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Image Silhouettes with Adobe Photoshop CS

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  1. Using a Clipping Path to Create Silhouettes
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Ever wanted an image to appear silhouetted in your page layout program? If so, it's time to fire up Photoshop CS. In this article, Photoshop guru and New Riders author Bert Monroy shows you how to use clipping paths to create stunning silhouettes.

Using a Clipping Path to Create Silhouettes

If you want an image to appear silhouetted in your page layout program, you must create a Clipping Path for it in Photoshop. A silhouette means that the image will have no background of its own, allowing other images or text to be seen behind it. Thumb through any catalogs or magazines and you will see many instances where some element on the page sits without a background.

Figure 1 shows a coffee mug photographed against a stark white background. If this coffee mug were to appear against a white background on a sell sheet such as the one shown in Figure 2, there would be no problem with the current background. The cup appears silhouetted even though nothing has been done to the background.

Figure 1Figure 1 This coffee mug has been photographed against a white background.

Figure 2Figure 2 The cup appears silhouetted against the background.

The same image on a sell sheet that has an existing image for its background will cause a problem, such as the one seen in Figure 3. This is where the Clipping Path comes in handy.

Figure 3xFigure 3 The cup maintains the white of its background.

Anything that is currently selected can be turned into a path by clicking the Make Work Path from Selection icon at the bottom of the Path palette (Figure 4).

Figure 4xFigure 4 The Make Work Path from Selection button in the Path palette converts any selected area in the image into a path.

In the particular case of this coffee mug in Figure 1, creating the path can be quite simple because the image is easy to select using any of the other selection tools. Using the Magic Wand Tool, the white areas of the background are selected as seen in Figure 5.

Figure 5Figure 5 The white areas of the coffee mug image are selected with the Magic Wand Tool.

Inverse is selected from the Select menu (Figure 6). This selects the opposite areas, the coffee mug as the selection. The selection is then made into a path by clicking the Make Work Path from Selection icon at the bottom of the Path palette (Figure 4).

Figure 6Figure 6 The coffee mug becomes the selection.

It is not always perfect and it might need a little adjusting here and there. If you are meticulous, then it always needs adjusting. At that point, it is a path—the Pen Tool can adjust it.

To turn the path into a Clipping Path, you choose Clipping Path from the Path palette submenu (Figure 7).

Figure 7Figure 7 A Clipping Path is chosen from the Path palette submenu.

A dialog box appears, in which you can choose which path to use as the Clipping Path (Figure 116). The Clipping Path is then embedded into an EPS file, and now it can also be saved in a TIFF file for high-quality, resolution-independent masking of bitmapped images when placed into page layout programs or drawing software. This is perhaps the most typical use of Photoshop paths for most users.

Figure 8Figure 8 Which path to be used as the Clipping Path is chosen from the Clipping Path dialog box.

Here's the final cup with its Clipping Path.

Figure 9xFigure 9 The cup is properly silhouetted against the background image.

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