Creating an Embedded Clipping Path

Create an Embedded Path

create a clipping path
Use an embedded clipping path to get rid of the background or "white rectangle" around an image.

Paths have many uses when editing images. In this step-by-step tutorial, we're creating paths to embed in an image for use as a clipping path in a page layout application - an embedded clipping path.

In our examples we'll be removing the sky in the background of a photo of the Capitol of Texas; but, embedded paths can be used to hide any portion of an image without altering the original.

Select the Background or Other Portion of Your Image

Use the magic wand selection tool
Use the magic wand or other selection tools to isolate all parts of the background.

Select either the portion of the image you want to remove or the portion you want to keep.

In our example, using the magic wand makes quick work of selecting the sky and clouds. Sometimes, this method will yield good results but you might need to make fine adjustments using other selection tools or after converting your selection to a path (in step 4).

Invert Selection (if necessary)

clipping path marching ants selection
Invert selection so that the image you want to show is selected.

Since it is the sky we want to block out, before converting our selection to a path, if necessary invert your selection so that your selection marquee or "marching ants" surround the portion of the image you wish to not have transparent. In our example image, we invert the selection so that just the building is selected. Next, create a work path.

TIP: Both a path and a mask will export to EPS as a clipping path. Using a path simply allows for more precise editing. If you're happy with your selection mask, use it.

Convert Selection to an Editable Work Path

clipping path work path
Convert selection to an editable work path for finetuning.

In order to fine-tune the selection so that it is the precise shape needed, convert your selection to a path.

A work path is a vector outline of lines, curves, and nodes. It allows you to precisely include or exclude portions of your image, follow outlines, and create a variety of shapes. You can create your work path from scratch but converting a selection mask can be faster.

Edit the Work Path

clipping path edit work path nodes
Edit the work path by moving, adding, and deleting nodes.

Editing a path is very much like editing objects in a vector drawing program such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. You can add and delete nodes and move lines and curves to achieve just the shape you want.

In our example, editing the path allows us to follow the line of the building as loosely or as tightly as we wish.

Save Work Path as an Embedded Clipping Path in EPS or TIFF Image

clipping path
Save the edited work path as a clipping path to use in your page layout app.

After you have the work path like you want it, save the path. Now it's time to save the image in a suitable format with the embedded path. Both EPS and TIFF images can contain embedded clipping paths. However, not all programs can access this information. This is where you'll need to know the capabilities of the programs which you are using.

TIP: It is not necessary to delete your background or whatever portion of the image you are hiding with the clipping path. The clipping path does that for you once placed in your page layout application. By not deleting that portion you have it readily available in case you decide to "turn off" or tweak the clipping path.

For Photoshop, with your saved path selected in the Paths Palette, choose "Clipping Path" from the Paths Palette menu before saving as EPS or TIFF.

Photo-Paint converts the mask or path to an alpha channel when exporting TIFF images. For EPS, from the EPS Export options that appear choose to save the Mask or Path to a clipping path, as appropriate.

TIP: For EPS files saved in Photo-Paint, it may be necessary to use a B&W TIFF header (preview image) in order to see the transparency properly on screen in some programs, such as Adobe PageMaker. When using a color TIFF header the EPS may preview without transparency but will print properly to a PostScript printer or PDF file.