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Using Clipping Paths in InDesign CS5

Imagine a world where everything had to fit nicely and neatly into its own little box, with four sides, four corners, and... wait. Scratch that. Boring idea. Fortunately, our world is not boxed-in. Instead, it's filled with distinct angles, free-flowing curves, unusual shapes, and out-of-the-box edges that make life anything but ordinary. So, why do so many designers limit themselves to rectangular images when designing projects in Adobe InDesign?

Because raster images have to be rectangular, you say. It's part of the software.

True, yes, but not a good excuse - especially when clipping paths are so readily available and easy enough to use.

Clipping paths allow you to hide the part of an image you don't want to appear on the page. Think of it like a cropping tool, but without having to remain within the confines of clipping a rectangular or square box. Anything inside the clipping path will be visible, but anything outside of it will be transparent. That's right. Transparent. As in invisible, unseen, and - most importantly - able to let other page elements flow over top without getting hidden from view.

At this point, you're probably asking, "So, where have clipping paths been my whole life, and how can I get started?" Glad you asked.

Getting Started

The easiest way to add a clipping path to an image is to create the path in Photoshop, then import the image into InDesign with the clipping path already in place. Use the Path tool in Photoshop to create the path, save the image as a TIFF, EPS, or PSD file, and import it into InDesign with the clipping path already in place (File > Place). Select Apply Photoshop Clipping Path on the Import Options dialog box and InDesign will then clip the image accordingly.

Refining the Path

After importing the image, you can alter its clipping path fairly easily by selecting the image you want to refine using the direct selection tool. The clipping path you imported will then appear. Click and drag on any points along this path to reshape the image and refine the edge. As you alter the clipping path, additional details from the original image will be hidden or revealed.

Converting the Path to a Frame

Once you're finished fine-tuning your path, you can convert it to a standard frame by choosing Object > Clipping Path > Convert Path to Frame. This will lock the path in place for you.

Choose Your Own Path

InDesign will let you choose any path created in Photoshop as the clipping path. To choose a path, highlight the placed image and choose Object > Clipping Path > Options. Select the Photoshop Path option from the Type menu in the dialog box that appears, and then choose a path from the list. Preview your selection, and select OK when you're satisfied.

Don't let InDesign's restrictions for image dimensions paint you into a corner. Break free with clipping paths.

InDesign CS5 Visual Quickstart Guide
by Sandee Cohen

Learn about the important new features available in InDesign CS5, along with functions power users still rely on from previous iterations. Discover how to create and automate documents, import style text and objects, manage long documents, export files, and more. Updates covering CS5.5 are available, as well, when you register your copy of the book with the publisher.

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