What Is Clipping Path? A Comprehensive Overview

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Do you need to display your products on a perfect white background? Or would you like to place your model in an exotic location? Clipping path can do that for you right away!

Clipping path is a game changer for eCommerce, fashion, advertising, and all other industries that deal with photographs. The need for this photo editing technique is increasing with the expansion of the online presence of different brands and companies.

In this comprehensive article, we will walk you through the clipping path technique in detail. You will find the answers to many questions, such as what clipping path is, how to make it, why you need it, how it works, where it is applied, and many more.  

So, to get all these insights, stay tuned until the end.

What is clipping path?

clipping path of a cap before after example

Clipping path is an advanced photo editing technique that separates foreground elements from the background. Different selection tools are used to draw outlines around the edges of a specific element or subject and create precise cutouts. These cutouts have transparent backgrounds. That means it can be used independently on any background.

Usually, professional clipping path service providers use Adobe Photoshop for this type of editing. There are several tools in Photoshop that you can use to create the clippings. Among these tools, the pen tool is the most useful one for drawing the outlines manually. This tool is ideal for outlining both simple and complex edges. 

Editing software these days integrates AI into their systems, which can create automatic photo clippings. However, the algorithm cannot identify the edges precisely. You need to make adjustments to select the areas perfectly.

Is Clipping Path and Deep Etch the Same?

Yes, clipping path and deep etch are the same image editing techniques.

Clipping path is popularly known by another name, which is ‘Deep Etch’. The term deep etching refers to the deep and precise etching around the edges of the foreground elements in an image. The terms clipping path and deep etching are used interchangeably. Both of these terms are used to refer to image editing or graphic design techniques. 

This technique is mostly used for eCommerce, advertising, product photography, fashion photography, and other related industries. These businesses often require images with transparent backgrounds. These types of images can be repurposed easily. Depending on the requirements of the marketing strategies, the cutout subjects or elements can be positioned over a different background.

Different Types of Clipping Path

Every image comes with unique types of complexity. Some images may have multiple subjects, while others may have fine details on the edges or holes in the subject’s body. However, clipping path has solutions for all types of challenges. 

Here are a few types of clipping path techniques to address various types of challenges:

Single Layer Clipping Path

The single layer clipping path is the technique for creating cutouts on one layer of an image. This method is mostly used on images that have only one subject with a well-defined edge. This is a common background removal technique used for eCommerce products. It is the easiest and simplest image cutout technique.

Multi-Layer Clipping Path

multi-layer clipping path

Multi-layer clipping path is the complex technique used to create paths around multiple elements or fine details. In this method, you need to create several layers to edit different areas separately. This technique can be used for various purposes, such as background removal, color correction, manipulation, and so on.

Illustrator Clipping Path

This is the clipping path technique used in Adobe Illustrator. In this method, vector shapes are used to create the cutouts. This is a non-destructive editing technique that allows you to resize clippings while maintaining their quality and resolution. This tool is usually used for creating logos, web designs, or digital art.

Is Clipping path & Image Masking the same?

Clipping Path and Image masking are distinctive photo editing techniques. However, they have similarities in their purpose, which is to separate foreground and background elements. 

Are you curious why there are two techniques for the same purpose? 

Well, both of these techniques are created to address different types of complexities. 

Clipping path is about creating vector paths around the edges of a subject or element to separate it from the background.  On the other hand, image masking involves adjusting the transparency, colors, or pixel values to make the selected area visible and hide the rest of the areas.

Let’s explore clipping path vs image masking to learn about their key differences.

Features

Clipping Path

Image Masking

Technique

Vector path is used to create precise outlines

Create a grayscale mask using different selection tools to define visible and hidden areas

Final Output

Clean cutout with perfectly defined edges

Smooth transition between the foreground and the background elements

Edges type

Great technique for outlining well-defined edges.

Mostly used for soft edges that are transparent or have hair, fur, etc.

Transparency

The final cutout is either transparent or opaque

Transparency of the edges that connect the foreground and background can be adjusted

Applications

Used in e-commerce, graphic design, catalogs, etc.

Used in portraits, headshots, fashion photography, etc.

Why Clipping Path is important for online businesses?

Online businesses need high-quality product images for their eCommerce store, social media marketing, print advertisements, and other purposes. Sometimes, they need various forms of the same image for different platforms. Clipping path is the solution to this problem. 

One of the basic needs of eCommerce brands is isolated products without any background. They can use these cutouts on their website, flyer, brochure, magazine, or other marketing materials. 

They also place product cutouts over different backgrounds. For example, in eCommerce platforms like Amazon, they place the cutouts over a white background. On the other hand, for social media marketing on Instagram or Pinterest, they place them over solid or textured backgrounds. 

Clipping path is also used for precise retouching and color correction. This technique can be used to create layer masks. Multiple layer masks can be created for different areas of the photos. Each of the areas can be retouched individually without affecting the other areas. This is how you can see clear and flawless intricate details of products. 

Retouching or background removal is only the tip of the iceberg. One of the major purposes online businesses use clipping paths is for image manipulation. The splash of liquids wrapped around a sports drink or clothing items on a ghost’s body— all these unrealistic advertisements are created using the clipping paths. So, you can understand how this editing technique has become a basic necessity for online brands.

Applications of Clipping Path Service

Clipping path is an advanced editing technique that can be used to fulfill various photo editing needs.  Let’s check out some of its popular applications.

Removing Background

Professional product photography is quite expensive for many small businesses or startups. However, they need professional quality product images to stay ahead of the competition with other brands. Besides, oftentimes backgrounds have different issues that ruin the visual aesthetics of the products. So, clipping path is used for removing backgrounds and bringing the focus solely on the products.

Replacing Background

Most eCommerce platforms allow using only white background product images. So products that are shot on different colored or textured backgrounds require replacement. Clipping path is used to create precise cutouts of the products and place them over a solid white color background. This is done by maintaining a high level of accuracy to make the images natural as well as professional.

Isolate foreground elements

Website design, catalogs, brochures, and other marketing materials require images with transparent backgrounds. Clipping path is used to separate foreground elements from the background. The independent cutouts of the subjects or products are then used for various purposes.

Eliminating Unwanted Elements

The foreground and background of photos can have unwanted elements that distract the focus away from the subject. Clipping paths are used to create outlines around the edges of the unnecessary elements and remove them from the composition.

Masking and Compositing

Image masking and compositing require the clipping path technique. Different areas of images can be selected by creating the outlines. Then different masking techniques can be applied to hide the area or adjust the opacity. Also, you can add multiple images and blend them seamlessly to create digital art.

Benefits of Image Clipping Path

The following are some of the key advantages you can get from clipping paths:

High-quality product presentation

High-quality images work like magnets. It attracts customers to check out the products and eventually purchase them. Companies use clipping path to cut off the background precisely. The removal of distracted background brings the focus solely on the products and enhances the visual appeal of the images.

Flexible image editing

Clipping path allow versatile editing of the image clippings. The isolated image portions can be placed over another background. You can alter the appearance of the photos entirely by adding shadows, reflections, or changing colors to meet your specific needs. Moreover, the photo clipping can be resized, duplicated, or composited within various design compositions.

Selective and precise editing

Clipping path allows precise selections of areas within images. This selective editing technique gives you control over changing only the target area. This is not only for removing the background. This level of controlled editing also allows you to use your creativity. You can use the cutouts to apply other editing techniques, such as manipulation, resizing, or blending with other images.

Increased sales

Professional quality product images have a higher conversion rate. As clipping path removes the distracting elements, the customer’s focus directly falls on the products. When they see intricate details, it creates the urge to buy the products. As a result, brands see a rise in their sales.

Cost-Effectiveness

Professional photoshoots are expensive and small businesses cannot always afford them. Also, the results are not always satisfactory. Clipping path service company provides professional quality images at a reasonable price. Brands can use this cost-effective solution to improve their image quality and generate revenue.

Techniques & Tools Used for Clipping Path

There are multiple tools and techniques available in Photoshop and other editing software. Each of these techniques is used for different types of photo editing needs, subjects, and levels of precision. 

Let’s check out different tools available for creating clipping path in Photoshop.

Photoshop Pen Tool

The Photoshop Pen Tool is a professional clipping path tool. This is the tool professional photo editors prefer to use the most. You can cut edges precisely through anchor points. The best part of this tool is that it is ideal for any type of edge.

Lasso Tool

The lasso tool is a freehand tool that you can use for basic clipping paths. You can draw outlines around the subjects just like we do with a pencil. This tool cannot create precise outlines like the pen tool. However, you can easily separate subjects from backgrounds that have simple and smooth edges.

Masking

Masking is an editing technique used to separate subjects from the background. There are different types of masking options, such as layer masking, vector masking, alpha channel masking, etc. You can also use it to hide or reveal specific areas within images by adjusting transparency levels.

Magic Wand Tool

The magic wand tool can select similar color or tone pixels automatically with a single click. You can use this tool to select a large area at once. However, it cannot select areas precisely. You need to make adjustments manually. Also, it works better only on solid color backgrounds with smooth edge subjects.

Color Range Selection

You can use this tool to select pixels based on their colors. The color range selection tool is ideal for working with images in which the background and subject colors are consistent but different.

Vector Path Software

This is a selection tool in Adobe Illustrator, another product of Adobe. You can use this tool to create precise vector paths to separate the subject from the background. You can import this tool into Photoshop and work with it.

Popular Software for clipping path

You can use the following software to create professional-quality image cutouts:

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard photo editing software. Professional photo editors and graphic designers use this software to create photo clippings. It is compatible with both Windows and macOS. It also offers a version for the iPad. This editing software is an expensive one. You have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use it. Photoshop has a wide range of powerful selection tools and layer adjustment features. Some of its tools can automatically select areas that have the same pixel value. Moreover, the pen tool is the top choice of professionals to create clipping path in Photoshop. However, its advanced features can be overwhelming for beginners. The plus side is that there are enough resources to seek assistance.

PaintShop Pro

You can consider Paintshop Pro as an Adobe Photoshop alternative. But it is comparatively less powerful. Its easy interface and other features make it beginner-friendly as well. It is compatible with Windows versions 7–11. It has several selection tools, like Photoshop. You can use these tools to draw outlines and cut off elements from the images. It has other tools that let you improve your choices, like the refine brush. It is a subscription-free paid tool. So, you can consider it an affordable option. It offers a free trial option for 30 days. You can try it out to experience its features and editing quality.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is another budget-friendly image clipping software. It offers a huge range of tools that you can use to create cutouts and improve their visual appeal. It offers non-destructive editing, like Photoshop. That means your original image data will remain secure. You can use this software on both Windows and macOS. However, you have to pay only once to purchase it.

GIMP

GIMP is one of the best photo editing software you can use for creating high-quality image clippings. This free and open-source software offers you a wide range of advanced features you will get in Photoshop and other premium tools. Moreover, it supports multiple operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and macOS.  If you are on a budget and want to try out professional quality editing software, then this is the one for you.  Another advantage of this tool is its strong community. Photographers and designers collaborate to add new features and keep the software updated. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, this software has the tools and features to give you high-quality service.

Key points of choosing the best clipping path service provider

women thinking before decision

Choosing the right clipping path service provider is important if you want high-quality results and on-time delivery.

So, how to choose a clipping path service provider?

Here are the factors you must consider when selecting a service provider for your project.

Quality of the work

The first thing you should look for in a clipping path service provider is their work quality. Check out their portfolio to see which genres they specialize in. You can also ask them for samples. Choose the one that delivers high-quality cutouts with precise edges. Also, make sure they are capable of maintaining accurate detailing.

Experience and Expertise

Experience matters when you are looking for a professional clipping path provider. Select the one with extensive experience. They are more likely to understand the complexities of different projects. You can also expect satisfactory results from them.

Turnaround Time

You should choose a provider who can meet your deadlines without compromising quality. Also, check whether they offer urgent delivery. In case you have urgent projects, you won’t have to worry about delivery.

Customer Reviews

You must check customer testimonials. You will get valuable insight about their work ethics and quality from their previous clients. Positive feedback is proof of their reliability and satisfactory service quality.

Security and Data Privacy

You must choose a provider who can ensure the privacy and security of your data. Look into their privacy policy to know whether they adhere to the data protection rules and regulations.

Customer Support

The service provider must offer supportive customer service. You can send your queries to them to see how responsive and helpful they are. Also, find out how many revisions they offer in case you are dissatisfied with their results.

Cost

Choose a provider that has a competitive pricing structure. Compare multiple providers to identify whether they are offering fair prices. Most clipping path providers give discounts on bulk projects. However, make sure the pricing is transparent. This will save you from the trap of hidden charges.

Hopefully these factors will help you find a professional and trustworthy clipping path partner.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Clipping path mainly isolates the subject or foreground element from the background. This way, it helps to create cutouts with transparent backgrounds that you can place on any of your marketing materials or backgrounds. In addition, it can assist in photo manipulation and color correction for digital art and advertisements.

The purpose of clipping is to make subjects or foreground elements in photographs independent. These cutouts are repurposed in various places. For example, they can be placed on white backgrounds for eCommerce use, positions in web designs, magazines, billboards, leaflets, and other marketing materials.

You can consider a clipping path service provider reliable and trustworthy if they have proof of delivering high-quality clipping path services. You can check out their portfolio, samples, and customer reviews to ensure the quality of their service.

Conclusion

We have reached the end of our discussion. So far, you have learned about the role of clipping paths in today’s digital world. 

Clipping Path is now considered an essential service for image editing as well as graphic design. Businesses will always require image clippings for use in their website, digital, and print marketing materials. Hopefully, its demand will continue to grow in the coming years.

author
Joanna Silva is a graphic designer with over six years of experience, specializing in photo retouching. She's now part of the team at Masking Aid, where her skills in enhancing images shine. Known for her attention to detail, Joanna's expertise adds a touch of magic to every project she works on. Whether it's smoothing out imperfections or adding visual flair, she's the go-to person for making photos look their best.