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Overlapping Text With An Image In Photoshop

Written by Steve Patterson. Every month, as the latest issues of magazines plaster images of models, movie stars, athletes, politicians, and other famous folks across their covers, we see this effect where the top of the person’s head appears to overlap the name of the magazine. This popular "overlapping" effect has been around for years and in this Photoshop tutorial, we’ll see how the simple use of layers makes recreating the effect incredibly easy! I’ll be using Photoshop CS5 here but any version of Photoshop will work.

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Here’s the photo I’ll be using for this tutorial:

A photo of a baseball player at bat. Image licensed from iStockphoto by Photoshop Essentials.com.
The original image.

And here’s how it will look after adding some text behind the ball player:

The baseball player now appears in front of the text. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
The final result.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Add Your Text

Select the Horizontal Type Tool from the Tools panel, or press the letter T on your keyboard to quickly select it with the shortcut:

The Horizontal Type Tool in Photoshop. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Select the Horizontal Type Tool.

With the Type Tool selected, choose your font type, style, size, and color from the Options Bar along the top of the screen, then click inside the document window and add your text. I’m going to type the word “Baseball”. I’ve added a few layer styles just to give my text a bit more of a design, but of course the appearance of your text is completely up to you:

Text has been added to the image. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Add your text to the image.

Notice how the text is currently blocking the image from view, and that’s because if we look in the Layers panel, we see the text layer sitting above the image on the Background layer. A layer above another layer in the Layers panel appears in front of the layer in the document window:

The Layers panel in Photoshop CS5. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
The text appears in front of the image because the text layer appears above the Background layer.

Step 2: Select The Background Layer

Click on the Background layer in the Layers panel to select it. It will appear highlighted in blue, letting us know it’s now the active layer:

Selecting the Background layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Click on the Background layer to select it.

Step 3: Select The Area That Will Overlap The Text

For this effect, I want the baseball player to appear in front of the word “Baseball”, which means I’ll need to select him. Since the text will make it difficult to select the area we need, let’s turn it off temporarily by clicking on the layer visibility icon (the eyeball) on the left side of the text layer in the Layers panel. The text will disappear, leaving only the original image in the document window:

The layer visibility icon in the Layers panel in Photoshop. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Hide the text temporarily by clicking on the eyeball in the Layers panel.

As I mentioned, I want the baseball player to appear in front of the text, but since the text was only blocking the top half of him from view, there’s no need to select all of him. We only need to select the area that will actually overlap the text. Use the selection tool of your choice (Lasso Tool, Magnetic Lasso Tool, Pen Tool, etc.) to draw a selection outline around the area you need. Here, I’ve selected the area from the top of his helmet down to his waist. I can ignore the rest of him since it falls below where the text will appear:

Selecting part of the batter in the photo. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Select the area that will overlap the text.

Step 4: Copy The Selected Area To A New Layer

With the selection in place, go up to the Layer menu at the top of the screen, choose New, and then choose Layer via Copy. Or, press Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) on your keyboard for the shortcut:

Selecting New Layer via Copy from the Layer menu in Photoshop. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Go to Layer > New > Layer via Copy.

Nothing will appear to have happened in the document window, but if we look again in the Layers panel, we see that the selected area has been copied onto a new layer (“Layer 1″) between the text layer and the Background layer. We can see the area that’s been copied by looking in the new layer’s preview thumbnail to the left of the layer name:

The selected area has been copied to a new layer. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
The selected area has been copied to a new layer above the Background layer.

To get a better view of exactly what’s been copied to the new layer, hold down your Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key and click on the layer visibility icon for Layer 1. This will temporarily hide all layers except Layer 1 in the document window, showing us what’s on the layer. In my case, only the top half of the baseball player appears. The checkerboard pattern surrounding him is Photoshop’s way of representing transparency, meaning there’s nothing else on the layer. When you’re done, hold down Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and once again click on the layer visibility icon for Layer 1 to return to the normal view:

Only the contents of Layer 1 appear in the document window. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and click on the eyeball for Layer 1 to show only the contents of that specific layer.

Step 5: Turn The Text Layer Back On

Click on the text layer’s visibility icon in the Layers panel, which will turn the text back on in the document window. For the moment, it will still appear in front of the image, but we’ll fix that next:

Turning the text layer back on in the Layers panel in Photoshop. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Turn the text layer back on.

Step 6: Drag Layer 1 Above The Text Layer

Since a layer above another layer in the Layers panel appears in front of the layer in the document window, all we need to do now is move Layer 1 above the text layer. Click on Layer 1 in the Layers panel and drag it up above the text layer, releasing your mouse button to drop it into place. The text layer should now appear sandwiched between Layer 1 and the Background layer:

Dragging Layer 1 above the text layer in the Layers panel. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
Click on Layer 1 and drag it above the text layer in the Layers panel.

With the top half of the baseball player now moved above the text layer, he appears in front of the text in the document window:

The baseball player now appears in front of the text. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com.
The baseball player now appears in front of the text.

And there we have it! That’s how to create an overlapping text effect with an image in Photoshop!

Download our tutorials as print-ready PDFs! Learning Photoshop has never been easier!

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