TUTORIAL: Cut Out Selection to Reveal Layer Below

Clicking any image will open it to view larger...

Today I will show you how to create an image that is basically "cut out" or deleted to reveal the layer below. Above you see several examples using one selection to reveal a variety of background layers below.

Don't panic...there are a lot of steps, but it is easy if you just follow along.

First...open the image you wish to use for your background...in this case, an abstract of bright pink.

Second...open a second image filled with white the same size as the background image.

Now that you have two images opened, set them side by side as you see above.

On the plain white background I have placed a paintbrush image. I used black, but notice that the image includes shades of gray as well. You can use whatever you would like to create a "selection". This selection will eventually be removed to reveal the background but the shape of the selection will remain intact.

Next we will create the selection. With this contrasting image it is fairly simple. Go to "Select" (1) ---> "Color Range" (2).

With the "Eye Dropper" tool click on the white area and the above dialog box pops up. You have now made a selection of all the white area in the image. What we really want is to choose the areas that are black and gray. To do this we will "inverse" the selection (you can do this by checking the "inverse" box in the same dialog box or if you have already clicked OK and completed the selection, just go to the next step.

Go back to "Select" (1) ----->"Inverse" (2). You should now have the "marching ants" (the animated dashed line) surrounding only the NON white areas of the image. This is your SELECTION.

Leave this selected. We will now prepare the backround image.

With the background image (pink abstract) active, you need to add a new layer. In the layers panel click the icon with the two small squares (Add New Layer). You will see a new layer in your layers panel...see it in a blue highlight above.

If it is not already filled with white, we will need to fill it.

To fill this new layer, go to "Edit" ---> "Fill". Make sure you still have this new layer highlighted in your layers palette.

When you click fill, a new dialog box will pop up. Your foreground and background color choices should look like the image above (1). Choose foreground (2) with the opacity set to 100% (3).
Your background image will now be covered with a solid white layer.

Next we want to move our "Selection" over to this new layer on the background image.

With your "Move" tool (1), simply drag your selection (2) from the first file onto the background image. The "marching ants" will disappear. We need that selection to be reloaded.

To reload the selection, go to "Selection" ---> "Load Selection". The "marching ants" (selection indicator) will re-appear.

When you moved the selection over to the background file, you added a new layer...see it highlighted above. With the selection moved, simply hit the "delete" button on your keyboard. All of the color from your selection will disappear and you will be left with only the "marching ants" that indicate the selection.

We're almost there...stay with me now!

In your layers palette, click on the background layer with the image you want to reveal. With this layer highlighted, hit CNTRL + J (CMD +J for Mac). This creates yet another layer, with only your selection and it's background revealed.

We will now save only the selection cut-out to reveal the background. Still using the layer we just created (1), you will want to turn off the visiblility of the other layers (2). You do this by clicking on the little "eyeball" icons on the layers you no longer wish to see. This leaves only your newly created image on a white background.

Next go to "Layers" (3) menu.

We are going to "Flatten Image" which will compress all these layers into a single layer. You will be prompted to "Discard Hidden Layers?"...press OK.

There you have it! You are left with a single image that reveals whatever background you have chosen. As you see in my first image, you can use any background you like. Remember, your selection can be anything. It does not have to be a paintbrush graphic. As long as you have the "marching ants" around something...it is a selection.

I hope that this is easy to follow. Please leave comments and questions if you need any further clarification. Now go create something!