Photography • How-To How to Make a Cutout Collage in Adobe Photoshop

Create a mixed-media, high-fashion layout.

Mix backgrounds, textures, and photos to create a fun fashion collage. I’ll show you how to make selections and apply fill layers to create a cutout effect in Adobe Photoshop.

Headshot of Erica Larson
Headshot of Erica Larson

My name is Erica Larson. As a creative director at Adobe, I get to dream up inspired designs every day. I hope the stuff I make gets you dreaming, too.

My name is Erica Larson. As a creative director at Adobe, I get to dream up inspired designs every day. I hope the stuff I make gets you dreaming, too.

60-second demo process of adding a texture & model image then using Select and Mask to cut the body & blend with the background

Take a one-minute look at my technique; the steps are written out below.

Before You Start

Use these sample files if you’d like, or practice with your own.

Step 1: Add Texture

To start the project, drag the foil texture image onto the red background. Of course, you can use whatever texture or background color you like. If necessary, drag a corner handle to resize it or hold the cursor just outside a corner handle and drag to rotate it. Press Enter or Return when you’re ready to place it.

Layers panel shows foil texture & red color fill, canvas shows red background & rotated foil image with transform boundaries

Step 2: Isolate the Subject

Drag the image of the model on top of the foil texture. To separate the model from the original background, choose the Quick Selection tool and then click Select Subject. Once the marching ants appear, marking the selection, click Select and Mask.

Layers panel has model image, model is on blue background, Quick Selection tool, Select Subject, Select & Mask display at top

Step 3: Fill the Gaps

Choose the Quick Select tool, set it to Subtract in the Select and Mask workspace, and paint over the unwanted areas of the background.

Red overlay over the background, Quick Selection tool in upper left, Properties panel on right shows Select & Mask settings

Step 4: See the Finer Details

Painting with the Refine Edge brush in the Select and Mask workspace allows you to remove the background around the fuzzy areas on the edges of the model’s hair and sweater. Choose Output to Selection at the bottom of the Select and Mask Properties panel and then click OK.

Closeup shot of model with red overlay on background, orange callouts around remaining blue background areas

Step 5: Separate the Selection

Click the Add Layer Mask button on the Layers panel to turn the selection of the model into a mask. This means you can modify it without affecting the original image.

Layers panel shows mask on model layer, background is red on top with foil texture below

Step 6: Make It Accurate

Before creating a stylistic shadow, right-click the layer mask and select Add Mask to Selection.

Mask thumbnail on model layer has Add Mask to Selection on a blue label; marching ants around the edges of the model

Step 7: Smooth the Edges

Choose the Smooth command and set the Sample Radius to 10 pixels.

Menu selection over model shows Select > Modify > Smooth; Smooth Selection dialog shows Sample Radius set to 10

Step 8: Apply a Color

Fill the selection by adding a Solid Color adjustment layer from the bottom of the Layers panel and selecting white from the Color Picker.

Shape of model is filled with white; Layers panel shows white color fill adjustment applied to layer mask

Step 9: Offset the Shadow

Use the Move (V) tool to offset the white selection. Drag the white fill layer down in the layer stack so it appears behind the model.

Move tool displays upper left; Layers panel shows white color fill layer below the model layer, model has white drop shadow

Step 10: Tidy Around the Edges

After clicking the mask on the color fill layer, use the Brush (B) tool to paint with black over the areas of the drop shadow that need cleaning up.

Brush tool displays upper left; color fill mask selected, callouts around hair, mouth, and right arm

Step 11: Cut It Out

To prep the cutout effect, select the model layer and then use the Quick Selection tool to brush over the body to select it.

Quick Selection tool in upper left, marching ants around center of model’s body below her neck

Step 12: Make It Seamless

With the body selected, apply a Solid Color adjustment layer and use the Eyedropper tool to select the red behind the model so the new selection blends with the background. Finally, click the mask on the color fill layer, choose the Brush tool, set it to white, and brush along the edges to clean up the silhouette.

Eyedropper & Brush tools upper left, marching ants around center of model’s body filled with red solid color adjustment layer

Create Your Own Collage

Find more textures and images to mix by accentuating the composition with selections and adjustment layers to create your own style.

Computer monitor on desk shows magazine layout with cutout collage on lower right

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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