Lettering technique with a Mask

Click on thumbnail to see larger image
Click thumbnail above to see larger image.

We'll be working with Masks, Layers, and the Fill Tool. This tutorial is at the intermediate level and was written for PSP 7, but you should be able to work through it in older versions as long as you know your way around. This tutorial for PSP 8 or 9 can be found 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 driveRight 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.

Open the Layer Palette if it isn't already open. (press the letter L on your keyboard). Right click on the background and choose "Convert to Layer". The name will change to "Layer1".

Now double click on "Layer 1" to bring up the Layer Properties dialog box and change the name to "background layer".

Promoting to layer causes the layer name to change to Layer1

background layer

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

New Layer icon

Rename the 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

lower layer moved to bottom of stack

Activate the Eyedropper tool eyedropper tool and choose a color from your background that will compliment the overall image. I chose a medium blue from my image.

Choose a color with the eye dropper

Be sure that "lower layer" is the active layer (if its not, click on the layer name to select it) and then click the Flood Fill tool 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 glasses hide the layer on "background layer" to hide that layer from view. The glasses will have a red X across them to show you that the layer is now hidden. Now you'll see the layer that you just flood filled.

Hide background layer to see the flood fill on lower layer

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

Duplicate the background layer

Hide "background layer" by clicking on the glasses hide the layer 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 Masks > New > 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)
Add mask from image
You should see something like this now... should see this
If you see something like this instead, don't panic... Just go Masks > Invert and you'll be all set. don't want to see this

Important! Now we need to delete the mask. Go Masks > Delete. Answer Yes when you're asked "Would you like this mask merged into the current layer?".


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. 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.

lower the opacity of background layer

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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