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How to Customize PNG Borders and Tall Strips in Photoshop and PSE

This week, we are continuing our series on getting the most value from Readymade Layers Borders and Readymade Tall Strips by Studio DD. These products are essentially strips of coordinating embellishments artfully arranged in a line to use as a border for a quick and beautiful page. Many of the borders come as layered files, but others are delivered as a flattened PNG file.

You can find out what type of border file you are purchasing by checking the detailed description of the item in the store. If the file is provided as a PSD (layered Photoshop file) you’ll know that each layer can be manipulated. If the file is provided only as a PNG image, you'll know it comes as a flattened (merged) PNG image with a transparent background.

If you have purchased a PNG set, you may want to add extra embellishments to the border. Here's how to make them look layered in the set:

Open a border, a piece of digital paper and one or more embellishments in Photoshop or PSE.
Using the Move tool, drag the border image onto a background paper.

The easiest way to add stamps, paint, splatters or flourishes is to drag the embellishment onto the border layer. Drag the embellishment layer below the border layer in the Layers Panel. It's a quick way to give a border a fuller look.

Next, drag an embellishment over to the border /paper document.
Drag it below the border layer in the Layers panel. Resize and reposition it if necessary.
Now select the border layer and create a layer mask by:

  • In Photoshop: click the "Add Layer Mask" icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This adds a white square next to the thumbnail of the border on the border layer.
  • In Elements: choose Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All from the menu bar. This places a white square next to the thumbnail of the border on the border layer.

The white square is the mask.
Now get the brush tool and set the foreground color to black by pressing the letters DX on the keyboard. The top color chip at the bottom of the Tool bin should be black. If it isn't, press X again.

Ctrl Click on the thumbnail of the embellishment layer in the Layers panel so that when you erase, it will only erase the portion of the border that overlaps the embellishment. You'll see a selection (marching ants) surround the embellishment outline.

Click on the layer mask (the white square created in the layers panel.)
Using the brush tool and black as the foreground color paint on the mask to "erase" away the portion of the border you want to look as though it is beneath the new embellishment. I like to use a circle brush, but use whatever brush works for your particular project.
If you accidentally erase away something, just hit X on the keyboard to make the Foreground color white and brush over the accident. It restores the visibility when you paint white on the mask and is an easy way to correct any mistakes.

When you are happy with your masking work, press Ctrl D to remove the selection.

Next, create a layer mask on the embellishment layer and use the brush tool with black to paint away any portion of the embellishment you don't want to be visible. Use the same steps as you did on the border layer.

You can also use this method to remove any other portion of the border or embellishment you want to remove, even if it isn't an overlapping item.

Next, add a shadow to the embellishment so it looks slightly lifted from the page.

Finally, Ctrl Click all three layers to select them all at one time and then click the link icon to link the layers together. Now when you move, turn or resize one of the layers, they move or turn together and your masking remains where it should.

It's a little trickier to customize PNG borders, but using Layer Masks is a non-destructive way to "weave" embellishments in and out of the image.
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