How to Make a Photoshop Clipping Path

By Techwalla Computers Editor

Want to use part of an image but not destroy the rest? Photoshop clipping paths designate transparent areas in images. A clipping path can isolate part of an image; the rest of the image is transparent when the image is placed in a page layout. A common example is to make a clipping path of a foreground object to exclude or mask out the background.

Step 1

Define an area of the image to be the clipping path by drawing a path around the area. Use the marquee, lasso, pen or pencil tool from the Photoshop tool bar. The path will remain visible.

Step 2

Select "Window" from the menu bar and click "Paths." This will open the "Paths" palette. Click the pull-out menu on the upper right and select "Make Work Path." Select the appropriate tolerance; higher tolerance numbers mean more detail, lower numbers less detail. Click "OK." The Path pull-out menu will be displayed. Click "Save Path," type a name for the path in the dialog box and click "OK."

Step 3

Display the Path pull-out menu again. Choose "Clipping Path," and set the options. For "Path," select the path to be saved. If the "Flatness" value is left blank, Photoshop will use a default value. A low flatness value means the greater the number of straight lines used to draw the curve and therefore the more precise the curve. Flatness values range from 0.2 to 100. For low resolution printing, a flatness setting of one to three is recommended; for high resolution printing, use a value between eight and 10. Click "OK."

Step 4

Convert the file to the correct color mode if necessary. Use CMYK color mode if the file will be printed using process colors.

Step 5

Choose the correct file format. For printing to a PostScript printer, save as file format EPS, DCS or PDF. Save the file as a TIFF for non-PostScript printing. Select "Save As" under the "File" menu on the menu bar. The "Save As" dialog box will appear. Choose the appropriate format in the "Save As" field and type a name in the "File Name" field. Navigate to the location where the file is to reside. Click "Save."

Tips & Warnings

  • If importing a DSC or EPS file that has a TIFF preview into Illustrator, the on screen preview of the image's clipping path transparency may display incorrectly. It does not affect the Postscript printing.
  • If experiencing printing errors, change the flatness value to determine how the postscript interpreter approximates the curve.