I have created an image in Photoshop CS3 consisting of numerous layers including text layers, and graphics layers. The print shop says that I have to submit ANOTHER file which is a "mask" file, which is black wherever there is anything to be (raised) printed on my primary graphic file.

I tried merging all layers, then adding a black color overlay, but in areas where I had drop shadows I see that my black mask layer looks more like grayscale. I know this is somehow transparency related but I can't figure this out. How do I make it 100% black wherever there is a non-transparent pixel?

  • It could be useful to know what you try to achieve. Can you post an image?
    – Rockbot
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:25

3 Answers 3


Create a folder and put a mask on it. Drag all layers into the folder.

  • Ok... I read this wrong...I need to read more, but thats why I went to art school. They Probably need the same thing as a die cut. Whenever you make cuts, embossing, foils, special things you need to make a file so they can make the plate for the printer.
    – Andy Stone
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 4:44
  • Yes that's what they want it for. I'm getting closer (see my edit above)...but can't figure out the grayscale/transparency issue with my mask
    – TSG
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 4:59
  • 1
    Is this screenprint, offset/spot color, duotone... I usually submit an Illustrator path as an .eps for printers as the shape for whatever I need cut or printed, that's special. Also a document that gives the name of the EPS and what it is supposed to be i.e. PMS 342.
    – Andy Stone
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 5:09
  • If it fades out and its one color/spot color you need to use a halftone.
    – Andy Stone
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 5:26
  • I don't have illustrator - just photoshop.
    – TSG
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 14:01

Adding to Andy's answer (which is correct):

You can also simply REMOVE the drop shadow effect by deleting the effect on the layers where they appear, then merge them and then color all this to black.

You should also work in grayscale and/or save in bitmap mode when you're done (since you don't have Illustrator.)

What your printer wants is a mass of 100% black where the embossing will be; you use the same technique as for a spot varnish file. Make sure your "embossing mask" file is the exact same size and same position as your print-ready file.


If you want the drop shadow to become 100% black as well:

1) merge your layers as you did with the drop shadow, then go in the image > adjustment > levels, choose the black color picker and go click on the drop grayscale part your want black.


2) merge your layers as you did with the drop shadow, use the image > adjustment > curves, and add the number "100" in the lowest values on the right (eg. add the number 100 to the field next to 10-20-30-40-50, etc.)


3) add some density to your drop shadow to create an outline instead of a gradient; add some "spread", remove the blur and put the opacity to 100% to your drop shadow in the effect window.


Frankly I don't suggest you emboss the drop shadow but it's up to you.


Select all layers (you want included). Make a copy of all layers. Merge selected layers. Lock transparency and fill with black. (or use a folder)

Unlock alpha. Make a levels adjustment on alpha in channels.. (or disable drop shadows before merging)

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