Ask Kate

Clipping Mask Basics

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

I’ve received a few emails about how I created shapes around images of products featured in the Holiday Gift Guide and in some subsequent posts since then. The answer is by use of a basic process of layering shapes and images with the clipping mask option found in Photoshop Elements. (For those that don’t have this software, Adobe is having a sale, you can purchase it for $70 before Dec 28th.)

This doesn’t take any advanced skills just a basic familiarity with the tools in Photoshop Elements. Follow these seven steps and you’ll be on your way to framing any image inside a shape of your choice or creating patterned or textured lettering. Both are helpful for blogging or scrapbooking or card making, or simply for having fun with photo editing or getting creative with fonts.

clipping mask basics

For demonstration, I’ll use this pretty Cambria Dinnerware image from Pottery Barn. Open the image you wish to frame inside a shape in Photoshop Elements.

open image in pe


1) Double click on the image thumbnail that is visible in the sidebar Layers window to unlock it (it’s automatically named “Background” by PE). Rename it anything, I usually use the default name of “Layer 0″

change background to layer 0

2) Select the Shapes tool and pick whatever shape you want to use to frame your image, from an ellipse to rounded rectangle to hexagon. In this example I’ll use the ellipse (or oval).

select shapes tool


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Holiday Party Tips!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

We’re getting ready to invite a ton of people to our home this month to celebrate the season at our annual Christmas Party and we’ve been doing it for over ten years. A few of you sent me some emails about how we do it, so I thought I’d share some tips.

We’ve come up with a few tricks for making it flow smoothly, and not come across as too fussy, just a lot of people having a lot of fun. We host our party every year the Saturday before Christmas and it’s a big party with 100 people invited and we usually get a big turnout so we prepare for a crowd. 

In the past we’ve started with an icebreaker game, this was before everyone knew everyone like they do now, but it’s a great idea if you’re mixing a lot of people that don’t know each other, we call it the Guess Me Game and we stick the name of a character on people’s backs, they have to ask yes or no questions of other guests to figure it out and it always gets guests talking!

For more game ideas, Apartment Therapy published a list of great party games today.

guess me holiday party game


Sometimes we assign someone the role of greeter (my dad is so good at it) but I’ve also used a sign on the door inviting people to come in on their own since it gets loud and it’s hard to hear the doorbell! I set up a collapsible garment rack (like this one) in my office for coats and purses so they can enter on their own and join in the merriment.  

sign on door

We learned the hard way to have kids remove shoes – we ended up with horribly muddy carpet one year so we ask just the kids not the grown ups to remove their shoes and magically it calms them down too. We play a movie for them and hand out candy canes, it keeps them happy while parents socialize.      

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