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We can have a shape layer or a custom shape layer mask any kind of other layer. In this case, it's masking not just one photographic layer, but several. So here is a composition celebrating the Isle of Wight, a lovely island off the south coast of England and here's how it was created. I'm going to turn off the type and I'm going to turn off the shape layer that is masking all of the other photographic layers, and you'll see that they just instantly disappear as soon as I do that.
So I need to just unclip them from that shape, and what we see here is that I have four overlapping photographs. Using layer masks, I have blended these photographs together, so that we get this result. It looks a bit of a mess at the moment really, when we see it like this, out of context, but now when I mask these five layers to this one shape layer, this is how it turns out.
I'll turn the shape layer back on, and to create a clipping mask to that shape layer, if I hold down the Alt key and click on the lines that separate the layer from the layers beneath, and there is our result. Put the type on top of it, come and put a drop shadow around that clipping shape, and it works pretty well. So where did I get this shape from? Well, I certainly didn't draw it. I searched online and I found a vector outline map of the UK.
I copied and pasted that very small area that I needed and then when I pasted it-- do you Paste it as Pixels, Smart Object, Path, or--and this is how I pasted it-- I pasted it as a shape layer. So it comes in as a shape layer. I can now scale it like any other shape layer, and then I can clip all of my images to the Isle. If I unclip my images from the one that's already there, it doesn't really matter, that's all, what color the shape layer is.
We do need to size it down a bit further, so that it all fits on the canvas. So I'll size it down like so. I will unclip these. I'll drag my new version down to the bottom and then reclip it. There is the result and then I would just need to go and add the drop shadow to that. So a shape layer is not just derived from these basic shapes, nor derived from these custom shapes, but indeed, can be any piece of vector artwork that you can create in Illustrator or adapt in Illustrator and then paste into Photoshop as a shape layer.
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