When it comes to producing high-quality Photoshop clipping paths, the truth is there is no quick and easy way to achieve a good cutout – you just have to do it properly… by hand. When creating clipping paths, the more you use the Pen Tool in Photoshop, the quicker and more proficient you’ll become.
If you click and hold the Pen Tool in the Photoshop Tools Palette you’ll see a list of all its subsidiary tools. The only ones you’ll use are the Pen Tool, +Add Anchor Point Tool, -Delete Anchor Point Tool and Convert Point Tool. And you won’t have to select them constantly from the Toolbar – you can flick between them by using the Command Key and Alt Key on a Mac. It’ll become second nature if you persevere.
Experiment with the fantastic Convert Point Tool (and others) by pressing the Alt key and clicking on an existing anchor point. You’ll quickly pick up how the tools work.
As you can see below, you should trace the image so that the path is roughly in the center of the anti-aliasing. Anti-aliasing occurs when the computer blends the hard edges of an image object by using an average of the object color and background color in order to soften the difference between the foreground and background objects.
In other words, put the path half way between the brown and the blue!
This minimizes the amount of blue ‘ghosting’ that might appear around the edges of the final image cutout. Once you have traced all the way around the image, select Save Path… from the Paths submenu (as explained above), and then select Clipping Path… You’ll be asked for a ‘Flatness’ value. Leave this blank. Make sure the image is 300DPI actual size and CMYK. Save it as a Photoshop ESP file with default values, and place it in In Design. Select View/Display Performance/High-Quality Display in order to get the best on-screen redraw, and you’ll see that the result is much more accurate with much less ghosting, and it has a smooth, accurate edge.
You may still get a ‘haze’ around an image, which the path has inherited from the previous background. This is where Photoshop clipping paths are limited. Because they are rigid, hard-edged vector shapes, they take no account of the fact that the object in question might be a little out of focus, requiring a softer edge.