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Photo Masking with Clipping Paths

Photo masking is typically used to alter or remove a portion of the image. This will make it easier for you to place a portion of the image within another photograph. You can also replace an object on a different background to alter the look of a photograph. Once a neutral background is set in place you can add additional effects such as shadowing to draw attention to specific objects within the photograph.

Using a Clipping Path during Photo Masking

The easiest way to create a precise photo mask is to use a clipping path to define the edges of the image. Create a new editing layer for each clipping path so you can address each object separately. Zoom in to draw an outline around the desired object to define its edges. Aim to find the balance between creating a realistic edge and a smooth line that is easy on the eye.

If you are new to creating edges in a digital photo editing program, practice creating a smooth edge before attempting to complete your final project. Duplicate your image, giving you a layer to practice on that will not disturb your original photograph. Draw your clipping path around this image. As you zoom in you should see a gray area where the pixels from the background fade into the colors of the object. Draw your clipping path through this area. The colors around the edge can be adjusted later. At this point you are only trying to create a clear shape.

Applying Your Photo Mask

Once you have created a clipping path, you can use photo masking effects to alter the background of the image. You can use a clipping mask to render the background invisible, allowing you to transpose the object onto a different photograph. You can also add coloring effects to the background to create a different look for the photograph. You can also save different versions of the photograph with a variety of styling effects to create a portfolio set.

If you are practicing your clipping paths, using a photo mask can help you get a feel for how to apply them properly. Add a background layer that has a bright color, preferably a color that will provide a sharp contrast to the color of the image. As you work on your clipping path, turn the mask on and off. This will allow you to see the outline you have created very clearly, helping you to determine if it requires any adjustments before you start to add additional editing effects. You want the path to look natural and smooth rather than making a point of outlining every stray pixel in the original. Clipping paths can easily be dragged and altered to make any necessary adjustments.


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