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What if you need an area of an image to be transparent? For example, I'm going to bring in my photographer image here, by placing it, go down to the bottom of my Links folder, grab my photographer.psd file and then place it inside this frame. But I don't want this background image. I just want the photographer itself. I want this background to be transparent. In the past this effect was typically created using a clipping path. But InDesign can also see and manage native transparency in images too, which often leads to much better results.
First, let's see how to do it the old way with Clipping Paths. I'm going to Option+Double-click or Alt+Double-click on this image to invoke the edit original and open this in Photoshop, and if I go to the Paths panel and click on MyOutline, I can see that there is in fact an the outline drawn around here. This is actually a Bezier line which has been drawn around the outline that I'm trying to clip out. InDesign can see that path inside the image. So I'll switch back to InDesign, choose the Object menu, and go down for Clipping Path submenu.
I'll choose Options and then choose from the Type pop up menu Photoshop Path. This is where I can tell InDesign which path I should use within the Photoshop file. You can actually have multiple paths and then choose which one you want to use as a clipping path. But in this case there's just one, and when I click OK you can see that the background is completely knocked out. You also see the clipping path itself that Bezier line because we've been switched to the Direct Select tool in the tool panel. I'm going to switch back to the Selection tool and then zoom, way in here so we can see this.
Clipping Paths can be great if you already have one. But I have to tell you I hate making Clipping Paths. It's such a hassle to draw around them and worse they're always very sharp lines. For example, down here if I zoom way in, and you can see that it's a very sharp line. It doesn't blend in naturally from the face or the jacket into the background. So Clipping Paths tend to look somewhat artificial. Because of that, I'm going to use a different technique. I'm going to use actual native transparency. Let's zoom back to 200% with Command+2 or Ctrl+2 on Windows, and I'm going to Option+Double-click one more time, to open this in Photoshop.
In this case, I'm going to not use my path. I'm going to use the channel instead. I have a channel pre-built in this image called Alpha 1 and I'm going to load that my Command+Clicking or Ctrl+Clicking on it. That simply loads that channel up. Now I'll go to Layers panel, and I'll turn that selection into a mask, a nice soft edge mask, and I'll do that by going to layer menu, choosing layer Mask and then choosing Reveal Selection. Now, if you've done any work in Photoshop, you're familiar with that checkerboard.
The checkerboard means it's transparent. There's nothing there. You can see right through it to whatever's behind, and that's what I want. I want it to be transparent. So I'm going to save this document and then go back to InDesign and see what I get. I'll save it, close it, come back to InDesign, and then I need to turn off my Clipping Path. So I'll select this, go back to Object > Clipping Paths and turn off the Path, otherwise you would have transparency plus a clipping path. That's not what I want. Now it looks pretty similar at this level, but when I zoom in again and you'll see something change.
I now have a very soft blend between the face and the jacket into the background. It's truly antialiased using real transparency. It's a much more natural look, that's why I like using native transparency, much more than Clipping Paths. One thing I should point out however. In general, it's a good idea to put text above transparency effects, rather than below it. For example, I'll go back to 200% with Command+2 or Ctrl+2 on Windows, and I'll select with the Selection tool this text frame and I'm going to move it above, using Object > Arrange > Bring to Front. There we go.
The reason I want to have the text on top of the transparency, besides the fact that want it to be able to read it is that sometimes the text around transparency can kind of get thicker, more bold. So to be safe, we want to put the text on top of the transparent images. That way, it won't get bold, kind of around the edges of this guy's shoulder. The good news is that InDesign can read native transparency in Photoshop PSD files, also PDF files and even Adobe Illustrator files. Transparency has become a huge part of why people use InDesign.
It just makes it so easy to lay out a beautiful looking page quickly.
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