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Five Adobe InDesign CS5 Tips in Five Days: Tip 4 - Removing a Light or Dark Background from an Imported Graphic

Posted April 15, 2010

Topics: Design, Adobe InDesign

Sometimes when laying out an Adobe® InDesign® page, you may want to remove the background of an imported image—perhaps so you can wrap text around a shape as in Figure 1. Creating a clipping path in Photoshop is often the best solution because its selection tools make it easy to isolate and remove even complex backgrounds. However, because the graphic element (the dancing pair) in Figure 1 is much darker than the background (the surrounding white area), you can easily remove the background using the Clipping Path feature in InDesign. In addition to removing white and light backgrounds, you can also use the Clipping Path feature to remove black backgrounds and backgrounds that are significantly darker than the graphic element they surround.

Figure 1.

Here’s how to remove the white background from an imported image. (Note: The example in the figures below includes a two-column text frame behind the graphics frame to help show how the Clipping Path feature works.)

  1. Use the Selection tool to select a bitmap image (.tif, .jpg, .psd, and so on), and then choose Object > Clipping Path > Options.
  2. In the Clipping Path dialog box, choose Detect Edges. This tells InDesign to create a clipping path based on the edges between light and dark areas of the graphic. If it’s not selected, click the Preview box. Figure 2 shows the result of choosing Detect Edges. Notice that there are two small white shapes within the black shape formed by the dancers. (You’ll deal with them shortly.)Figure 2.

  3. Because the graphic in this example has such high contrast, the Threshold setting doesn’t matter much. As the Threshold value gets higher, increasingly darker tones are removed and the amount of area clipped grows.
  4. If you want, you can try adjusting the Tolerance value. As the tolerance value increases, fewer points are used to draw the clipping path and the path fits the shape less precisely. Lower Tolerance values produce more precise paths, but they also result in more complex shapes and potentially longer printing time.
  5. Select Include Inside Images. Notice that the two white areas are now transparent like the rest of the background (Figure 3).Figure 3.

  6. Click OK to close the dialog box.

If you want to add the final touch and wrap text around the clipping path you just created, make sure the graphic or graphic frame is still selected, and then choose Window > Text Wrap. (You’ll need to overlap the graphic frame with a text frame to see the text wrap in action.) In the Text Wrap panel, click the Wrap Around Object Shape button (third from left at the top of the panel). If it’s not selected, choose Both Right & Left Sides from the Wrap To Menu and Same As Clipping from the Type menu. To create space between the shape of the dancers and the surrounding text, you can enter a value in the Top Offset field. (Because an irregular shape is selected, you cannot specify different values for Top, Left, Bottom, and Right Offsets.) The example in Figure 4 uses a Top Offset value of .125 inches.

Figure 4.

To remove a black background from a bitmap graphic, follow the steps above, but in the Clipping Path Options dialog box, select both Invert and Include Inside Images, and specify a high Threshold value. Figures 5 and 6 show before and after examples of using the Clipping Path feature to remove a black background. Notice that the Threshold setting in Figure 6 is 251.

Figure 5.Figure 6.

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