Clipping path and image masking are both useful image-editing techniques that can help you isolate a subject from a background. The main difference between clipping path and image masking is the way in which you isolate the subject.
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What is clipping path?
Clipping path is the Photoshop technique — used with the Pen Tool — to remove the background from an image. Clipping path is generally used when the subject of the image has sharp, smooth edges. This allows the clipping path to stay straight.
A poorly drawn clipping path can result in images that don’t look real or natural. We zoom into images sometimes as much as 200% so we can get as close to the edge as possible.
It’s important to take your time when creating a clipping path, because it can tarnish your brand and cause you to lose sales. Today’s ecommerce landscape is competitive, and you want your product photos to stand out — in a good way.
What is image masking?
Image masking is also a way to remove the background from an image. Image masking is done with a variety of tools in Photoshop, such as Background Eraser Tool, Magic Eraser Tool and color separation technique.
Removing the background from an image with image masking is helpful when the subject of your image has lots of fine lines and small details. In the ecommerce world, this is typically fuzz on a sweater, fur on a stuffed animal, or hair on a model.
The image masking technique you use depends on a few factors, and in some cases, you’ll need to use more than one. For example, if the image you’re editing is very complex, with shadows or multiple background colors, you’ll probably need to use a combination of image masking techniques.
Clipping path vs. image masking
Generally, the difference between clipping path and image masking is the technique you use to remove the background from an image. More complex images require image masking. It is technically possible to remove the background from complex images with clipping path, but the result isn’t always as appealing as it would’ve been with image masking. As you can tell, the image edited with clipping path looks unnatural.