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Newbie Notes: Clipping Mask in GIMP

November 10, 2010

Lilcajunett asked me about using masks in GIMP. There are quite a few YouTube tutorials on various aspects of using masks in GIMP, from making a Vignette to using a Gradient mask. Just go to YT and type in “GIMP mask” and find one you might like to master. What I couldn’t find – and would use the most myself – is a tutorial on how to use a clipping mask. Eventually I came up with this “work-around”. There may be a better way to do this. If you know of one, do please let me know!

You can use a clipping mask to attach a scrapbooking paper, a photograph or any other image to a frame or a shape, or to fill text. It’s a very useful technique, and allows you to make your own matching elements for LOs. I have packaged up the screenshots below into a folder which you can download. It might make the tutorial easier to follow. I’m hoping the following will be helpful, Lilcajunett πŸ™‚

1:Β  Fire up the GIMP and open the shape you want to use as a clipping mask.

2: Open the paper/photograph/image you want to attach.

Here I have used one of the papers from my latest kit, “Panache”.

3: Bring your shape above the paper so you can see what you are doing.

Choose the Fuzzy Select tool but make sure you have all the correct boxes ticked.

If these boxes are not visible, you may have your Brushes Dialog tab selected.

If so, click on the Tool Options tab. (in the centre of the toolbox panel)

Click the Fuzzy Select tool on the outside of the shape.

This is the part you want to remove.


I redid this a few times to check the details…

If you tick the box “Sample merged”, make sure you turn off the visibility of the paper layer,

which is what I did the first time around.


4: With the marching ants active, select your paper layer.

NB: Now is the time to make sure you are happy with the positioning.

Move paper/photo/image around until the best part is within the shape.

5: As in the picture above, choose Layer-Transparency-Add Alpha Channel.

You need to do this step because if you just press Delete at this stage,

you will end up with a white border around your new element.

6: With your paper layer selected, and the marching ants still marching, press delete now.

7: Select-None to turn off the ants. Turn off the shape layer.

Save your new element as a png.

Job done!

Another sample of what you can do with an interesting mask and a fabulous photo!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. lilcajunett permalink
    November 11, 2010 2:42 pm

    Juno, You are loved so much! thank you , thank you , thank you . just what I wanted to know! Been racking my brains till they can’t funtion no more, And this may sound funny to those who know all this photoshop stuff but I’m a beginner that would love to learn all this stuff but don’t havealot of time to sit and learn. Yeah Juno, You’ve become my Juno. Lot’s of Love and appreciation sent your way!

    • November 11, 2010 2:59 pm

      *lilcajunett: Now, that’s what I call a “knock-your-socks-off” comment! *picture me laughing and clutching my heart*
      I’m delighted it’s what you wanted to figure out.
      And listen – we are all learning…
      Even the Photoshop guru at the seminars I did earlier this year learned a couple of things from the audience!
      So have fun with your new technique. If you like, send me what you design with it πŸ™‚

  2. jayleigh permalink
    November 11, 2010 3:37 pm

    Juno! i use CS3, but i want to teach my DDIL to digi-scrap, and she can’t afford to purchase Adobe. i downloaded the free Gimp to try to learn it myself so i could teach her when i go at Christmas. But, there are things i couldn’t figure out. The main thing for me is that i couldn’t figure out how to put my canvas on the space and still be able to drag the elements and papers to the outer edge as i do in PS.

    Also, i couldn’t figure out how to apply drop shadows, etc. It looks remarkably like PS-CS, but i just couldn’t figure out how to arrange the desktop the way i like to use it in PS. Can you help me with that?

    Thanks for the freebies! i love the vintage stuff cuz i’m old!

    • November 11, 2010 4:45 pm

      *jayleigh: I might be able to help you with some of those queries. It’s lovely that you are teaching your DDIL to digiscrap.
      Check back over the next few days – I will post as soon as I can πŸ™‚

  3. November 11, 2010 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in CBH Digital Scrapbooking Freebies, under the Page 7 post on Nov. 11, 2010. Thanks again.

  4. Jenny permalink
    November 30, 2010 8:04 pm

    just wanted to say I think it’s AWESOME that you use gimp or just make gimp tutorials! I use that I refuse to use photoshop, and it’s always refreshing to see someone acknowledge Gimp as a editing tool!

    • November 30, 2010 10:17 pm

      *Jenny: Thanks! I think GIMP deserves more recognition and I love the open source philosophy.
      I will be adding GIMP Paint Studio to my own version soon on the advice of lilcajunett, one of my lovely commenters. I’ve had a brief look at what it can do and I’m looking forward to playing with it and reporting back πŸ™‚

  5. PBandJ permalink
    January 10, 2013 2:42 pm

    This is not a clipping mask, it’s a transparency mask, though they are similar, they serve a very different purpose. A transparency mask is the equivalent of an applied layer mask. In other words the transparency information is premultiplied into the pixel vs storing it in a separate mask channel specific to that layer. Thus any image information outside of an applied mask is lost. PNG’s store their transparency data this way; however, that is beside the point. A clipping mask is using the transparency mask or layer mask of one layer to non destructively composite a layer above the current layer into the existing layer using it’s mask.

    For a transparency mask such as we have here it would first de-premultiply the alpha (this can get tricky if the premultiplied color is anything other than black), but once the multiplied color is removed the upper layer is then merged with the lower layer, and the the mask of the lower layer is is reapplied to the combined image. This prevents the stacked layers from suffering from premultiplied artifacting.

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