Difference between Alpha Masking and Clipping Paths

Difference between Alpha Masking and Clipping Paths
21 May 2021

When it comes to background replacement or background extraction, everyone talks about using Clipping Path. Clipping path is an excellent method to separate subjects and the background. What if I tell you Alpha masking is better than clipping paths? Read along to know more about Clipping Paths and how we compared to Alpha Masks. 

What is Alpha Channel Masking?

Alpha Channel masking or Alpha masking is used to make complex and time taking selections in masking. The contrast channels play a vital role while using alpha masking. This channel masking saves the edits and lets you rework whenever necessary. We can create multiple masks and save them under alpha channels.  

When dealing with furry animals, flying hair, or complex designed objects. It is difficult to path the subjects with the pen tool and magic wand tool. Alpha masking is an efficient way to crop the subject and change the background flawlessly. One major disadvantage of alpha masking is, it reduces the quality of the image. 

How to apply Alpha Masking(Raster Masking)?

The following steps will show you how to create an alpha mask and how to make a selection. 

Create an alpha channel- Click on the Channels panel next to the Layers panel. Next, click on the menu icon on the right of the Channels panel and select New Channel. The New Channel dialog box will appear. Name the Channel as “Alpha Mask,” Color Blue and opacity around 50%. After clicking the Ok button, you will see creating a new channel under the Channels panel. 

The visibility of the channel is turned ‘off’ by default. If you turn it on, you would see a blue mask of 50% opacity on the image. Similarly, you can create masks of various colors for color correction and adjust the opacity of the mask.

Creating a selection- Select the Brush tool and try making a selection or brush over a spot. Next, invert the channel to highlight your selection and not the background. Then, select the Load Channel as Selection under the Channels panel. Doing this will create a white and black path around the brushed surface. 

We can perform multiple tasks, such as using Dodge and Burn tools to adjust the contrast and exposure of the image. 

What are clipping paths?

Clipping Paths is a closed vector path that lets you cut out shapes in the photos using the pen tool. It is used in Photoshop for image manipulation. The clipping path is extensively helpful to remove or replace the background. 

We use clipping Path to select paths around objects to remove them from the background to create perfect images. It is preferred over image masking to separate subjects from the backdrop only if the objects have sharp and distinct edges. Subjects with complex boundaries tend to lose their composition when selected with clipping paths. The intricate detailing is lost. 

There are three types of clipping paths used in photo retouching services. 

  • Single-layer Clipping Path
  • Multilayer Clipping Path
  • Complex Clipping Path

Single-layer Clipping Path- This clipping path method is used for hard edge objects. We use the pen tool to select the boundaries of the object. Likewise, it is preferable on solid objects with no empty spaces or holes in them. Hence it is easy to change or remove background from simple subjects. Here we draw the path on a single layer for extraction. 

Multilayer Clipping Path- The method to select with the help of the pen tool on more than one layer is multi-layer clipping path. Sometimes we will have to use multiple layers to trace around designs like earrings and bracelets. We then crop the object carefully to mimic the design.

For example, objects like chairs, fitness instruments, accessories, etc. require separate paths to get rid of the empty spaces and transparency(We view the objects in 2-D). We can also create paths around more than one person or objects that do not belong to the photo’s subject. Photo retouchers widely use Multi-layer clipping paths. 

Complex Clipping Path- It is used for objects with complex shapes and designs. We can create multiple vector shapes nondestructively. The path created can be used to resize the photos. It is a time-consuming task to clip every detail. The pen tool comes in handy to create paths around the subject.

For example, objects like jewelry, bicycles, trees, etc., are retouched using complex clipping paths. These objects have complicated boundaries and complex empty spaces. 

How to do basic selection using Clipping Path?

Select an image with an easy and well-edged subject. Next, select the Pen tool from the tool icons from the vertical bar on the left side of Photoshop. Now start selecting the boundaries of the subject with the cursor. To create paths accurately, zoom in the image to around 300%. After pathing around the subject, save the selection. You just created a clipping path using the pen tool. 

Conclusion

Both techniques are equally important and necessary in editing and retouching photos. Alpha masking and clipping path, the tools are easily accessible on photoshop.

Both methods serve the same purpose that is removing the background from the image. Multiple paths in clipping paths are required for color correction and photo retouching to get perfect selections for less complex subjects. In the case of Alpha masking, you need to work carefully to prevent the loss of pixels while creating masks. This way, we can restore the perfectly captured subject and reuse it. 

Alpha masking requires a lot of patience and practice. The more images you work on masking, the better you manage the transparency overlay on the photos. Clipping paths is a more apparent alternative but not preferred for all types of editing. Depending on the requirement, shift between both the methods.

Photo retouching services widely use clipping Path. Most e-commerce giants take up product retouching. For example, the ghost mannequin technique is advantageous to present apparel and accessories.

E-commerce is a very competitive market, and there is no space for substandardly retouched products. The quality of photos is proportional to the increase in sales. Hence retouching is essential for product and fashion retouching to stand out. 

Photo Retouching Services

Are you new to Photoshop and Photo Retouching? And are looking for photo retouching services. Having a photo retouching specialist work on your photos brings multifold value to the subject. We at Digi5Studios offer various photo retouching services. We specialize in Product photo retouching, Beauty retouching, Fashion retouching, Automobile photo retouching, Real Estate retouching, and Clipping Path Services.

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