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Working with clipping paths in Adobe InDesign

Adapted from Adobe InDesign CS4 Bible (Wiley Publishing)
By Galen Gruman

A clipping path is essentially a shape that acts like a cutout mask—anything inside the shape displays and anything outside does not. It’s a very handy way of displaying just the pieces of a graphic that you want to display, such as masking out extraneous background or focusing on a specific portion of a larger image. Clipping paths are also frequently used to control text wrap around graphics.

InDesign can work with clipping paths that are already part of an imported TIFF, JPEG, Photoshop EPS or Photoshop image, or with clipping paths you create in InDesign. And no matter the source of the clipping path, InDesign lets you modify it.

Creating Clipping Paths in Photoshop
Creating a clipping path in Photoshop is simple after you get the hang of the process. (See the Photoshop Bible series [Wiley Publishing] for more on creating clipping paths in Photoshop.) A path is essentially a selection, which you can create with any of the Photoshop selection tools, including tracing your own selection to hand-drawing a path. After you make the selection, here’s how you make a path:

  1. Open the Paths panel by choosing Window > Paths.
  2. Using the panel’s flyout menu, choose Make Work Path. You’re asked to choose a Tolerance setting in pixels—the smaller the number, the finer the path’s shape.
  3. Click OK to accept your setting. A work path appears in the Paths panel, showing in white the area contained by the path.
  4. Convert the work path into a named path by double-clicking the work path in the panel or by choosing Save Path in the flyout menu.
  5. Give the path a name and then click OK.
  6. Choose Clipping Path from the flyout menu. You’re asked to choose which path to use as a clipping path (you can have multiple clipping paths in a Photoshop file); next, choose a Flatness setting. As with the Tolerance setting, the smaller the number of pixels, the finer the path’s contours.
  7. Click OK.

That’s it! The tricky part is creating the selection area to begin with.

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Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

steveballmer's picture
653 pencils

Paint '11 has this feature too!
I am not Steve Ballmer pretending not to be me!

Art D. Rector's picture
3162 pencils

Yes - now if only Paint let you work in cmyk you folks at Microsoft might not be headed the way of the dinosaur! It's always the little things...

Who writes those "Bible" things, Ivan? Has to be the folks at Adobe. They give you the basics, but they make it sound like there's no blowback to setting a low tolerance or flatness.

Ivan's picture

I think it's not official Adobe. You're quite right about the setting.

Plastic Cards's picture
1 pencil

I like coconuts, and speaking of indesign, you remind me of Illustrator, where I used clipping paths, and now client wants me to change all the logo I made after spending sleepless nights.

designmonkey's picture
98 pencils

Since InDesign handles PSD's and TIFF's with transparency's very well, doesn't that make clipping paths for images kinda obsolete?

colorexpertsbd's picture
1 pencil

thanks for sharing knowledge

jatsource's picture
1 pencil
Phil_1965's picture
1 pencil

Hi all.. I'm new to the forum and a bit of a rookie so please excuse my 'layman' speak. My studio are producing new artworks in Indesign. Winthin the artworks they are placing images with a transparent background that have been created in Photoshop using hte clipping path process you mention above. Troubls is that when the images are placed into Indesign we end up with a halo type effect on the edge of the image (a sort of white show through line around it and mainly at the bottom). Has anyone else had this problem and any ideas on how to overcome it? Many thanks... Phil

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