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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, the print and interactive page layout application from Adobe, in InDesign CS5 Essential Training. The course shows how to create new documents with strong and flexible master pages, precisely position text and graphics, prepare documents for print, and export designs as interactive PDF or Flash SWF files. Exercise files are included with the course.
What if you need an array of an image to be transparent? For example, in this image with this sign in it, I want the whole image to be transparent except for this little arrow sign. I want to make this outside part go away. Now InDesign gives you two different options for doing this, Clipping Paths or Transparency. Let's take a look at clipping paths first. I'm going to select this image on my page, go to the Links panel and click on Edit Original. That opens this image inside Photoshop. If we look inside Photoshop's Paths panel, we see that there is a path called arrow path.
I'll select that and then zoom in on part of this image. It's a little bit hard to see. I'll select it with a White Arrow tool. But you can see that there is a Bezier path drawn around this image. But how do I get that path into InDesign? Well, let's switch back to InDesign and then we go to the Object menu, choose Clipping Path and then choose Options. That clipping path is hiding inside this Photoshop file. It'll work with a TIFF file, a Photoshop file or a JPEG file.
I can get it by choosing Photoshop Path from the Type pop-up menu, then choosing the name of my path from the Path pop-up menu. In this case, there's only one path, so it selected it for me automatically. Now, I'll click OK and you can see that path came in here. Let's zoom in here, so we can see this well. Because I have the Direct Selection tool selected in InDesign, the White Arrow tool, I can actually see the path and even edit the path here in InDesign. But I don't really want to do that. I'm just going to go back to the Selection tool, the Black Arrow tool.
I can see that the path turned into transparency. The background completely disappeared. That said, there is two problems with clipping paths. The first is they are really a hassle to make, especially really complex clipping paths, it takes forever, I hate it. The second problem is it if I zoom really in close here, you see how the edge is very, very sharp, there is no way to make a clipping path a soft-edged. It's always very sharp. That might not show up so badly in this particular image, but in many images, that edge looks very artificial.
So, those are the problems with clipping paths. So instead I usually like to use native transparency. Let me show you what I mean. I'm going to zoom back to fit the whole page in window with Command+0 or Ctrl+0 on Windows. I'm going to place a new image in here, deselect everything so it doesn't accidentally replace that. Deselect everything by clicking out here in the pasteboard and then File > Place. I'm going to choose my snowboarder.psd file. I'll click Open and it loads the Place cursor and I'll simple click-and-drag to place that in at this size.
Now, this image has true transparency in it. Let's zoom in, so we can see. It's a little bit rough, so I want to make sure that View > Display Performance is set to High Quality Display. That way, I get the best quality image. I can really see the pixels in the image here. I can see that even little threads off this side here are showing up. Now, how did I make this transparency? I'm going to select that image, go to my Links panel and then click Edit Original. I'll open this one in Photoshop and you can see the transparency in this file is there because of the checkerboard.
Checkerboard in Photoshop means transparent. If I look inside my Layers panel, I'll see that this layer is actual image. There is actually a blue background there, but there is a layer mask on top of it. I can turn my layer mask off by Shift+Clicking on the layer mask. You can see that this is actually a solid image, has a blue background, but when I add the layer mask by Shift+Clicking again, it turns into checkerboard transparency. So, InDesign can read that transparency and it makes it transparent in InDesign as well.
I find it much easier to make transparency like with a layer mask in Photoshop than I do making a clipping path. It's much easier, much faster, typically, and it's much higher quality when it gets into InDesign, because it's true transparency, so it anti-aliases perfectly into the background. Now, in general, it's a good practice to put any kind of text frames on a higher layer than your image frame. So, it actually prints on top of the image. Now, I'll be talking about layers in a later chapter, but I do want to point out right here that in general it's a good practice to put any text frames on a higher layer than your image.
So, the text will print on top of your transparency and not the other way around. In most cases, it will still work. It will still print out just fine, if the image is on top of the text. But on occasion, it can look as if the text near the transparency is kind of heaving up, getting bolder around the image. So, just to be safe, be sure to put the text on top if you can. Now, InDesign can read native transparency like this, from Photoshop PSD files, PDF files and even Adobe Illustrator files.
Transparency effects like this are great. Just use them.
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