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Clipping Path vs Image masking
Clipping Path vs. Masking What's the difference between the two

Clipping Path vs. Masking: What is the difference between the two?

Hey, did you just click the perfect shot, but the background isn’t complementing the subject? Then stop right here as the article unwinds to show you the best way to remove the background. 

Clipping path and masking are two known techniques or you can say editing process in the photo world that help isolate the main subject from the background and thus change the background. But wait! What’s the difference between the two?

Well, where both clipping paths and masking serve the same purpose of background removal and subject isolation, the prime difference lies in their mode of action. Where one leaves you with hard corners, the other ends with a flawless result.

So, let’s toggle through the article and find clipping path vs. masking- the better one!

Clipping Path vs. Masking

What is a Clipping Path?

Starting with the clipping path is a Photoshop technique in which you select the image, isolating it from the background. Then, you have control over both the extracted content and the background. You can either change the background or place the subject on another background as per your needs.

However, keep in mind that clipping paths work best for subjects with smooth and pointy edges and distinct edges.

In that case, all you need to do is carefully draw the path around the subject, and here you go! Your selected subject path is isolated from the background. 

Since it requires a deeper look and concentration to get a perfect image, the clipping path is also known as deep etching.

what is the clipping path

Types of Clipping Path Technique

There are three types of Clipping paths:

Single Layer Path

Single Layer Path works for simple objects with plain or no edges. You simply draw a single-layer path around the subject you want to isolate, and that’s it. For example, a single-layer path can be used to isolate a new phone model from the background.

Multilayer Path

Most of the time, the photographs are not that simple, and they incorporate two to three subjects with intricate details, e.g., in jewelry photography. 

In that case, a Multilayer clipping Path is used to create different layers by color separation techniques for an array of images. For example, it allows you to change the stone color and remove the background without changing the ring color.

Illustrator Clipping Path

Illustrator clipping path is done using Adobe Illustrator and provides you an edge by giving control over curves and edges, thus making the isolated image look more realistic and easy to blend with the new background. 

What is Image Masking?

Image masking is a comparatively more detailed and nondestructive way to remove background and blurry edges.

Clipping masking allows you to isolate all kinds of subjects, whether it be a sharp, smooth car image or a blurry, curved one like human hairs, and gives complete control over them. And that’s the reason why most of the professional photo editors vote in favor of image masking. 

What is image masking

Types of Image Masking

The four main types of Image Masking are:

Clipping Mask

In a clipping mask, one layer in the image is used to control the visibility and clarity of another layer below or beneath it. It is basically limited to simple objects. 

Layer Masking

Layer masking is another common type of clipping masking in which you can hide or show a part of an image using the concept of opacity. It includes the following effects:

  1. Transparent Mask creation 
  2. Grayscale Mode
  3. Removing part of the image

Alpha Channel Masking

Alpha Channel Masking, also known as raster masking, is an efficient masking technique for separating delicate subjects like hair, fur, threads, etc.

Collage Masking

In college masking, you mask different images and then make a combined seamless collage of them by blending them in a unified manner.

Clipping Path Vs Image Masking- A Quick Comparison

Clipping Path Image Masking
Definition
Method used to remove the unwanted background by selecting the path manually
A technique used to isolate the subject from the background in a flawless manner, with no added crispness or hardness to provide you with the high quality images
Edge of subjects
Sharp and clean edges
Blurry and soft
Best for
Isolating a simple, sharp-edge objects
More suitable for complex lined and soft-edged pictures
Hardness and Smoothness
Hard image with a crisp look
Smooth image
Time Consumption
Takes less time than masking
Takes a handful of time, as you have to keep an eye on all the
Pros
  • Simple to use
  • Generates small (less heavy files)
  • Best for simpler-shaped objects
  • Best for complex and attractive images
  • Versatile in its mode of action
  • Allows to handle soft edges without hassle
Cons
  • Limited flexibility and control over detailed subjects like hair and blurry pics, thus, not ideal for portrait and car photography 
  • Ends with an unwanted, harsh look at times
  • Time-consuming 
  • It requires a steep learning curve to master the basics of masking

Here is the video for more understanding about Clipping Path vs. Masking

How to use the clipping mask in Illustrator?

To use the clipping mask in Illustrator, follow the instructions:

  1. Open the Illustrator window.
  2. Add the image you want to mask.
  3. Draw the shape, letter, or anything over the image you want to mask. Ensure that the masking shape is on top of the image to be masked.
  4. Click both layers and look for objects in the top menu. The down menu will open.
  5. Click the clipping mask option.
  6. Press make.
  7. All the images except those lying under the draw object will be masked.
  8. You can readjust the size and shape by pressing the shift button and the layer together.
  9. Here you go!

Why should you remove the background from product photos?

Why should you remove the background from product photos? 

Last but not least, here are a few reasons why people, including professional photographers, need to remove background of photos from the product images:

  • It allows you to remove the original background and add any custom background that fits best according to your needs. For example, if you enlist a product on Shopify, followed by adding its details in the picture, would a geometric background work for it? No, you need to replace it with a plain neutral-colored one.
  • Sometimes, the only problem in a shoot is the background. All the other things are on point. In that case, instead of arranging the whole shoot again, it is favorable to just change the background. It’s both time and cost-effective.
  • It helps remove distractions and focus all attention on the main subject of a single image.
  • It allows us to blend and make collage images of similar products, thus making marketing and advertising campaigns easier.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.1 What is the difference between a clipping mask and a layer mask?

When comparing clipping masks vs. layer masks, the difference lies in terms of layer effect. In the clipping mask, one layer controls the clarity and visibility of another layer. However, in layer masking, you control the opacity and visibility of the selected layer itself.

Q.2 What is the purpose of the clipping path?

The purpose of the clipping path is to isolate a subject by removing its background. Later, you can change the background or the color only. 

Both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator incorporate the function of clipping paths. 

Q.3 What is the difference between masking and clipping?

In masking, a layer is created about an object, and its opacity is decided accordingly. However, in clipping, a path is created, and the object is separated from the unselected area.

Final Thoughts

In the realm of photography and background removal, both clipping path and masking are sound techniques, with each having its own area of excellence and pitfalls. Where the clipping path is best for sharp-edged shapes and requires less time, image masking is a better tech when you need to edit and remove background photographs, particularly those having intricate details. 

So, now that you are familiar with the difference between clipping path and masking, why not choose the perfect technique and kickstart the background removal process?

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