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... Photoshop Tips & Tricks answers another reader's question from the Photoshop 911 Hotline...

Photoshop 911: Cutouts

Readers write:

From: Gail, in Japan... 
 > I have an image of fabric, and I wish to 
 > cut it out so my logo shows through  
 > so it looks like it is behind the fabric 
 > What I have to do?

What are Cutouts?

Since the reader requested Photoshop version 6 instructions using a Macintosh running OS 9.1, we are showing this tutorial in that configuration. The screens may look different from yours, but the technique is virtually exactly the same

A cutout is just what the name means -- you cut out a portion of the background (which becomes foreground) to reveal the image beneath. The subtle shadow reinforces the illusion of depth, and the edges of the cutout.

This technique is so simple, I'm surprised the reader didn't figure it out.

white logo

For our fabric today we've selected a nice piece of hand-marbled silk from the Solace studios. To that we added a symbol using the Text tool and a white Option/8 key in the Zapf Dingbats font. This gives us a white shape to cut out. All you really need is a solid image on a transparent layer. So, the reader's logo would simply be pasted there.

Layer Style MenuNext we simply select the "Inner Shadow" Layer Style from the cursive "f" button at the bottom of the Layers Palette. This results in the opening of the Layer Styles Dialog window for "Inner Shadows." People are too well familiar with the Drop Shadow or Outer Shadow dialogs, but the Inner Shadows is somewhat less travelled. This means we're going to put the shadow within the constrains of the image.

The Inner Shadow Dialog reveals a number of options that you can experiment with to render the look you desire.

We've set the angle to 124 so it appears the light source is in the upper left-hand corner, and set the Distance of the shadow to 5 pixels with a size of 6 pixels. You'll need to set your own sizes to get the look. Our diagram for today is only 200 pixels at 72 ppi, so our numbers will be small.

None of the other settings are of consequence, and you can leave them as defaults. If there were another texture or image behind our hole, then the Blending Modes and Contour curves would come into play. You can say "Okay" and return to your image.

finished cut-out

Now your layers palette reveals the Layer Style applied. Any time you wish to edit that style, just double-click on it to revive the Inner Shadow Dialog box.

The image is ready to print, or flatten and save for further operations.

Manual Cutouts

With Layer Styles, we have found it to be a valuable teaching tool to show what actually goes on behind the scenes. Those of us who used Photoshop up to version 4 without layer styles had to know how to do all the snazzy things Adobe has automated for us. However, it's still important to know what's going on.

In our Manual Cutout diagram, you'll see a slightly different layer configuration. Although the Layers Styles method above is easy, this is really almost as easy. (You'll want to keep that diagram open to refer to while we talk.)

#1 The Background: here we've simply filled a layer with a color. We used blue to reinforce the visual effect of "behind" or "beneath" since blue always recedes from the viewer's eye.

#2 The Fabric: Next, we dragged in the image of the fabric, and then deleted the shape of the symbol. (Logo) You should already know how to do that. If not, just paste the logo into a new layer, Click the Fabric layer to activate it and hit the delete key. (Then Cmd/D (Ctrl/D) to drop the selection.) At that point you can discard the logo layer, you're finished with it.

#3 Duplicate the Fabric: With a copy of our Fabric layer duplicated, we'll select the move tool (tap V) and tap the letter D to reset our palette colors to black foreground, then hit Option/Delete (Alt/Delete) to fill the object with Black. (Trick: did your entire layer turn black? Ha! You forgot to click the little "lock" button at the top to "Lock" the transparent pixels.)

Now we Blur our shadow using Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blue. Set the radius in the dialog to one that looks good and suits your needs, and say Okay.

Now, we'll just move that shadow down and to the right 5-pixels in each direction. I do this first hitting the V key to return to the Move Tool, and then using my keyboard cursor arrows 5-taps right and 5-taps down.

#4 Duplicate A Second Shadow: I see that the edge of my cut-out is not quite as dramatic as I would like it to be so, once again I drag a copy of the Fabric layer (#2) down onto the New Layer button to create another copy. This once again is filled with Black -- only this time it's not Blurred, but merely tapped down a pixel and to the right a pixel using the arrow keys again.

This renders an ever so thin sliver of black around the shadowed edge of the cut-out, and visually reinforces the effect that it is really cut out.

You can do the exact same steps in all later versions of Adobe Photoshop (from 5.5 forward), as well as Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 and 3. Sweet.

And folks, that's really all there is to it.
      Have fun.

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