Photoshop: Clipping mask to a Layer group?

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Just one of those things that i've always thought could come in REALLY handy. I have no idea how the actuality of this function would work due to all the possible complexities of the contents within a layer group... but wow, i often think i'd love to clip some adjustment layers to a Layer Group. I am aware of the Pass through to Normal feature but it doesn't really cut it.
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joshua withers

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Marc Edwards

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You can add a clipping mask (either bitmap or vector) to a group. Is that what you're after? Or am I missing something?
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David Jensen

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He is referring to how you can set a layer to only effect the layer below it by alt-clicking between the layers.
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Marc Edwards

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I'm still lost on what's being asked.

It's possible to group an adjustment layer to the layer below (using "Create Clipping Mask"), so I'm guessing something else is being asked?
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joshua withers

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Try creating a clipping mask to an entire group of layers. you can't do it. Yes, you can do it to one layer below, and add more clipping layers as necessary. But if the layers are in a set/folder/group, it would be amazing to clip an adj layer to the entire folder. I do LOTS of heavy compositing in photoshop. I work on the app about 8 hours a day, 5+ days a week. I've often wished for this feature.
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big rick

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the request is to take a group that is above a layer, alt+click between the two, and make the group what is being clipped by the layer below. 

the group resides within the single layer of pixel data below OR a group is nested into another group. 
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joshua withers

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Yes David. Thanks for clearing that up. It is labeled as 'Create Clipping Mask' under the layers menu.
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Marc Edwards

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Joshua and David: I'm still not sure what you're after. Here's a screenshot of Photoshop CS5 with a bitmap and vector mask on a group. This isn't what you want?

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PECourtejoie, Champion

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What you are showing, Marc are Layer Masks and Vector Masks.
Clipping masks are useful (for instance) to apply an image/texture on a text layer: set your text layer, place a layer with an image/texture on top then alt+Click between them. (Now, I'm sure you know about that feature, you just made a request regarding them...)
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/photoshop...

Joshua: in the meantime, convert your group to a smart object, and you'll be able to clip it.
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Marc Edwards

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Yeah, I use that all the time, too. I'm still not exactly sure what Joshua is after and why it can't be done using a combination of clipping masks, masks and/or groups (folders). Maybe I won't be able to help, but if there's a specific scenario, maybe there's a good way to do things already.
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joshua withers

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No Marc... are you aware of what clipping masks are?
They are layers that are 'clipped' to a layer beneath it. The layers that are 'clipped' only reveal their contents based on the visible contents of the layer they are clipped to.
I often complicate the matter by masking both the bottom layer and adding masks to the layers that are clipped to it.
It would be great to have a set/group/folder, and be able to clip to only the visible contents of the folder.
It is probably too complex for programming sake... but again, every day or so i run into a situation where i say 'i wish that clipping to a group was possible' ...

This is a screen shot of what a 'clipped' adjustment layer looks like.
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Marc Edwards

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I often complicate the matter by masking both the bottom layer and adding masks to the layers that are clipped to it.


Yep, I do that too.

It would be great to have a set/group/folder, and be able to clip to only the visible contents of the folder.


This is where you lose me. Why can't you have a group (folder) and use a clipping mask inside the folder? What are you trying to achieve that can't be done with a combination of groups (folders), clipping masks and masks?

I think I get what you're after now—having layers clipped to a group (folder), but I can't think of a case where the result couldn't be obtained using other methods. Also, it might create UI confusion if a layer was indented above a folder?

It seems like this is what you want:


Which could be done now like this (and probably other, better ways?):
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Edward

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Marc, although it is possible to do what Joshua wants in a different way, it would be easier if he could add clipping masks to a folder.

With your solution, if you alter the shape inside, then you have to alter the mask too - that's why clipping masks are so much better (which I'm sure you know)

In addition, I'd also like to see the ability to make a folder into a clipping mask.
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joshua withers

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I just added a new comment pertaining to this at the bottom of this thread... with a screen shot.
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joshua withers

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OK.. check this out. I have a group for each component of this image. one for the background, one for the car, and another for the light streaks. The car is made up of SEVERAL layers that are masked and clipped.
It would be great if i could clip the layer titled 'Curve 6' to the entire group called 'Car'.
This way, whatever is visible in that group will be lightened leaving the rest of the image untouched.

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Marc Edwards

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Fair enough. I don't know how that could be handled UI-wise though. I still think it's pretty easy to mask the group (folder) and then you can place whatever adjustment layers inside the folder you'd like. That does suck if you move elements around and you have to remake the mask from the various parts. Still, gets the job done.

How would the layers palette look with a clipped group (folder)?
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Scott Mahn

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I'm with ya.

I'd similarly like to be able to clip a folder to a layer (folder above layer).
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joshua withers

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I'd like to clip a folder to a layer, and a layer to a folder.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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And why would changing the mode of the group to normal not be sufficient in this case? (I'm like Marc, trying to understand) And... Very nice composition!
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joshua withers

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I don't mean to be rude but i am using some advanced functions that most people don't understand or realize exist in Photoshop. To explain would be way too long and off topic.
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Marc Edwards

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I'm not sure that's a fair comment Joshua... there's probably quite a few people here who have been using Photoshop for quite some time and are aware of the advanced functions you're talking about.

PECourtejoie raises a good point. Why wouldn't Normal blending mode cut it in this situation?
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joshua withers

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Like i said, I didn't mean to be rude... But there is a difference between Normal and Pass Through. But that is off topic. if you are curious, look it up. I want to stay on the topic at hand which is clipping to a layer set and not write out a photoshop lesson on a layer set's blending modes.
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Marc Edwards

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I think it's very on-topic. Normal lets you apply adjustment layers to a group and only have it affect the group and not what's underneath. Isn't that exactly what you're after?
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joshua withers

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What if i want to clip a layer that isn't an adjustment layer? a layer of pixel data instead?
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Marc Edwards

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Add a mask to the group (folder)?

(I definitely like advanced compositing abilities, but can't think of a use case where what you're after could do something you can't already do.)
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Thanks for the vote of confidence, Marc. I didn't know how to answer without sounding arrogant or rude either ;)

Joshua, I think that the multiple "shortcomings" for Layer groups (no way to apply styles; no way to CTRL+Click them to create a mask of their pixel opacity [one of my pet peeves] ; or getting a thumbnail that shows the content of the group, since the arrow and bolding of the title are telltale enough for me; no way to Clip layers to them) have a reason...
I doubt that these requests have never been submitted before, and that there is a genuine reason why those features have never been implemented. That said, all of those "shortcomings" or missing features can be fulfilled by converting the layer group to a smart object. (If I may jest the following in good spirit: if that's advanced enough for you ;) )

For me, smart objecting becomes more and more common than grouping, with the added advantages that I outlined earlier.
I know it is difficult to change years of habits, but if you just consider SOs as Super Groups, you will have a hard time to come back.
(And yes, I know that they are not always perfect)
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joshua withers

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I don't mind using smart objects at all. Sometimes they make my file sizes unbearable though. I have to work on outdoor print resolutions so things get big. quick. Also, i have to share my files with people of all different skill levels and sometimes a SO REALLY confuses them.

Additionally, there is a SO bug that i have been working with an Adobe engineer on which keeps my SO usage low. When a mask is added to a SO, and multiple transform tool procedures have been performed, eventually the coordinates of the transform box become zeroed out to the top left corner of the image even though the SO is elsewhere on my document. It is VERY frustrating once it happens because once it happens, it stays like that. I can launch the image into CS4 and transform the SO as expected but it remains 'broken' in CS5.... again... getting off topic...
Marc, it is hard to explain all my different scenarios of working. Yes, i add masks to my folders, yes, i change the blending modes to 'normal'... but i can say that this is one of those things on my personal wish list. The next time i come across an example in my workflow (which might take a few weeks), i will post it.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Yes, I get you, Joshua, hence my remark that SOs are not perfect...

It would indeed be useful sometimes to have more layer-like functionalities for Groups (especially the CTRL+Click to get the selection, without having to use Option+Cmd+E to create a temporary copy), especially if one works with people that don't know how to deal with SOs. But I think that the way forward is SOs, therefore, I'm glad that you are trying to tackle down some of their bugs!
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joshua withers

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Here is a another idea. See the screen shot. It would be great if all the layers labeled R2 could be put in a folder and somehow remain 'clipped'.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Yes, I made a request for that: http://feedback.photoshop.com/photosh...
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Tom Auger

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Working on a recent web design, I realized that there's a real limitation right now with the way clipping groups work.

Rather than sinking your R&D money into 3D, which IMO really doesn't belong in PS (see this thread in forums: http://forums.adobe.com/message/36350..., there are a number of improvements to existing core features that seem like a natural evolution of the feature set in traditional directions.

Currently, clipping groups are one of the more powerful features for creating complex compound elements. Smart Objects are great, but lacking an Isolation Mode or edit-in-place, often end up not being the best for creative work (you can't see the context as you make changes, or not as easily). But clipping groups suffer from a couple of serious limitations that constrain the designer's ability to develop compound shapes that still retain the maximum amount of flexibility.

1. Clipping groups do not extend to layer groups. A layer group can take a mask, but cannot take FX, whereas a clipping base layer can take FX which then can be composited "through" its clipped layers. Think of making a complex web button: the clipping group's base layer is the fundamental "shape" of the button, but can also hold the bevel, the drop shadow, and whatever other effects you might want for rollovers, etc.

2. Clipping groups do not nest. This is particularly useful when creating a compound shape, but also needing to leverage an adjustment layer that needs to be constrained to a particular layer. This issue could be addressed if clipping groups can clip layer groups, but I believe that until you address the nested clipping issue, you will not be able to code issue #1, beacuse the current UI does not provide any way to prevent you from putting a clipping group inside a layer group, so if you then clip the layer group, you run into the nested clipping issue. So you'll have to deal with the logic at some point anyway.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Extended Clipping Groups.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Tom, I merged your topic with this similar request. Please break your multiple requests into individual "ideas." That will make it easier for the engineering team and user to vote on the individual aspects.
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Tom,

My understanding based on your description, feature requests would be the following:

1) Smart Objects - Direct In place "destructive" editing of the original file, without having to separately open the original

2) Ability to make layer style type adjustments (fx) to a layer group as a whole

3) Create nested clipping mask layers which act upon each other, a nested clipping mask would clip other clipping masks in the same group above it? (I think the same thing can be accomplished currently with layer/group masking but feel free to elaborate)
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I'm not sure if this is useful but I was reading over this thread and had this feedback or a suggestion. By default a layer groups properties are set to Pass Through, if you wanted to limit adjustment layers to only act upon the layers within a group you select the group itself in the layer panel and change the Pass Through at the top to Normal, then any adjustment layers are limited to only affecting layers within that group rather than everything below it.

So in the car example, if you wanted the Curves adjustment layer to affect everything in that group you would put it at the top of the list within the Car group and change the group properties as described.

I'm not sure if that is what you meant, it doesn't require using masking, clipping or a knock out.
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The problem with this approach is it often requires the duplication of a pixel layer, and or mask, for insertion into the folder, with all the overhead and complexity that entails, when a clipped folder would be faster, "lighter" and often more readable in a layer stack.
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Sorry Scott, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. You can create a mask on a layer group that affects everything in that group?
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Scott Mahn

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David,

Remember, you were talking about creating a Group set to Normal.

Make three adjustment layers that strongly affect a pixel layer below. Then put the three into a group and set that Group's Blend Mode to Normal (instead of the default: Pass Through.) The adj layers will now have no effect on the pixel layer below, unless the pixel layer is placed within the group.

If you only want those three adj layers (in a group set to Normal) affecting part of a pixel image you'd thus need a pixel image inside the group, and one outside the group.

Preferable would be the 3 adj layers in a Group (with one mask on the Group) and the Group clipped to a single pixel layer. It's "lighter" in overhead and cleaner read, at least in some circumstances.

--

Edit: I suspect you will then suggest just returning the blend mode to pass through. But if the pixel layer you are trying to affect occupies only portion of your image the effect will continue beyond it. Or you may suggest to mask the group to the layer, but again, more overhead and cumbersome than just clipping the group to the pixel layer.
---

There are always workarounds. We find ways to do what needs to be done. I'm simply suggesting that if we could clip groups to layers, and layers to groups, our methods could be faster and simpler.
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Right on, Scott.
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Tom Auger

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Here's a good example of where Photoshop has current limitations in this regard. Consider a website deisgn: your document canvas is big (3000 px wide) but you want to design the bulk of the content area in a 960px wide design. You think it might be nice to have a dropshadow that separates the 960px content area from the rest of the background.

Best option: create a solid layer, with a 960px vector mask. Add a drop shadow to that layer. Now, make sure it is the base layer of a clipping group for all your content layers.

But website compositions quickly get quite complex. The minute I decide I want to create a graphical button that clips another image, this method doesn't work because you can't have nested clipping groups.

Websites are often divided into functional sections (header, content, sidebar, etc). A best practice is to organize these functional sections into folders (layer groups). Once again, the base clipping layer technique no longer works because you can't clip a layer group.

Someone might then suggest changing one's approach: why not just put all your content area into a Layer Group and then add a mask to that group? Well, then your layer effects on the background no longer work, since a layer group can't take F/X.

So the only solution becomes duplication, and this is precisely what those of us who are asking for this feature are looking to avoid. Everyone knows that the moment you have to duplicate something and keep the copies synchronized, you're creating the opportunities for error to creep into your work. You're also adding hidden complexity to the document that another designer who needs to maintain your file may not clue into.

What happens if you need to adjust the width? Now you need to adjust the mask in two or more separate layers, and those masks must be identical. Not only are we now going through the rigamarole of copying a mask to other layers every time we make a change, we also lose the ability to play those "what if?" games that Photoshop is so good at. By "what if games" I mean: making a single change and seeing if that looks better, and toggling (CTRL+Z) between the change and the previous version to see whether you like it.

Are there workarounds to any of these objections? Of course there are and we Photoshop pros have been using them and developing them for years. But I'm under the impression that this forum is for product improvement suggestions (because you've taken down that thread from the forums.adobe.com), so this thread is not about "how can achieve this?" It's about: "hey Adobe, love your product. Since you asked me for my improvement requests, here's one, based on 40 hours a week for 15 years with your software. While you're out there spending thousands of man-hours developing 3D functionality and other non-essential, non-Photoshop stuff for the next release, can you look at making these small improvements that will make my daily workflow just a little bit nicer?"
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Thanks for the feedback and examples of ideas for future improvements guys. I wasn't disagreeing with anyone, just ensuring existing functionality wasn't being overlooked.
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Tom Auger

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Not to detract from our thread - I agree completely that clipping groups need to be nestable and interact properly with other groups; however I believe what you are trying to do can be accomplished by putting an adjustment layer as the top layer INSIDE your group. Now I haven't verified this so I may be full of crap - but I believe that the adjustment layer ought to be constrained by the group to not affect anything outside the group's scope.

If I'm wrong then that's a huge oversight and ought to be addressed.
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Tom,

Yes, you're right it does work... I was definitely doing something wrong with the group.
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Tom Auger

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Doesn't address the clipping issue, but at least f/x are now allowed on Layer Groups in PS13
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Official Response
You can now apply a clipping mask to a group in Photoshop CS6 Beta:

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Jonas M. Rogne

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...and in the full version as well. Nice! :)

Nesting clipping masks is next then? ;)
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I was at first doubtful about this request, but I'm now wishing the opposite: be able to group layers clipped in a clipping mask!

see: http://feedback.photoshop.com/photosh...