Alibony Lessons for Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Digital Photography

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Photoshop Elements: Attach a Realistic Paper Clip

Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 7

April 24, 2009

Attach a realistic paper clip to two pieces of digital paper. Download two digital sticky notes and a paper clip to use with this lesson.

Before After


Download two digital sticky notes and a paper clip in PNG format. (ZIP file)

Attach the Paper Clip

To attach a paper clip to digital papers:

  1. Open the paper images and the paper clip image.
  2. From the File menu, select New, then Blank file. Enter a width of 640 pixels, height of 480 pixels, and resolution of 72 pixels per inch. Select White for the Background color. Then, click OK.

  3. Copy and paste the blue sticky note to the new blank image. The blue sticky note will be added in the layer above the background layer.
  4. With the blue sticky note layer selected, press Ctrl+T (Mac: Cmd+T) to rotate the sticky note using Free Transform. Move the note slightly to the left and rotate the note to the right as shown below. Click Commit (green checkmark) to save your changes.

  5. Copy and paste the pink sticky note to the new image. The pink sticky note will be added in the layer above the blue sticky note layer. Use the Move tool to position the note as desired.

  6. In the Layers palette, add a Levels adjustment layer above the pink sticky note layer. In the Levels dialogue box, make no changes and click OK.

  7. With the Levels adjustment layer selected, copy and paste the paper clip to the new image. The paper clip will be added in the layer above the Levels adjustment layer. Notice that the paper clip just sits on top of the two sticky notes, but is not attached to them. In the next few steps, we'll attach the clip.
  8. In the Layers palette, select the paper clip layer and press Ctrl+G (Mac:Cmd+G) to clip the layer to the Levels adjustment layer below. You have created a clipping group that groups the two layers together; the layer mask attached to the adjustment layer now affects the top layer, too.

  9. Attach the paper clip to the sticky notes:

    1. In the Layers palette, click to select the layer mask on the Levels adjustment layer.
    2. From the toolbox, select the Zoom tool and click-and-drag to zoom in on the paper clip.
    3. Press D to set the foreground color to Black.
    4. From the toolbox, select the Brush tool. On the options bar, select a small hard brush.
    5. Paint with black over sections of the paper clip that should be hidden if attached to the papers. Adjust the tip size of the brush as needed by pressing Ctrl+] (Mac: Cmd+]) to increase the size or Ctrl+[ (Mac: Cmd+[) to decrease the size. Tip: Parts of the paper clip form a straight line. To paint in a straight line, click once where you want the line to begin, then press Shift and click again where you want the line to end.
    6. If you make a mistake, paint with white to reveal hidden areas again.
  10. Tips

    This lesson used a Levels adjustment layer and a clipping group so that you could easily make corrections if you made mistakes when attaching the paper clip. It preserved the original paper clip on the top layer

    For a faster, but more destructive way, to attach the clip, you can skip the Levels adjustment layer. In place of Steps 6-9, add the paper clip, then use the Eraser tool to erase sections of the paper clip. When you use the Eraser tool, you remove pixels on the paper clip layer. If you make mistakes, you can press Ctrl+Z (Mac:Cmd+Z) to undo the last action or you can start over again.

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    Updated on July 31, 2013