Stenciling with the Type Mask Tool

with 22 Comments

Nannette Dalton picWe have such powerful tools available to us in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, but we don’t always use them. Either we don’t know they are there, or we are not sure what to do with them.

One tool I do not use very often is the Horizontal and Vertical Type Mask tool. It is, however, a powerful tool and a great resource for us in digital scrapbooking.

Using the Type Mask tool in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements allows the combination of type and image. The Type Mask tool doesn’t create a new layer. Instead, it creates a selection on the active layer. You could use this tool for filling text with an image or cutting text out of an image so that the background shows through.

Today we are going to use it to cut out an image, making it look like we used a stencil. It is a popular look right now and it is really easy to do.


Step One: Prepare Your Workspace

  • Open an existing scrapbook page (File > Open).
  • Choose and open an element (File > Open) that would work good for this technique, like a paper strip or journaling block. I will refer to this as the paper strip layer.
  • Get the Move tool. Click on the paper strip and drag it onto your scrapbook page.
  • Add a low drop shadow to the paper strip.

Note: I created a brown paper pennant using Lisa Hanks’ Tutorial, Pennant Ribbon. Here are the settings I used for my shadow: Size 20px, Distance 10px, Opacity 75%.


  • In the Layers panel, make sure that the paper strip is the active layer.

Note: This tutorial will not work on a layer that is a Smart Object or vector layer. It will need to be Simplified or Rasterized. To do that, use the Menu Bar to simplify the layer before you proceed (Layer > Simplify Layer). (Photoshop: Layer > Rasterize > Shape.)

Step Two: Size and Format the Type

Photoshop Elements 11:

  • Get the Type tool.
  • In the Tool Options, click on the Horizontal Type Mask tool icon. Choose a Font and Size, and also choose Left Justified. I have chosen Stencil Std for my font at 72pts.

  • Click on your document and type a word. A red mask should appear over the entire document.

  • At this point you can highlight your type and change the size and font in the usual way.
  • To reposition the type, click and drag outside of the type while it is still red.
  • Click on the check mark to accept the type.

Photoshop and older versions of Elements:

  • Get the Horizontal Type Mask tool. It is nested with the Type tool.
  • In the Options Bar, choose a Font and Size, and also choose Left Justified. I have chosen Stencil Std for my font at 72pts.

  • Click on your document and type a word. A red mask should appear over the entire document. (See above)
  • At this point you can highlight your type and change the size and font in the usual way.
  • To reposition the type, drag outside of the type while it is still red.
  • Click on the check mark to accept the type.

Step Three: Move the Active Selection

  • With the selection still active, get the Move tool.
  • Click and drag from inside the selection outline to “cut” your stencil out and move it to a new place. (See below.)

  • Press Ctrl D (Mac: Cmd D) to deselect.

If you do not want to keep both the negative and positive portions of your stencil, just press the Backspace key (Mac: Delete key) with the selection active instead of moving it. That will delete the type you’ve cut out.

There you go. I hope this has helped you to understand how the Horizontal Type Mask tool works and what it can be used for. Play around with it a bit and show us what you have done in the Digi Scrap Tutorial gallery at Digital Scrapper!

Digi Scrap Tutorial Stenciling With the Type Mask Tool by Nannette Dalton
Inspired by Home Sweet Home
tutorial by Christina Rambo (requires free Plus Membership to view)
Kits: Family Together by Lauren Grier
Flower: Vagabond by One Little Bird, available in the 2011 Costco CD goodies included with Photoshop Elements 11.
Fonts: Combustion, Stencil STD Bold
Layout “Home” by Nannette Dalton
Software: Photoshop Elements 11 and PS5

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

22 Responses

  1. Mungo
    | Reply

    What a super tool, thank you so much for the lesson

  2. Deb M
    | Reply

    What a cool tip! I never even knew that tool was there:) Thank you!!

  3. Virginia Rothery
    | Reply

    Great tutorial!

  4. Anna Ely
    | Reply

    Cool tip! I’ve used the Type Mask tool…and deleted the inside, but have never just moved it. Thanks!!

  5. Jo
    | Reply

    Wow! This is a cool, new tool to me. Love your tutorials. Thanks so much.

  6. Lana Fischer
    | Reply

    This was a great tutorial…very easy to follow and understand! I was just wondering if there was a way to unattach the printed type you cut out and save it separately from the other so you could have two different saved versions? I love the way you showed too…just wondering for future reference. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      Lana, That is a great question. Here is how I would do it. Make sure you are on the Stencil layer. Get the rectangular Marquee tool, click and draw a selection outline around the cut out part of the stencil. In the Menu bar, choose Layer > New> Layer via Cut.
      That should put each section on a different layer.

      • Lana Fischer
        | Reply

        Thanks so much Nannette…I am going to go try that right now. I am very new to Photoshop Elements and digital scrapbooking. These tutorials are just what I need! Thanks again!!

  7. sonja maples
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for this tutorial, Nannette. I can not wait to try it…

  8. Shirley Kimbrough
    | Reply

    It is truly a joy to receive and utilize this wonderful layout-enhancing tutorial. Thank you for your fine directions and lovely visuals. I really love this one and can’t wait to try it. Hugs. 😉

  9. dorisedgar
    | Reply

    I am finally starting to learn how to use PSE I have 7,8,10 & 11 Taking the class learn digital scrapbooking. I have learned so much and I am looking forward to trying this it sounds sorta easy ,

    thanks ever so much for all your lessons this one and past ones.


    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      Good for you! It is so fun when it clicks in. Looking forward to seeing your layouts in the gallery.

  10. Vivian
    | Reply

    Cool tip. I tried it out right away. Works like a charm and is so neat looking. Thank you for sharing this one.

  11. Renee
    | Reply

    Super fun! I opened PSE and followed along right away. Your tutorial is very easy to follow. Thanks Nanette 🙂 Also thanks for the tip on putting them on seprate layers.
    I was thiking that this should work with dingbats too and what fun that could be!

    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      Renee, Great idea! P.S. I want to see your layout.

  12. Mary Ann Kiger
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for the great tutorial, I was able to use to enhance a page that just “needed” something to finish it. After moving the type down I left it with the marching ants and then just hit Ctrl J which placed it on a new layer then I erased it from the original layer. I will have to try your tip next time to put the text on it’s own layer.

  13. dj hixson
    | Reply

    sorry,but “to reposition the type,drag outside of the type while it is still red” confuses me

    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      Not sure how to help you. When you are using the mask it will turn your page red, while it is still red don’t click on the type, but click on any other part of red mask and you will be able to move your type around.

  14. Sharron
    | Reply

    Thanks – great tutorial!

  15. Su Hall
    | Reply

    Well, that is spiffy! LOL What an awesome effect. Thank you!


  16. Janet Trapp
    | Reply

    I am not seeing the full lesson. Where did it go it looks really cool to learn! ;(

  17. Nannette
    | Reply

    Hi Janet,
    Sorry for the confusion.
    Our Digi Scrap Tutorials are only available to view if you are logged in at If you receive our newsletter, then you are already a FREE “Digital Scrapper Plus Member” and all you have to do is login the to site.
    If you do not receive our newsletter, signing up is fast and easy. Here is the webpage of the current newsletter and a place to sign up:
    Also, only the six most recent Digi Scrap Tutorials are available to Plus Members. The entire archive is only available to Premier Members. You can find out more about that here:
    Let us know if you have any other questions

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