Understanding Clipping Paths in InDesign CC - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith

Clipping paths allow you to create a path that crops a part of an image based on the path, such as removing the background area of an image. This shape can be one you create using InDesign, or you can import an image that already has a clipping path. InDesign can also use an existing alpha or mask layer, such as one created using Photoshop, and treat it like a clipping path. Clipping paths are useful when you want to block out areas of an image and have text wrap around the leftover image.

You can create a clipping path directly in InDesign by using a drawing tool, such as the Pen tool. You use the tool to create a shape and then paste an image into this shape on the page. If you expect you’ll want to reuse the clipping path and the image in the future, create the path in Photoshop and save it as part of the image instead.

Here’s a quick way to remove the background of an image using InDesign:

  1. Choose File  →  Place and browse to locate and open an image.

    Pen tool InDesign

  2. With the Pen tool, create a path right on top of the image.

    The path should be created so that it can contain the image.

  3. With the Selection tool, click to select the image and then choose Edit  →  Cut.
  4. Select the shape you created in Step 1 and choose Edit  →  Paste Into.

    The image is pasted into the selected shape you drew with the Pen tool.

    If an image placed into your InDesign layout already includes a clipping path, you can choose to use it by selecting Show Import Options at the time you place the image into your layout. On the Mac OS, click on the Options button to be able to check the Show Import Options checkbox.

    If that image contains multiple paths, you can choose which path to use by selecting Object  →  Clipping Path  →  Options, and then selecting either Alpha Channel or Clipping Path from the Type menu, depending upon what is used in the image.

    If an image you import into your layout was photographed against a solid light colored or white background — such as a picture of a product for a catalog that was taken against a white background — you can have InDesign create a clipping path for that image. Here’s how:

  5. Find an image that has a solid background and place it into your document. Using the Selection tool, click to select the image.
  6. Choose Object  →  Clipping Path  →  Options.
  7. In the Clipping Path dialog box, click the Type drop-down menu and choose Detect Edges. Adjust the threshold slider until the background surrounding the image disappears.
  8. Click OK.

    The path is created so that the image is visible and the background has been removed. The image can be placed over any other object, and it will reveal any items behind it.

    For a clipping path to reveal objects behind it, the object with the clipping path needs to be at the top-most layer or the top-most object within its layer. You can check this by selecting the object and choosing Object  →  Arrange  →  Bring to Front and also using the layers panel, available by choosing Window  →  Layers.