Create Clipping Paths in Photoshop CS5

If you want to create a beautiful silhouette that transfers well to other applications for text wrapping, create a clipping path in Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 5.

Clipping paths allow you to create silhouettes in other applications.
Clipping paths allow you to create silhouettes in other applications.

Creating a clipping path is easy when you have a good path. Just follow these steps:

  1. Use the Pen tool to create a path around the image area that will become the silhouette.

  2. In the Paths panel, choose Save Path from the panel menu (click the triangle in the upper right corner of the panel) and then name the path.

    If Save Path is not visible, your path has already been saved; skip to Step 3.

    Convert your work path to a saved path.
    Convert your work path to a saved path.
  3. From the same panel menu, choose Clipping Path.

  4. In the Clipping Paths dialog box, choose your path from the drop-down list, if it’s not already selected; click OK.

    Leave the Flatness Device Pixels text field blank unless you need to change it. The flatness value determines how many device pixels are used to create your silhouette. The higher the amount, the fewer points are created, thereby allowing for faster processing time. This speed comes at a cost, though: Set the flatness value too high and you may see (if you look close) straight edges instead of curved edges.

  5. Choose File→Save As and, in the Format drop-down list, select Photoshop EPS; in the EPS Options dialog box that appears, accept the defaults and click OK.

    If you see PostScript errors when printing, choose Clipping Path from the panel menu and increase the value to 2 pixels in the Flatness Device Pixels text field. Keep returning to this text field and increasing the value until the file prints, or give up and try printing your document on another printer.

If you’re placing this file in other Adobe applications, such as InDesign, you don’t need to save the file as EPS; you can leave it as a Photoshop (.psd) file.

Here’s an even faster method you can use to create a clipping path that can be used in other Adobe applications, such as InDesign and Illustrator:

  1. Create a path around the item you want to keep when the clipping path is created.

    Make sure that you’re working on a layer and not on the Background layer. To convert the Background to a layer, hold down the Alt key (Windows) or the Option key (Mac) and double-click the Background layer. The Background layer is now Layer 0.

  2. In the Layers panel, click the Add Layer Mask button and then click the Add Layer Mask button again.

    A layer vector mask is created, and everything outside the path becomes transparent.

    Creating a clipping path the easy way, with layers.
    Creating a clipping path the easy way, with layers.

    You can still edit the path by using the Direct Selection tool.

  3. Save the file in the .psd format.

  4. Choose File→Place to put the image, with its clipping path included, into other Adobe applications.

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