How to Create a Clipping Path in Photoshop

Depending on your creative field, clipping paths can be used to cut a shape or silhouette out of one project, and then re-use it as a path in future project. Generally, paths are the best way to wrap text around a graphic, and they can be as simple or complex as you like. In this handy guide, we've outlined how to create a clipping path, Photoshop style. 

  1. Power of the Pen: First, load the Photoshop project with the image that you'd like to clip, or start a new project and paste in your desired image. The cleanest and most professional method for making clipping paths is with the Pen tool. You may be tempted to use the Magic Wand tool as a selection shortcut, but this is a sloppy approach, and it will never look as good as drawing the path by hand. 
  2. Trace the Image: With the Pen tool selected, zoom in on the area that you'd like to trace and start placing anchor points. The Pen is deceptively simple, but pressing the Alt/Command key will allow you to switch between its secondary tools, such as "Add Anchor Point", "Delete Anchor Point", and "Convert Point". Get in the habit of using these keyboard shortcuts, and start adding anchor points to create seamless lines that bend and curve. 
  3. Minimize Ghosting: To avoid tracing a path with rough edges, we recommend creating anchor points in between the subject and background objects. When done correctly, your pen drawing will be in the center of Photoshop's anti-aliasing, which smooths out the pixels' harsh edges. When you're happy with the pen drawing, go to the Paths panel (it's located in the same area as the Layers panel), click the triangle icon on the top right, and choose "Save Path". Then, in the same menu, choose "Clipping Path".  
  4. Adjust the Clipping Path Settings: A new Clipping Paths dialog box will appear, allowing you to set a few image options. First, make sure that your new path is selected from the drop-down list. You can leave the Flatness setting blank. Then, click OK. 
  5. Save Your Path: Go to "File" > "Save As" to save your path, and in the Format section, choose "Photoshop EPS" with all of the default settings. When you click OK, your clipping path will be saved as a new file, which can be used in future Photoshop projects and other applications as well, such as Illustrator and InDesign. 
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