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Clipping Paths

Lesson 24 from: Adobe InDesign CC for Beginners

Erica Gamet

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Lesson Info

24. Clipping Paths

Next Lesson: Transparency

Lesson Info

Clipping Paths

Something called Clipping Paths. And a Clipping Path lets you take an image and put a path inside of it, and then clip out everything that's back behind it. And that's exactly what I've done here, with this little jar of money. And I'm gonna go ahead and you can see, maybe, see how there's like cross hatching for the drop shadow? That's because we just set that in our typical display. If I select this image only and I right click on it, and I tell Display Performance to go to High Quality, then our Drop Shadow should end up looking better. Is that a little better? You can still see some of the stepping on there because I have it blown up pretty big. But it definitely looks smoother than it did before. But what I have, is this isn't actually an image here, if I roll this over, I can kinda see how I have this path that in fact doesn't even continue on all the way down below that first row of coins. Because I made a path that cut out this image to a certain point, because I knew where it ...

would be sitting in my document, low enough here. So I have that clipped out, so how do we do that? So I'm gonna go ahead and I'm gonna put that in another page again so we can work off to the side. And then I'm going to, just gonna but a color back here, just so we can see what's happening when we have this Clipping Path back behind. So what we're doing, like I said, is I'm clipping out an area, I'm making that area transparent. Now you may have an image in Photoshop that has transparency already, and if you place that in here into InDesign and you've got transparency, the transparency will carry through to InDesign as well. But in the case of this image here, I didn't actually have that built in to my Photoshop file. I had to create that from scratch. So I'm gonna go ahead and place that same image that's here, and it's a Photoshop file. And I'm just gonna go ahead and draw it out to size, about like here. And I can see that I have that white image back behind. And I know that I wanna chop it out along the top here, and along the top of the jar so that I see that image back behind. So what I need to do is create a Clipping Path, and I have a couple different options in InDesign. One of them is, in this case, I might be able to get it to recognize where the background is, because it's bright white. Now sometimes you don't have the luxury of that, your background is you know, a building back behind that you need to remove. So you'll need to actually do some work in Photoshop, or the great thing is when you purchase stock photography, there are often ones that say include Clipping Path, or include paths. And that might mean that it's set up like this, but someone has already gone and done the work of tracing around the image, and then you can just turn that on or off in your InDesign file. So I'm gonna select the image, and I wanna make sure I actually select the image itself, and not the frame. So I can use the Direct Section tool, or I can make sure that I'm selecting the little content grabber here. And just to be sure, I'm gonna select that with the selection tool. And then I'm gonna go up under the Object menu, and choose Clipping Path, and then Options. So, a couple different choices that I have, and different things will show or not show, depending on what is contained inside your actual file. So one of the options is Detect Edges. And if I turn on my Preview, I can see what happens. So Detect Edges, you think, well that looks pretty good, then you realize, no, it actually went right into the jar because it's such such a bright white background. And because the jar is also, has these white spots on it. It doesn't know the difference between the jar and the background at all, even though I do. But so you might, if you had something like this that was sitting on a solid black background, you might have had a better chance. In this case, you can see where it's gonna clip right into the jar and bits of the coin, and that's just not really going to work for us. So lets see what else we have. We have Alpha Channel, if there's an Alpha Channel set up inside the document. Sometimes the Alpha Channels are set so that what you wanna clip is defined by that Alpha Channel. In this case nothing really happens, so that's no good for us. And I can also choose a specific Photoshop path. So in this case, I've actually hand drawn a path around the top of the coins and the jar itself, and I can choose it from here. So once I choose a Photoshop Path, if I have multiple paths I would choose it in this particular menu here. So I can see now, that this path I drew just using the pen tool, I just drew all the way around these items, is exactly what I was looking for. Now I got lazy here, and I said this is as far as I need to go, so I'll just draw down here, I'll draw over here, and then back up the side. Because I knew where this would be sitting, I wouldn't need to worry about cutting out the middle here. And that can be difficult. So, I just went ahead and said okay to that. I can change, depending on the paths that I have selected, I may be able to change the threshold, or how much of a difference there needs to be between the background and the image itself. But I can't in this case, because I chose an existing path. I can do a couple other things though, I can invert it, which means it clips out everything except for the path. So I just click Invert for that. So that's great if you have something in Photoshop that you wanna use as a frame and have everything show through from back behind, you can do that. And the Inset frame just lets me move it in a little bit, like maybe I was a little loose on the path and I just want it to move in a little bit more towards the coin, I can do that. And this is one place where I use a different unit of measurement, because I just want a small amount and I don't know how to do that in inches. So the great thing in InDesign is you can use a different unit of measurement. So in this case I'm gonna say let's bring it in, lets just bring it in two millimeters. So two mm, it's gonna convert it to inches for me, cause that's what I'm working in. When I do that, hopefully you can see that it brought it in a little bit, if not, let's, I'll just have you watch that. So there's where it is by default, and if I bring it in two millimeters, and hit Tab, it brought it in even a little bit tighter. But I'm gonna leave it at zero, I think that's fine. So again, I can see what it looks like before and after, and that's a path that I drew in Photoshop. And we'll just say OK, and now, I know that so long as I place this image... Let's use this selection too here and grab the frame. I know so long as I don't bring up any of those coins there I'm fine, I can keep it down below here and here, and I know that that's now going to sit on top of that. Now, it's not great, again, I did a really quick path in Photoshop. So obviously I can see that that doesn't work great, but I can actually select this with the Direct Selection tool, and this is just a regular path. I could then, if I really want to, I could sit and kind of close in on that, select this item here, select this point, play with the grab handles, it's a lot of work but you could do it, especially if you just needed to fix a couple of things. But there's no link back to the Photoshop file, so even if you get this looking beautifully and then you decide you need to change your Photoshop file, that isn't going to work so well for you. But it is a manipulatable path as well. So that's a Clipping Path, and you think okay, that's great, buy why else might I need to use that? Well the great thing is is I can even take this, and I can copy that, I just did Command or Control C, and delete it. And then I can select this item and go up under the Edit menu, and then tell it to Paste Into, and it puts that item inside which is nice, instead of that nice overlap. So now I've got a frame inside a frame, I can see where this frame is, I can see where the path itself is, the frame inside, and then the outer frame. So in this case I can just go ahead and move this item wherever I needed to, again, being aware that my path was cheating and I didn't really, didn't really do the entire path. But now I have this nice image set inside that other image ready to go. And now that's a nice frame. I can also with that stacking order, I can put text frame on top of it or whatever else I need to on top of it. And I can take this frame, and I can put it inside another frame if I wanted to. So you can nest as many frames as you need to together. But something else that I can do with that... I'm gonna undo that until we get it back outside the frame there. Is with a Clipping Path, I can now add a drop shadow to this particular object. So I wanna use the Direct Selection tool, and click on the image, and of course it's going to select the frame as well, but I am working with the image, I can see that. And I wanna add a drop shadow to that. So I'm gonna go up under the Effects menu, and come down here to Drop Shadow. And actually, all of the effects are in the same drop down menu right here, it's just that it's gonna automatically assign a Drop Shadow for you, and then it's going to open up that little portion of the dialog box for me. So I'm gonna come over here, kinda push this off to the side so I can see it. So as soon as I hit Preview I can see that I've got a Drop Shadow here, and it's on top of the image itself. Now right now most of it's happening down here outside the frame, and that's because by default, this is on this angle of the Drop Shadow, it means the light's coming in from this side, which means your Drop Shadow's gonna fall to the lower right. So basically, what I want to do, is just sort of move this around until I get my Drop Shadow coming off the top. Just because that's where most of my path is, is on the top there. So I just move that around. As I move that, you can also see that this is changing. So I generally use this just to set my source light. And then I can also tell it how far out I want that shadow to be. So if it's really late in the day, we've got a really, really deep shadow there, we can play with that. And again, this is just a Drop Shadow, not a realistic throne shadow, but a Drop Shadow. And then also, I can change the size, which basically defuses it more and more. It basically says how much of that, or how far that shadow is, and then the spread below it, the percentage, tells you how much of that shadow is taken up by solid before the graduated part begins. So it's pretty solid here, 82% of it is solid, and then in the last 18% is where that feathering, that soft edge comes into play. And if I move it all the way to the right, I get a 100% hard edge shadow. So it looks exactly like the image behind it, it's hard though, it doesn't have that nice feather look to it. So I can play with that. And again, these are nice sliders, make sure you turn on the Preview, so you can actually see what's happening. The other thing that I can do, is I can change the color of the shadow itself. Generally speaking, Drop Shadows are black, but I can click on that and have access to any of the colors that I need. If I wanted to, I don't like that, we're not gonna do that. I'm gonna cancel that. I can also choose how dark, how much opacity, or transparency is applied to that shadow itself. Let's do something like 60 instead so it's a lighter, less harsh shadow. And then also let's make it slightly smaller. Alright so we'll do that, we'll save that. And what I said when we opened up this Effects panel, is that all the effects are in there, it's just when I chose Drop Shadow, it automatically selected that Drop Shadow and also opened it up in this side of the dialog box. If I wanted to add other effects, I could right now. I could go ahead and change, let's do a Bevel and Emboss, see if we get anything out of that. We're not really gonna see anything, but when I select it, I need to also click on it and another effect shows up there as well. And this is where I would set all the settings for that particular effect. We'll add some effects to a different object in just a few minutes. So I'm gonna de-select that. But again, we wanna make sure that we can look and see what each thing contains, and by clicking on it, it's applying, and all I wanted to do was see what was in each of those dialog boxes that are there. So again, Drop Shadow, I can see everything that's there. I'm gonna leave the Blending mode at Multiply, because that's generally what we expect from a Drop Shadow. Multiply is a blending mode, and it basically says take this black shadow and blend it into whatever is behind it. So it gives that sort of realistic shadow effect where you see the item behind it, showing through the shadow as well. So we'll say OK to that. And now I've got that nice Drop Shadow, again, I could go ahead and copy that and paste it into this frame so it actually gets cropped out and sits within that frame. But I kinda like it as a separate piece as well.

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Fantastic course. I have used Illustrator and photoshop, but learned when under tight deadlines. We are going to begin using inDesign to publish a more extensive multipage newsletter, and I wanted to build a better knowledge foundation of this tool, rather than just diving in. The course was comprehensive and I feel that I'll be able to make a better product after taking the course.


Have loved Erica since I was a baby designer. She is a great educator, and even though I have been using ID for about 8 years, I just changed from CS6 to CC. This was a great refresher as well as a mental upgrade to new options and effects.

Gilbert Beltran

I enjoyed these classes. Learned the Indesign toolbox and picked up a few smart tricks. Erica is great at keeping up the pace and being very clear and easy to follow.

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