you need help with anything here or if the steps aren't clear, please let me know and I'll try to explain it better.

Make a mask | Masking edges | Gradient Mask

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