Watch the Video Tutorial

When you want to place an image of a hard-edged object in a page layout without its background, a clipping path is the way to go.

The Pen Tool takes centre stage in this lesson. We’ll use it to draw around an object to hide its background when it’s placed in a page layout. The benefit of a Clipping Path is that it has a sharp edge. That can also be a disadvantage. Clipping paths are appropriate when the object to be clipped has a hard edge. If your subject has curly hair, a clipping path is not the way to go.

By the way, this whole process has nothing to do with layers. We’re going to draw a path around the object, then save it. We don’t delete the background pixels. They just get masked by the path once the image is placed in InDesign.

Clip the Clamp

photoshop-clipping-path

Set the Pen Tool’s mode to Path and not Shape in the Control bar. Paths in Photoshop don’t print by default. It’s a path without a stroke. You can even turn on the Rubber Band effect like in Illustrator.

When you draw your path, use the same Pen tool technique you’d use when drawing in Illustrator. When your object has a hollow centre, like the clamp, make sure the Path Operations is set to Exclude Overlapping Shapes. This will make the paths panel look like the one above. The object needs to be white and the surrounding area grey in the panel.

Once you’re done with drawing the path, save it by double-clicking on it. Then, give it a meaningful name.

Save your image as a .psd file.

Place in InDesign

Once you get your image into InDesign, you can use its clipping path options to select which path to use in your document. The interoperability between Photoshop and InDesign really shines. Open the provided InDesign document, then go File > Place.

photoshop-clipping-path-indesign

Select your image on the page, then go Object > Clipping Path Options…. Choose Photoshop Path from the dropdown. Choose the path’s name from the second dropdown. If you check the Preview checkbox, then you’ll see the background disappear on the page.

Edit Your Path

Once you have the job all done in InDesign, you may notice you’ve either cut it too close or too far from the object. You need to round-trip it from Photoshop to InDesign to fix it. Edit the path in the image. Save it.

photoshop-clipping-path-panel

Go back to InDesign. Check your Links panel to make sure you’re looking at the latest version. If you see an exclamation mark like this, simply double-click on it to update it.

Formative Activity

Draw a clipping path on each of the provided images.

Remember, if you want to scale the images in InDesign, hold Option & Shift, then drag the frame.

photoshop-clipping-paths-exercise

Teapot
Draw around the perimeter first. Then draw inside the handle.
Legs
Draw around the legs and shoes. Draw the inside void last.
Cookies & Hand Mixer
Draw around the plate of cookies. Create a new path in the Paths panel, then do the hand mixer. You need two separate layers in the Paths panel.

Place each one in the provided InDesign document. Your InDesign document will contain the practice clamp image and the three final images.