How to Combine Letters and Pictures in Photoshop

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. I suppose a picture combined with words is worth even more, and we can use it to tell a story… In this tutorial, we’ll combine letters with pictures, and the finished product may be used however we want — in a background, web page banner, or scrapbook just for fun.

Gyrose Shift BRK font used in clipping mask
Background used for clipping mask in Photoshop

Photoshop’s clipping mask does the job, and does it fast. You can take any picture, maybe one from your favorite childhood memory, and incorporate it into your text.  The clipping mask clips away (or hides) areas you don’t want people to see, and reveals areas you want them to see.

In addition, you can use any font and size. I prefer wider fonts with large letters that accentuate my text’s background. The text’s color doesn’t matter here since its background will eventually change.

Although we’re working from the main photograph in this tutorial, you can insert the photograph into another document as well, and customize the letters there.


Step 1: Open the image you want to use as a background in Photoshop.

Step 2: Go to the Layers panel (press the “F7″ key to open the panel if it’s closed).

Step 3: As a side note, when you open the file, Photoshop may lock the background layer (lowest layer) containing the image.

Check if the layer containing the picture is locked and if it’s on the background layer. If so, there will be a padlock to the right of the background layer, as shown in the diagram below:

Padlock displays in Photoshop when layer is locked.

To unlock the layer, double-click it in the Layers panel.  Click “OK” in the New Layer dialog box that opens, and the layer will unlock for you.

Before clipping mask is applied

Now, if the image you’re working with is a GIF, the previous method won’t work.  You’ll need to select the image (CTRL + A), copy it (CTRL + C) and paste (CTRL + V) the image to a new or different document instead.

Step 4: Select the Text tool in the toolbox or press (T) to activate it, then select a font and size from the Text options bar.

Step 5: Click anywhere on the canvas and type the text you’d like to customize.  The text is automatically added to a separate layer.

Step 6: Return to the Layers panel and drag the the layer containing the photograph above the layer containing your text. The text will be completely covered by the top layer.

Move layer you want to use as the background directly above the other layer before applying the clipping mask.

Step 7: With the layer containing your photograph still highlighted, select “Layer” and “Create Clipping Mask” from the menu. If all goes well, the background of your text will be replaced with your picture, similar to the image below:

Letter combined with picture after clipping mask is applied.
By the way, if you’d rather display a different part of the image in the background, you can move the background to your liking. Simply select the “Move” tool and use your keyboard arrows to reposition the photograph. In addition, you can style your text as you would any other text in Photoshop, adding a stroke to it, etc.
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2 Responses to How to Combine Letters and Pictures in Photoshop

  1. Adrienne says:

    Hey Allyson,

    I LOVE the new theme… It’s so colorful and pretty. What a wonderful change.

    So I’m not a Photoshop user. I used Elements for a short time but then my computer crashed and I didn’t have that program any longer.

    Do you know how to use Pixlr or Gimp? Would love some tutorials with those programs. I know, cheaper models sorry! If I did enough with graphics to warrant spending the money on Photoshop I certainly would.

    Great info though so thanks for sharing.

    Enjoy your day and welcome back!


    P.S. I put my information in to comment and immediately received an error message telling me I hadn’t put in the right information to access the admin panel. Just thought you’d want to know.

    • allyson says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Adrienne! It’s good to see you. Ah, yes, I certainly understand not being much into Photoshop. It’s a great program if you do a lot of professional graphic work, but it’s on the pricey end, especially if you’re only doing basic image editing.

      Sorry about losing Elements when your computer crashed. (I’ve been there before, and it’s never fun.) I remember you mentioning that you use Elements rather than Photoshop.

      Great idea about adding some tutorials on Pixlr or Gimp. I’ve done only one tutorial, I believe on using Pixlr. It’s a nice program, and I love that it’s free too. I don’t have anything on Gimp though. I’ll have to keep that in mind for a future tutorial. Thanks for that!! Certainly helps to know what others are using.

      And thanks for letting me know about the admin issue. I wouldn’t have known otherwise, at least for a while. I’ll have to fix that!

      I appreciate your comment and advice.

      Have a wonderful evening, and take care.


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