When I posted a version of the following image on Instagram, there were a few people who asked, “How’d you do that?”


I’m far from a Photoshop expert, but I do like to tinker with Adobe software.

When a friend asked me to make her something Ohio-related for her to give as a wedding gift, I first made prototypes to see if she liked my idea. Then, I as I progressed with the actual project, I sent her an update for her to consider. I used the following Photoshop process for both of those steps, and I think using photoshop as a preview for improv appliqué was a valuable communication tool. It saved heartache and let my “client” be involved in project development. She liked the finish product better for having been able to participate.

This is just a step-by-step of how I accomplished a preview of what my improv blocks would look like when cut into the state of Ohio – without actually having to cut them up. There were many other steps in this project (specifically with matching the size of my Ohio template to my final product), and this description just includes relevant information for using Photoshop to create a preview. I imagine that there are many computer programs that can accomplish this, and maybe just seeing this process and hearing the terms referred to here will help you if you decide you’d like to try something like this!

First, I went to File and Place and selected a saved image of Ohio.
1 image outline

My image of Ohio was an outline, and I needed to make it solid in order to complete later steps in the preview. I filled the outline with the bucket tool on the left. (I actually copied the layer first. Not messing with the original is just a habit of mine. If I don’t like my modifications, I can just ditch the layer and not mess with going back through my steps.)
2 image filled

I went back to File, then Place, and selected an image of one of my improv blocks.
3 image place

I made sure that the improv block layer was above my Ohio layer. This is extremely important. I then right-clicked on my improv block layer and selected “Create Clipping Mask.”
4 clipping mask

The result was that now, Photoshop only shows the part of the improv block layer that overlaps with the Ohio layer underneath it. It effectively “clips” the improv layer to the Ohio layer.
5 image final

That’s it.

As a bonus, I’ll mention that when it came time to print an actual copy of Ohio to use as a template, I resized my Ohio image to something roughly 11 or 12″ squared and saved it as a PDF. I then opened the PDF in Adobe Reader, selected the poster setting for print, and printed it on 4 sheets of regular office paper.
ohio print settings

I took those four sheets and taped them together.
ohio template

I then cut out the paper and traced it as I would any other appliqué. It’s a nifty trick when you want to appliqué something that’s bigger than what you can print on your printer!

If you have any questions, please list them in the comments. I’ll respond there, as well as email, you so that others can see.



  1. Pingback: Tute: Use Photoshop for improv applique – Quilting

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