• How to Punch Out Titles with Advanced Blending in Photoshop

    In this series, we are exploring various ways to get the look of punched-out letters on your digital projects.
    In Photoshop and Elements, you can approach most tasks in several ways. Having multiple options gives you the freedom to work in a way that makes sense to you. In the previous tips, we've achieved a punched-out look with the eraser tool, by deleting the title, and by using layer styles. The method in this tip is only available in the full version of Photoshop at this time since it uses custom blending options.

    We'll be using Katie Pertiet's Blacked Out Alphabet No. 1 which is a great title choice for this technique. You can also use other alphabet sets to get the look you want for your digital project.

    Here's how to punch out titles:

    • Open a digital background paper in Photoshop. The paper should be labeled "background" and should be locked in the Layers panel, indicating it is a "true" background. If it isn't, choose Layer > New > Background from Layer from the Menu Bar.
    • Next, open another piece of digital paper you'd like to layer on top of the background. This is the paper that will be "punched" by the technique, allowing the background to show through. Using the Move tool, drag the paper onto the background layer.
    • Then open the Blacked Out Alphabet letters you'll need to create your title. Use the Move tool to drag the letters into place on the two-layer document, creating your title.
    • Locate and click to select the top letter layer in the Layers panel. Hold the Shift key and click the bottom letter layer in the layers panel this selects all of the letters, but not the papers. Check to make sure the paper layers are not selected. Press Ctrl E (Mac: Cmd E) to merge the letter layers. Now your title will be all on one layer.
    • Click to select the title layer in the layers panel. Then double-click the layer outside of the layer name in the layers panel. This brings up the Layer Styles dialog box.
    • Under Blending Options, locate the center section labeled "Advanced Blending." Drag the Fill Opacity slider all the way to the left or change the % to 0. Make sure that the Channels (RGB) are ticked and change the Knockout to Deep. Then tick Transparency Shapes Layer.
    • On the left side of the Layer Styles dialog box, tick Inner Shadow and click the tab to open the Shadow options. Start with a Multiply blend mode at 40% opacity. Adjust the Distance, Choke and Size to your liking and click OK. You can see the changes in real time, making it easy to adjust the finished look.
    • At this point, the title letters appear to be cut out of the top paper with your background paper peeking through.
    • To move the title, get the Move tool. Untick "Auto select layer" from the tool options. Select the title layer and move it around on the page. The title moves, but still gives the cutout effect.


    This method of punching out the title gives you the ability to tweak the style settings at any point. Even if you need to save and close out of the project, you can open it later and adjust the settings to get the look you want. It is a non-destructive technique, so the title can be moved around on the page without losing any of your work. But it is slightly less versatile than the Layer Styles Method used in the previous tip since the technique only works over a true background layer in the full version of the software. Nevertheless, it's useful for many projects since it produces a realistic-looking paper punched effect.