How to Create Templates in Photoshop CS3

How to Create Templates in Photoshop CS3

Here’s a little tutorial on how to create card or collage templates using clipping masks in Photoshop CS3. Clipping masks are wonderful tools. Basically what they do is make a layer take on the shape of the one below it. So if you create a shape on one layer and then place an image on the layer above it and put a clipping mask on the image layer, the image will suddenly only show within the constraints of the shape! Then you can use the Transform tool (CTRL-T or Edit>Transform>Scale) to resize the image, effectively cropping it to fit the way you want it within that shape you created. It’s very cool


So here’s how you do it:

  1. Create a new document, preferably using one of my actions that include ¼” bleed guides. If not, manually add a ¼” guide on all 4 sides (View>New Guides) You need to keep that bleed area in mind when designing so that your elements don’t accidentally get cropped out when the card goes to the lab or the printers. A 1/4″ bleed is usually plenty of room. Just make sure your elements don’t fall outside of those guides. If you use my actions, you may need to rotate your image if you want it horizontal.
  2. Fill your background with the desired color.
  3. Add any textures or whatever you’d like to the background or on a new layer above the background. Here, I’m just leaving it plain for simplicity.
  4. Create a new layer to add the shape you want your image’s frame to be.
  5. Use the shape tool or pen tool to create your shape. Here, I’m going to use the custom shape tool, being sure to have the “fill pixels” box selected in the custom shape tool dialog. It doesn’t really matter what color I use to fill it since it will be covered by my inserted image.
  6. If you’d like to make a frame around your image, use the magic wand to select the shape, then create a new layer, and make a stroke (Edit>Stroke) around your shape. The reason you need to put this on a separate layer is so that the image will go underneath it. If you were to place it on the same layer as the shape, the image would cover the frame.

To keep the outside edges crisp, choose the stroke to be done inside. For rounded edges, choose outside. For the middle of the road with slightly rounded edges inside and out, choose center.

  1. Next, create a new layer to do whatever text and effects you want on there. At this point, once you get your layout adjusted the way you want it, you can add layer styles like drop shadows and strokes to your text layers and the shape layer too.
  2. Let’s do a quick “clean up” of our layers palette and group our layers according to what they do. Click the Shape layer, hold the CTRL key down and then click on the Stroke layer. This will select both. Now go to Layers>Create Group. This places those 2 layers in a new grouped folder. Rename this folder with what it contains like “Shape 1 & Stroke”. Do the same thing with the remaining layers, grouping them together logically and then renaming the group folders accordingly. Click on the little arrows next to the group folders to open or close them as you need to see the layers inside.
  3. Now we’re going to create the layer to insert your image. Click on the shape layer then create a new layer. This will place your new empty layer directly above the shape. Be sure it’s located there.
  4. With the new empty layer selected (I’ve already renamed it here), create a clipping mask by going to Layers>Create Clipping Mask. You will notice now there is a little bent arrow next to your empty layer pointing to the shape layer. In that empty layer, you can use the text tool to place instructional text. The user should place their image layer between the instructional text layer and the shape layer. Their image layer will take on that clipping command and will then conform to the shape below. Once it’s placed, they can either delete or turn off the text layer.

If you make a mistake and accidentally put the clipping mask on the wrong layer, highlight that layer then go to Layers>Release Clipping Mask

  1. That’s it…you can add more shapes with images or text or decoration as you like. Here I added more shapes with images. I also went back and renamed the group folders to make it more intuitive for the users.

Now, if you want to make your templates just that much better, here are some tips that might be worth trying out.

  • Use quarter inch bleed guides to keep your important elements from possibly being chopped off during printing. Not all printers have this issue but it makes sense to do it anyway. The last thing you want is to order 200-holiday cards and the family’s name is chopped off because it was too close to the edge! Plus, a little visual room on the edges makes the viewer more comfortable anyway.
  • I really suggest learning to use a clipping mask so it’s easy to insert the photos AND it gives a nice ability to be able to resize the inserted photo there in the template rather than having to copy and paste an already resized one. This allows you to adjust it to taste both in size and rotation.
  • Name your layers with what they do! This is an important one and it makes it much easier if you want to change an element, turn off its visibility or move it around.
  • GROUP your layers by what they do. For instance, put all the elements in the border in one group, textures in another, etc. Make sure you collapse the groups before you save the file. It helps keep your layers palette more organized and helps you know where things are. The tutorial linked above covers how to do this.
  • Make an instructional text layer (visible or not ) in one of the photo areas with directions on how to insert the photo and/or with what fonts you’re using. This helps people search for the fonts they may need to download and install if they don’t already own them.
  • Design tip – Color adjustability – – if you want to make your templates REALLY versatile, put all your colorful elements, especially the background, stripes, dots, whatever, in their own grouping so that a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer can be added. This allows the user to change colors simply by moving the sliders. You can either leave each element separate so people can come up with their own color schemes or you can flatten it and then the whole look is changed with the adjustment instead of each individual element. Guess it just depends on how big the file can be since leaving each element in its own layer does make the file size bigger. But it can be really neat to be able to change a color for a client in order to make the sale!
  • Keep photographic layers separate and above graphic elements. At least above the elements that may need adjustment layers. That way any Hue/Sat color adjustments are only applied to the graphic elements and not your photos.
  • Use descriptive file names! Put your studio name or username in the front of the file name. This makes it so people remember who created it and they can thank you and maybe even come back with something for you in return. Descriptive file names are also a huge help. If I were to make one, I’d do something like “TwilaDavisReed-5x7GreenStripeYellowDotsTwinsAnnouncement.psd” Yes, it’s long but 99% of computers can handle the long filenames. Just don’t put spaces because online hosting can’t handle that. If you need a “space” use an_underscore.

I could go on, but this is enough to digest for now. So now go forth, have fun creating and sharing these wonderful templates