I've recently returned from a vacation in the US, in which I managed to photograph the license plates of 41 out of 50 states, with the intent of taking a wireframe map of the US, and super-imposing it with all the license plates, so that the area of each state of the map will be filled with its respective license plates (if there is none such, the state should be filled with an arbitrary color). I found a map online, and cleared the internals of each state with the magic eraser tool (using PS 2015CC). I have each license plate in a different JPG file, so I reckon I'll need a layer for each such plate.

How do I create a shape on the map layer for each state, and "cookie-cut" its outline from the respective license plate image layer?


4 Answers 4


If you have a decent map this should be fairly easy, how quick will depend largely on the quality of the map.

Say I'm using this one https://www.teachervision.com/tv/printables/kt_maps/kt_map_usa.pdf

I'll open it up and this one was nicely made with no background. This will be helpful but also hurtful. First off I'm going to get rid of Hawaii and Alaska and the text and such, just to keep this a bit simpler for the quick tutorial.

Then I magic wand the outside, invert selection, and filled it with white on a new layer -- below the map:

enter image description here

Merge those together so its one layer.

Now click a state using the magic wand and press Ctrl+J which makes a copy of the selection onto a new layer. Don't move it or anything. Then drop a photo on top of that layer and make clipping mask.

So for California, I'll marquee california on my map layer and press Ctrl+J. Then put a photo directly above that. Here is where were at so far, I turned off the Map layer but California is in its correct spot thanks to how we duplicated it:

enter image description here

Now I'm going to move the photo on top of its state and make it into a clipping mask. I'd suggest grouping them as well so its more organized

enter image description here

Then just repeat for each state. For some of the tighter packed ones in the Northeast you may need to manually select them using either the Pen or Lasso tool instead of Magic Wand.

  • Thank you, this is an accurate and detailed answer to my question. The magic wand is far easier for most states the the magnetic lasso I used up until now.
    – asafc
    Nov 10, 2016 at 15:03

Were I trying to do what I think you're trying to do, I would simply put each licence plate, with the background scoured out, on a different layer, resizing them if necessary, and then "save for internet", which visually combines all visible layers into one image.

So, as an example, map on layer 1 (0 is the background layer, which you might want to make invisible), then Alabama's plate on layer 2, Arkansas's on 3, etc.

I'd do it that way because Adobe has never made their Bezier tools even averagely easy to use, so I avoid using them.


If you reword this "how do I create a mask in Photoshop", then you could type it in into any search engine and find the following Adobe Photoshop Help page: helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/masking-layers.html


OK, so the answer is in this link (courtesy of @Rad Lexus), under the Add a layer mask that hides part of a layer section.

EDIT: I'm pasting the relevant solution here as per @Vincent's request.

  1. In the Layers panel, select the layer or group.
  2. Select the area in the image, and do one of the following:
    • Click the New Layer Mask button in the Layers panel to create a mask that reveals the selection.
    • Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Add Layer Mask button in the Layers panel to create a mask that hides the selection.
    • Choose Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection or Hide Selection.
  • Hi asafc, welcome to GD.SE and thanks for your self-answered question. Could you post the gist of the solution in the link, quoted or in your own words? That way, your answer is still valid in case the link breaks at a later time. Link rot is rampant and the reason why we are a bit harsh on answers depending on them. Thanks! If you have any questions about the site, have a look at the help center or feel free to join us in Graphic Design Chat once your reputation allows you to (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site!
    – Vincent
    Nov 10, 2016 at 12:08

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