Create Cutout Image Effects with Photoshop

This article appeared in issue 11 of Creative MagazinePro.

In this article, I’ll show you how to create a Graphic Style in Photoshop that simulates layers of cut paper, where each layer casts a shadow on the layer below. It has a three-dimensional look, giving the impression of increasing depth with each layer. The effect is not difficult to create and has the advantage of being able to easily move elements around after creating the base image. These elements can be photographs, graphics or illustrations created directly in Photoshop.

The technique uses multiple groups in Photoshop, each containing color and shadow fill settings at the group level so that interior components are never directly affected.

Create the front frame

Each group in the illustration is bounded by its own frame, each of which becomes smaller as it progresses through the composition. Start by creating the top frame. Use the Shapes tool to create a rectangular shape the size of your canvas. The fill color doesn’t matter at this point, but make sure that Outline is set to None. Then, using the Pen tool in Shape mode, draw the shape of the inner frame. In the options bar, choose Exclude Overlapping Shapes from the path operation menu, and the new path you draw will be clipped into the original rectangle (Figure 1).

Photoshop Path Options menu with "Exclude overlapping shapes" selected

Figure 1. Set the Pen Tool to Exclude Overlapping Shapes to remove the new path from the original shape.

As you can see, Photoshop has removed the inner shape from the outer shape (Figure 2).

A hand drawn shape cut out of a pink rectangle, showing transparency in the background

Figure 2. The inner path has been successfully removed from the original shape.

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