PS Tutorial – Showing the “Bump” for the Hidden Part of a Paperclip

When using a paperclip in real life, you can see the shape of the hidden part of the clip as a bump or raised area on the top of the paper. Getting this effect with a digital paperclip element on a digital layout is very easy. The following picture shows the end result of the tutorial.

Paperclip with Bump Under Paper

NOTE:  I am using Photoshop CS 3 for this tip. I don’t know if Elements or other graphics programs have the features I will be using. I am using Katie Mann’s Alice kit for this example.

 

STEP 1 – ARRANGE ELEMENTS
Place your papers and elements. In the example, I have layered two papers and a tag, and set a paper clip to look like it will clip the tag to the top paper layer. At this point the paperclip should be the top layer in your layers palette. I have added a basic drop shadow to my layers.

Initial Arrangement of Elements

 

STEP 2 – SELECT HIDDEN PORTION

I am going to put the inner part of the paperclip (here shown in red) under the paper.

Red Covers the Part of the Paperclip to be Hidden

 

I will show two different ways to accomplish this selection. Option 1 is the most exact, and will work best if the color contrast in your paperclip element is not too great. Option 2 will work in any circumstance, but will work better than option 1 if your paperclip has high contrast highlights or colors.

Selection Option 1:
Click on the paperclip layer to make it active. Then hold Ctrl and click on the thumbnail of the green paper strip layer. At this point you will see marching ants around the green paper, showing that just the part of the clip that covers the green paper is selected. However, we only want to select the inner part of the clip. Press W to switch to the magic wand tool. Note that depending on what tool you used last, W may activate the Quick Selection tool; in that case, click on the tool in the Tools palette and hold for at least one second to bring up the tool picker sub menu, then choose the Magic Wand tool.

 

Magic Wand Tool Options

 

In the options bar set the tolerance to 99 and check the contiguous option (see red circles in above diagram for location of these options).

Now, holding Shift and Alt down, click on the inner metal part of the paperclip (you may need to zoom in to do this effectively). Holding Shift+Alt tells Photoshop to create a selection union, or in other words, to just select areas where the two selections overlap.

You should now see “marching ants” around the inner loop part of the paper clip, with a clean line at the edge of the paper (see below diagram to show what should be selected.)

Selection after using Magic Wand

 

If your selection is good, you can now skip to STEP 3. Otherwise, press Ctrl+D to deselect, and try Selection Option 2.

Selection Option 2:
We are going to make a loose selection using the polygonal lasso tool. The most important part is to get a clean edge where the clip crosses the paper. Press L to select the Polygonal Lasso tool. Depending on what tool you used last, L may activate a different lasso tool; in that case, click on the tool in the Tools palette and hold for at least one second to bring up the tool picker sub menu, then choose the Polygonal Lasso tool. (See above for diagram of this when we chose the Magic Wand tool.)

Zoom in (I used 200%) and click exactly on the paper  edge inside the paperclip loop (see diagram for mouse cursor position.)

First Click Position using Polygonal Lasso

 

Move the mouse cursor across the paperclip wire and click, again exactly on the paper edge (see below diagram for this second click position.)

Second Click Position using Polygonal Lasso

 

Now continue moving and clicking the mouse, creating a selection which completely contains the inner loop of the paperclip. See next diagram for how your completed selection should look.

Example of Finished Selection after using Polygonal Lasso

 

STEP 3 – CREATE A NEW LAYER

Once your inner clip area is selected, press Ctrl+Shift+J to cut that area and paste it onto a new layer above the paperclip layer. Rename this layer “inner clip”.

STEP 4 – SET STYLE EFFECTS FOR NEW LAYER
Click on the inner clip layer to make it active. Right click on the fx symbol of this layer and choose Clear Layer Style. Then set the Fill to 0% (see below for location of the Fill option.) This will make the inner clip disappear. The below diagram shows the location of the Fill option, as well as the visual result when Fill is set to 0%.

Setting Fill to 0%
Create a new layer style choosing Bevel and Emboss. Adjust the following three settings.

  • Style: Emboss
  • Soften: 16
  • Shadow Mode Opacity: 90

Bevel and Emboss Dialog

 

And there you have it! Note, you may need to adjust these settings differently based on your elements and papers, or play with the other options in this dialog to get the desired effect. For example, I noticed when using a darker piece of paper it helped to increase the shadow mode opacity value and decrease the highlight mode opacity value.

This same technique can be used when you have a hatpin element sticking thru a piece of paper. In some cases, the designer will give you a hatpin with the middle missing—all you would need to do is create a skinny rectangle of the appropriate size and fill it with any color (since it will be invisible).

I hope this tip proves helpful in making your layouts more realistic!

 

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20 comments


  • Sherry (livingoutloud)

    What a great tutorial, never thought of anything like this! Thanks a million!

    March 5, 2012
  • Geri

    Thanks for the great tutorial.

    March 6, 2012
  • Sue-doinDigital

    great tut, thanks, I added it to pinterest for future playing!
    Sue : )

    March 7, 2012
  • susan aka suslyn

    fabulous!

    March 13, 2012
  • jayleigh

    WOW! Just what i needed – great tutorial, and the pictures were large enough to actually see the steps! Thank you so much – it always bothered me that the paper clip didn’t look right – even though i knew how to put part of it behind the object clipped, it just didn’t look right! Thanks for showing so clearly how to make it look “real.”

    March 13, 2012
  • twisi

    nice tutorial! thank you:)

    March 13, 2012
  • Thanks so much for all the details! I’m definately going to give this a try.

    March 13, 2012
  • Marybtaylor

    This is awesome! Always trying to accomplish this with very poor results. I can’t wait to give this a try! Thanks!

    March 13, 2012
  • tammy

    fantastic! WAY easier than the dodge and burn method I was using! THANKS!!

    March 13, 2012
  • Sharon

    Excellent tutorial! I also really liked that the examples were really large enough to see well without squinting. Thanks so much!

    March 13, 2012
  • C.J.

    Great tutorial! Thanks for making this so easy.

    March 13, 2012
  • Carol

    Great tutorial.

    March 13, 2012
  • Excellent tutorial. Thank you.

    March 13, 2012
  • Thanks. Love these tutorials

    March 13, 2012
  • Valerie

    Do you have instructions for doing this with Photoshop Elements?

    March 13, 2012
  • thank you for a great tutorial!

    March 14, 2012
  • Crystal

    Question. I had an issue with both set of steps, and never did get the end result. So I’m hoping you can help me out! I’m going to go with the 2nd set of steps because I got the furthest there. Here’s the part.

    STEP 4 – SET STYLE EFFECTS FOR NEW LAYER
    Click on the inner clip layer to make it active. Right click on the fx symbol of this layer and choose Clear Layer Style. Then set the Fill to 0% (see below for location of the Fill option.) This will make the inner clip disappear. The below diagram shows the location of the Fill option, as well as the visual result when Fill is set to 0%.

    My ‘inner paperclip’ layer has no fx symbol. Is there a way to change that?

    Thanks!

    May 7, 2012
  • Crystal

    Oh, and I’m in Photoshop CS5.

    May 7, 2012
  • Crystal

    Update! In case anyone ran into the same problem as me on Step 4 (as stated above). You don’t need to do the Clear Layer style if you have no fx symbol, just keep moving forward with the rest of the steps. Turns out my issue was I kept moving the Opacity to 0 and it’s suppose to be the FILL to 0%. Haha, ya, not so proud of myself! I’d like to thank the author of this tutorial so much for helping me figure it out!

    May 16, 2012
  • Such a nice tutorial, thank you!

    April 19, 2014

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