By Chris Malinao

One of the new tools in the latest Photoshop CC 2019 version is the Frame Tool, accessible by clicking this icon icon - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask? or pressing Kon the keyboard. With it, you can quickly create placeholder frames for images inside Photoshop. It is a much more convenient tool to use than the old Clipping Mask, convenient in the sense that it is easier to use and faster to deploy. But is it better than the old clipping mask?

FIG 1 3 - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask?

FIG.-1. With the new Frame Tool in Photoshop CC 2019 we can quickly create placeholder frames for images that are embedded as smart objects, meaning the images can be scaled non-destructively. The Frame Tool is best used for thumbnail-type displays or arrays of photos.

Let’s explore the new Frame Tool first. How is it used? We can select the Frame Tool icon - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask? by clicking on its icon on the tools panel or by pressing “K.”

With the Frame Tool active, you can:

  1. Click and drag on the canvas to create a rectangular or elliptical placeholder.
  2. Convert text or any shape into a frame.
  3. Draw a frame over an existing image on the canvas.

Let’s do this: Activate the Frame Tool by pressing K or clicking on its icon icon - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask? from the toolbox.

  1. Click and drag on the canvas to create a rectangular or elliptical placeholder.
    • Select rectangular or elliptical frame tools - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask? then click-drag to draw your frame. You can now choose an image from any folder or your library in Photoshop by click-dragging.
    • Alternatively, you can go to File > Place Embedded, or File > Place Linked, and navigate to your image. Place Embedded embeds a copy of the image into the PSD file, it’s there, increasing file size. Place Linked references the image from its original location, it does not add to the file, and when you edit it, your image in the frame also updates.
    • After you place an image into the frame, you will see two thumbnails in one layer in the Layers panel, one for the frame itself and another for the image that you placed, now a smart object for non-destructive scaling. Click on the frame thumbnail if you wish to resize it, click on the image thumbnail to scale or move it.

In the image above, Fig.-1, I made the first frame placeholder by click-dragging with the Frame Tool (K) then Alt-dragging on it three times to the right to make four instances of the frames in one row. I then selected all four frames in the Layers panel and Alt-dragged twice towards bottom to create two more rows. In total, I created four columns and three rows of placeholder frames, 12 in all. One by one, I dragged images from my library on the right of the Photoshop workspace to fill each frame with a photo. You can also click-drag images from a folder in your directory.

  1. Convert text or any shape into a frame.
  • In the Layers panel, right-click on a text layer or a shape layer and choose Convert to Frame from the context-menu.
  • In the New Frame dialog, enter a name and set a specific width and height for the frame. Click OK.
  • You may also apply a stroke—color and width—from the Properties panel.

FIG 2 1400x534 - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask?

FIG.-2. Convert text into a frame, or draw your own fancy shape and convert it, then place an image inside the frame. Stroke options are available in the Properties panel when the frame is active.

 

  1. Draw a frame over an existing image on the canvas.
  • Select the Frame Tool from the Tools panel or press “K.”
  • In the Tool options bar, choose a rectangular frame or an elliptical frame.With an existing image on the canvas, draw a frame over the desired area of the image.
  • When you draw the frame, the image is masked by the frame boundaries.

As we have seen, the new Frame Tool is immensely useful for tasks such as described above, and for most of us, that is probably what we want: convenience and speed.

When is the Clipping Mask superior to the Frame Tool?

FIG 3 - Is the new Frame Tool in Photoshop better than the old Clipping Mask?

FIG.-3. We can draw a rectangle with the Frame Tool and drop another image inside the wood frame to change it, but only one image at a time will show and reside in the PSD file. With the Clipping Mask, we can have several layers of different images inside the file.

Putting multiple images in the same frame. In the image above, we have a wood frame enclosing an image. We can click-drag over the whole image inside with the frame tool and drop different images inside it, but only one will ever reside in the Layers panel, one at a time, and only one will show. With the Clipping Mask, the various images will reside in the file, in their own layers.The one on top will show, or the one whose visibility (eye icon) is switched on, but you have several different images each on its own layer saved inside of this file. Why would you want to have several layers of images when only one at a time can be shown? Because you are an advanced Photoshop user (and you know what to do with them!).

When you have a complex shape as frame, you’re better off using the clipping mask instead of the frame tool. Suppose you want the outline of a coconut frond as your shape, or the outline of the Hindu goddess Durga, she with those many arms.The resulting mask will be complex, and it will not lend itself well to the rectangular or elliptical shapes of the Frame Tool. Instead, this is what you will do: With the complex mask below your image in the Layers panel, right-click on the image and choose Create Clipping Mask.

We can make adjustment layers when using the clipping mask; the frame tool does not allow that. The frame tool will always reside on its own layer together with the current image clipped to it, no adjustment layer above it. With several adjustment layers available, we can apply any edits we want to the image.

The good old Clipping Mask appears to still be superior to the Frame Tool in several ways, so how exactly do we make clipping masks? Well, we may talk about that in the next tutorial. In the meantime, ciao bella!

 

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