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How to Do a Clipping Path in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop makes it possible to isolate certain parts of an image, without permanently changing the layer. This allows you to tweak the image at any point in the creative process, and if you ever want to undo the edits, it only takes a few seconds. Every aspiring photographer and graphic designer should learn how to do a clipping path in Photoshop, so that you take full advantage of the program's capabilities. It gives you the flexibility to make quick changes if a demanding client asks for a complete overhaul of your design, and this is so crucial when you have paid deadlines.

So how does a clipping path work, and why is it so helpful when editing images? Let's pretend you've loaded a photo of a white horse on a dirt trail, but you want to cut the horse out of the image, and place him in a completely new scene. Using clipping paths, this only takes a few steps. 

Below, we've shared how to do a clipping path in Photoshop, using any image that you like. 

Creating a Clipping Path with the Paths Panel

  1. First, launch Photoshop and load the image you'd like to edit. Select the Pen tool from the main toolbar and start drawing around the object that needs to be isolated. Once you've drawn a complete path around the object, go down to the Layers palette and select the Paths panel, which has its own tab. Click on the triangle-shaped icon located at the top right corner of the panel, and then choose "Save Path".   
  2. Next, select "Clipping Path" from the same drop-down menu. A new dialog box will appear with a variety of clipping path settings. Make sure your path is selected, and then click OK. 
  3. Now, let's save the clipping path to our current Photoshop project. Go to the main File menu, select "Save As", and then choose "Photoshop EPS" as the EPS Options setting. 

Creating a Clipping Path with Layer Mask

This method makes it possible to use your clipping path in other editing programs, such as Illustrator and InDesign. First, create a new layer for your image (i.e. make sure it's not the Background layer) and then draw a path around the desired object with the Pen tool. 

Now go to the Layers palette and click the "Add Layer Mask" button twice (found in the drop-down menu by clicking the triangle in the top right corner). This saves your selected path as a layer mask, and everything outside of the selection will be transparent. Finally, select "Save As" to save a new file.

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