What Is Clipping Path? A Complete Guide & Its Applications

What Clipping Path

A clipping path in Photoshop is a crucial technique that defines and isolates specific objects or subjects within an image while eliminating the background. The importance of clipping paths lies in their ability to provide precision and accuracy when separating objects from their backgrounds.

This precision is vital when dealing with complex subjects like products with intricate details or models with flowing hair. Clipping paths ensure that every pixel inside the path remains visible, while those outside are concealed, resulting in clean and professional-looking images.

What is Clipping Path in Photoshop?

A clipping path is a graphic design technique used to isolate and extract a specific portion of an image while removing or “clipping” the rest of the background. It involves creating a closed path or vector shape around the desired object or subject within the image. This path acts as a mask, and when applied, it hides or removes everything outside of the path.

Clipping paths are commonly used in graphic design, image editing, and desktop publishing to create images with transparent backgrounds or to isolate objects. This can be for various purposes such as product photography, advertisements, or image manipulation.

They are typically created using software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, which allow for precise control over the path’s shape and accuracy.

The Another Name of Clipping Path – Deep-etch

Yes, another name for a clipping path is “deep-etching.” Deep-etching involves the same process of isolating and extracting an object or subject from its background by creating a precise path or mask. The term “deep-etching” is often used interchangeably with “clipping path” in the context of graphic design and image editing to describe this technique.

Both terms refer to the process of separating an element from its background to achieve transparency or to place it on a different background, and they are commonly used in industries like product photography, e-commerce, advertising, and more.

Is There Anything Called Clipping Path in Illustrator?

Yes, the concept of a clipping path also exists in Adobe Illustrator. In Illustrator, a clipping path is used to define a specific area within which an image or object is visible, while the portions outside of this path are effectively hidden or “clipped.” This technique is often employed to create complex shapes or masks for images and objects in Illustrator.

Is Clipping Path the Same as Image Masking? What’s the Difference?

Clipping path and image masking are related techniques used in image editing, but they serve slightly different purposes and involve distinct methods. Here’s an explanation of each and the key differences between them:

Clipping Path

A clipping path is a technique used to precisely isolate and extract a specific object or subject from an image while removing or “clipping” the rest of the background.

It involves creating a closed path or vector shape around the desired element within the image. This path acts as a mask, and when applied, it hides or removes everything outside of the path, leaving only the selected object visible.

Image Masking

Image masking, on the other hand, is a broader technique that involves concealing or revealing portions of an image based on pixel values, colors, or levels of transparency.

Image masking is not limited to creating sharp, well-defined edges like clipping paths. Instead, it allows for the creation of soft or gradual transitions between the masked and unmasked areas.

Key Differences

Edge Precision: Clipping paths are typically used when precise, well-defined edges are needed, making them ideal for objects with sharp boundaries. Image masking, on the other hand, is used when soft transitions or complex shapes are required.

Transparency: Image masking can create various levels of transparency within the mask, allowing for gradual blending. Clipping paths usually result in a completely opaque or completely transparent mask.

Software: Clipping paths are commonly created in software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Image masking can be done in these programs as well but offers more flexibility and control over transparency.

Types of Clipping Path with Examples

Clipping paths come in various types, each suited to different image editing needs. Here are some common types of clipping paths along with examples:

Simple Clipping Path: A simple clipping path is used to isolate objects with basic, straightforward shapes that have smooth and uncomplicated edges. It involves creating a path around the object to remove the background.

Example: A round coffee cup against a solid-colored background.

Medium Clipping Path: A medium clipping path is employed when isolating objects with moderately complex shapes or objects with multiple curves and edges. It requires more detailed work compared to a simple path.

Example: A pair of shoes with intricate design elements that need background removal.

Complex Clipping Path: Complex clipping paths are utilized for objects with intricate and detailed shapes, multiple curves, and numerous anchor points. This type of path is ideal for products with complex outlines.

Example: A chandelier with intricate crystal patterns and curves that require precise isolation.

Super Complex Clipping Path: Super complex clipping paths are used for objects with extremely intricate and fine details, such as subjects with complex backgrounds, intricate patterns, and numerous edges.

Example: A model with flowing hair and intricate clothing patterns against a complex background that needs precise extraction.

How Clipping Path Works?

A clipping path works by creating a closed path or vector shape around a specific object or subject within an image. This path acts as a mask that defines which parts of the image are visible and which parts are hidden or “clipped.” Here’s how the process of clipping path works step by step:

1. Select the Object

Start by identifying the object or subject within the image that you want to isolate from the background. This object can be anything from a product, a person, an animal, or any other element in the image.

2. Choose a Tool

In image editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, you’ll typically use the Pen Tool to create the clipping path. The Pen Tool allows you to draw precise paths with anchor points and handles.

3. Create the Path

Use the Pen Tool to carefully trace the outline of the selected object. Click to create anchor points and use the handles to adjust the curvature of the path as needed. Ensure that the path encloses the entire object, following its contours accurately.

4. Close the Path

When you reach the starting point of your path, close the path by connecting it to the initial anchor point. You now have a closed path that defines the boundary of the object.

5. Convert to a Selection

In most image editing software, you can convert the path you’ve created into a selection. This selection will be used to mask the object from the background. In Adobe Photoshop, for example, you can right-click on the path in the Paths panel and choose “Make Selection.”

6. Apply the Clipping Path

With the selection active, you can apply the clipping path effect. This can involve various actions depending on your software and the specific task. For example, you might copy the selected object to a new layer with a transparent background or apply a mask to hide the background.

7. Edit as Needed

Once you’ve applied the clipping path, you can further edit the image, adjust the object, or replace the background as required. This allows you to achieve the desired final result.

8. Save or Export

Finally, save or export the edited image in the desired format. This could be a format that supports transparency, like PNG, or any other format suitable for your project.

The Techniques Used for Clipping Path

Indeed, there are various techniques used for creating clipping paths, each suited to different scenarios and levels of precision. Here are some common techniques:

Photoshop Pen Tool

The Photoshop Pen Tool is one of the most precise and widely used tools for creating clipping paths. It allows you to create precise paths by placing anchor points and adjusting curve handles. This method is ideal for objects with well-defined edges and intricate shapes.

Lasso Tool

The Lasso Tool in Photoshop is a freehand selection tool that can be used for basic clipping path tasks. It allows you to draw a rough outline around the object you want to select. While it may not provide the same level of precision as the Pen Tool, it can be effective for simpler objects with less detailed edges.


Masking techniques involve creating masks or selections to isolate objects from their backgrounds. Layer masks, vector masks, or alpha channel masks can be used to achieve various levels of transparency or reveal certain parts of an image. This method is versatile and can be used for both simple and complex objects.

Magic Wand Tool

The Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop can select pixels of similar color or tone with a single click. It is useful for selecting areas with a consistent background or objects with distinct color differences from their surroundings. However, it may require adjustments and refinement for accurate clipping.

Color Range Selection

This technique involves using the “Color Range” tool in Photoshop to select pixels based on their color. It’s effective when isolating objects with distinct and consistent colors in the foreground and background.

Vector Path Software (e.g. Adobe Illustrator)

Vector graphic software like Adobe Illustrator allows you to create precise vector paths around objects. While it’s not strictly a Photoshop technique, the resulting vector paths can be imported into Photoshop for further editing or used directly in other design applications.

AI vs Manual Clipping Path

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and manual clipping path techniques each have their advantages and limitations. Let’s compare the two:

AI Clipping Path

Speed: AI-based tools can quickly generate clipping paths for images, especially those with well-defined edges and simple backgrounds. They can process a large number of images in a short amount of time, making them efficient for bulk editing.

Consistency: AI algorithms can provide a consistent level of accuracy across multiple images, reducing the chances of human error or variations in quality.

Simplicity: AI tools are user-friendly and do not require extensive manual intervention. They are accessible to individuals with minimal image editing skills.

Automation: AI can automate the clipping path process, saving time and effort for repetitive tasks.

Limitations of AI Clipping Path

Complexity: AI may struggle with complex objects, intricate details, or subjects with soft or semi-transparent edges. Manual intervention may still be needed for these cases.

Lack of Creativity: AI lacks the creativity and subjective judgment that humans can apply in cases where artistic or nuanced decisions are required.

Fine-tuning: For images that demand high precision and detailed control, manual adjustments are often necessary to refine AI-generated paths.

Manual Clipping Path

Precision: Manual clipping paths, especially created by skilled graphic designers, offer the highest level of precision and control. They can handle complex objects and soft edges with ease.

Flexibility: Manual clipping paths allow for creative adjustments and fine-tuning, making them suitable for tasks where aesthetics and details are critical.

Complexity: Skilled designers can handle the most intricate and challenging images, such as those with difficult-to-define edges or intricate patterns.

Limitations of Manual Clipping Path

Time-Consuming: Manual clipping path creation is a labor-intensive process, which can be time-consuming when dealing with a large number of images.

Cost: Hiring skilled designers to create manual clipping paths can be more expensive than using AI tools, especially for large projects.

So, which one should you choose? The choice between AI and manual clipping path techniques depends on the specific requirements of the image editing task. AI is excellent for quickly processing simple images in bulk, while manual clipping paths are essential for complex and detailed work that demands precision and creative control.

Applications of Clipping Path?

Clipping paths are a versatile technique in image editing and find applications in various fields. Here are some common applications of clipping paths:

Product Photography

Clipping paths are extensively used in product photography to isolate items from their original backgrounds. This creates clean, professional product images with transparent backgrounds, making them suitable for e-commerce websites and catalogs.

Removing Image Background

Clipping paths are employed to remove unwanted backgrounds from images. This is useful when you want to focus on the subject of the image or replace the background with something else.

Replacing Image Background

Clipping paths allow you to remove the existing background and replace it with a new one, creating composite images. This is common in graphic design and advertising where objects need to be placed in different settings or contexts.

Selecting Various Types of Objects

Clipping paths can be used to select and isolate a wide range of objects, not just products. This includes people, animals, vehicles, and more. The technique is valuable when precise object isolation is required for creative or functional purposes.

Image Masking and Compositing

Clipping paths are part of the image masking process, which is used to blend or composite multiple images seamlessly. This is crucial for creating visually appealing compositions in graphic design and digital art.

Web Design

In web design, images with transparent backgrounds created through clipping paths can be seamlessly integrated into website layouts. Thus, it provides a polished and cohesive look.

Advantages of Clipping Path

Precise Object Isolation: Clipping paths allow for precise and accurate isolation of objects or subjects within an image, ensuring clean and polished results.

Transparent Backgrounds: They are excellent for creating images with transparent backgrounds, which can be seamlessly integrated into various design projects.

Background Replacement: Clipping paths make it easy to remove and replace backgrounds, allowing for creative flexibility and adaptability in image compositions.

Enhanced Product Presentation: In e-commerce and product photography, clipping paths help showcase products professionally, resulting in improved visual appeal and higher sales.

Consistency: When used across multiple images, clipping paths ensure a consistent look and feel, which is important for maintaining brand identity and design cohesion.

Customization: Clipping paths enable selective adjustments, such as color correction or editing specific parts of an image, without affecting the entire composition.

Complex Object Handling: They can handle intricate and complex objects with fine details, such as jewelry or fashion items, with precision.

Improved Print Materials: Clipping paths contribute to high-quality print materials, ensuring that images and graphics are presented crisply and clearly.

Efficiency in Workflow: In combination with automation, they can streamline image editing workflows, particularly for large batches of images.

Versatility: Clipping paths can be used for a wide range of image editing tasks, from basic background removal to advanced compositing and retouching.

Disadvantages of Clipping Path

Time-Consuming: Creating detailed clipping paths manually can be time-consuming, especially for complex or intricate subjects, which can slow down image editing workflows.

Skill and Expertise Required: Achieving high-quality results with manual clipping paths requires skill and expertise, making it less accessible to individuals with limited experience.

Incompatibility with Some Objects: Clipping paths may not be suitable for objects with soft or irregular edges, as they may result in unnatural or jagged transitions.

Complex Backgrounds: Clipping paths can be challenging to create for objects against highly detailed or busy backgrounds, often requiring more advanced techniques.

Subjective Nature: The quality of clipping paths can vary based on the individual editor’s judgment, making consistency a potential issue in larger editing teams.

Limited Automation: While automation tools are available, they may not achieve the same level of precision as manual clipping paths, especially for challenging images.

Who Needs Clipping Path Service?

Clipping path services are beneficial and relevant to various individuals and businesses across different industries. Here are some examples of who may need this service:

E-commerce Businesses: Online retailers often require clipping path services to create high-quality product images with transparent backgrounds. This improves the overall presentation of products on their websites and helps boost sales.

Photographers: Professional photographers may need clipping path services to enhance their images, isolate subjects, or prepare images for clients. Wedding, fashion, and product photographers, in particular, can benefit from these services.

Graphic Designers: Graphic designers use clipping paths for various design projects, including creating advertisements, promotional materials, posters, and brochures. Clipping paths enable them to manipulate and integrate images seamlessly into their designs.

Advertising Agencies: Ad agencies use clipping paths to create visually appealing advertisements, marketing materials, and campaigns. They often require precise object isolation and background removal.

Print and Publishing Companies: Print media companies need high-quality images for magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and other publications. Clipping path services ensure that images are crisp and suitable for printing.

Web Designers: Web designers use clipped images to create visually engaging websites and online content. Transparent backgrounds and isolated subjects enhance the aesthetics and user experience.

Catalog Companies: Companies that produce catalogs, whether in print or digital format, use clipping paths to showcase products effectively. This is crucial for presenting a consistent and professional image across their catalogs.

Jewelry Retailers: Jewelry retailers require precise image editing to showcase the intricate details of their products. Clipping paths help isolate jewelry items and make them stand out.

Apparel and Fashion Industry: Fashion brands and clothing retailers use clipping paths to present clothing and accessories in a visually appealing manner, often with models or mannequins.

Marketing and Branding Professionals: Marketing professionals and branding agencies utilize clipping paths to create compelling visuals for branding, advertisements, and marketing campaigns.

Architects and Interior Designers: Professionals in architecture and interior design may need clipping paths for presentations and portfolios, where they want to highlight specific elements or details within images.

Photo Editing and Retouching Studios: Studios that specialize in image editing and retouching services rely on clipping paths for a variety of client projects, including fashion and beauty retouching.

Social Media Influencers: Influencers and content creators use clipped images to enhance their social media posts, creating visually captivating content that engages their audience.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of clipping path services can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the images, the number of images to be edited, the level of detail required, the image editing service provider, and the turnaround time.

As per the resources available from multiple service providers, the cost of basic clipping path services for simple images with straightforward objects could start at around $0.50 to $2 per image. Medium complexity images might range from $2 to $5 per image, while complex or super complex clipping paths may cost $5 to $20 or more per image.

How to Choose the Right Clipping Path Service?

Choosing the right clipping path service is crucial for achieving high-quality image editing results that meet your specific needs. Here are steps to help you make an informed decision:

Define Your Requirements

Start by clearly defining your image editing requirements. Determine the complexity of the images you work with, the volume of images you need to edit, and any specific editing tasks beyond clipping paths, such as retouching or background replacement.

Research Service Providers

Conduct thorough research to identify potential clipping path service providers. You can find them through online searches, recommendations from colleagues, or industry-specific directories. Make a list of potential providers.

Check Portfolios and Samples

Review the portfolios and sample work of each service provider on your list. Pay close attention to the quality of their image editing, especially for projects similar to yours. Look for consistency and attention to detail.

Assess Turnaround Time

Consider your project’s turnaround time requirements. Some service providers offer fast or rush services for quicker delivery. Ensure that the chosen provider can meet your deadlines.

Request Quotes

Contact the service providers on your shortlist and request detailed quotes for your specific project. Be clear about the number of images, complexity, and any additional services you require. Compare the pricing and consider your budget.

Quality Assurance

Inquire about the provider’s quality assurance processes. Ask if they have a quality control team or if they provide revisions in case you’re not satisfied with the initial results.

Security and Data Privacy

Ensure that the service provider has robust security measures in place to protect your images and data. Check their data privacy policy and compliance with data protection regulations.

Customer Support

Test the customer support of the service provider by asking questions and assessing their responsiveness and helpfulness. Reliable customer support can make your experience smoother.

Wrap Up

So, a clipping path is a fundamental image editing technique that involves creating a precise path or vector shape around a subject or object within an image. This path acts as a mask and allows you to isolate the subject from its background or apply various editing and compositional effects. Clipping paths are versatile and find applications in a wide range of industries and creative endeavors.

In a world where visual communication is paramount, mastering the art of the clipping path is a valuable skill. Whether it’s about showcasing products, creating stunning designs, or telling compelling stories through images, the clipping path is your key to precision and creativity.