InDesign: Use clipping paths to wrap text around irregular graphics

Trying to import a Photoshop file containing a subject with a transparent background into InDesign or Illustrator can be frustrating. You need to extract the subject from an image and place it into an InDesign or Quark XPress document, like this:

original cat image      cat with clipping path in layout

In your page layout program, it might appear that you have done all you need to do by copying and pasting selections or by using a layer mask and importing it. Sometimes, even if the transparent part of the image displays correctly on your monitor, it may still come out all wrong in the printout. That’s because you need to create a clipping path in Photoshop before you import it into InDesign or Illustrator.

A clipping path is a way to keep parts of an image opaque and parts of an image transparent. A clipping path t is typically used to “knock out” the background of an image so you can surround its irregular boundaries with text or colored background. With the Photoshop Pen tool, you can create a vector path around the part of the image you want to keep, and then export the image as an EPS file – a file format which is capable of having both vector and bitmap data in the same image. The resulting EPS file can be placed directly into InDesgin, Illustrator, and others such as those created in QuarkXPress™ or Adobe® PageMaker®. The EPS file can also be distilled into a PDF file.

Want to learn how? See our video tutorial

Special thanks to Ashley Endemann for this video.


  1. Jeremy

    The problem occurs when you import the EPS in InDesign… it automatically includes the white background. I have followed the instructions exactly as is. How is that I place the file as having transparency?

  2. Carol Rhodes


    A few things to pay attention to: In Photoshop, don’t forget to save and name the work path, and then make it a clipping path. Then, once in InDesign, during the Place action, make sure to Show Import Options in the Place dialog box, and then check Apply Photoshop Clipping Path.

    Please let me know if it doesn’t work.
    Jeremy says,
    Yes, it works, however, the clipping path transparency is not precise even after editing with the direct selection tool. The video that was posted assisted with the problem . I believe that If I do not have to do text wrap then I will just place the image with transparency as a .png.
    Carol Says,
    That’s an interesting solution, and I would be interested to see how it works. With CS4, all the Adobe files are supposed to be interoperable, so at least for display purposes a .PNG-24 should work in InDesign. I have recently been surprised that I can put illustrator files into Premiere and layered Photoshop files into Dreamweaver. These graphics are now automatically re-rendered into something the application can handle.

    Anyway, I would be curious to see how a .png works in InDesign when sent to an offset printer, which is the output that many professionals use. As far as I know, offset printers are dependent on postscript language, therefore they require .EPS format for objects with vectors and .TIFF for objects with alpha values. I’ll need to do some more research into InDesign and offset printer rasterization issues.

    Transparent .PNGs are very useful. Do you intend to print your document, and if so, to what device will it be printed? Your idea is a good one. If this is a generally applicable solution, it would make a good blog post.
    Jeremy Says,
    It’s a document intended for the web. If I were to print I would have to use a TIFF or PSD file. Yes, I’m aware of the interchangeability between Adobe applications. It’s extremely resourceful. Thank you for the assistance!

  3. Simon Brouillard

    I have also tried this method but the background isnt transparent so it covers the text. Any advise?

  4. Carol Rhodes

    If a clipping path isn’t satisfactory you can use the PNG method. To make a transparent PNG, you’ll need to make the background transparent in Photoshop and then export– under File, Save for web and Devices– as a PNG 24 with Transparency checked. Hope this helps!

  5. Mahiuddin Sharif

    The truth about it’s a very details tutorial about clipping paths to wrap text around irregular graphics. I think most of the time this type of work need for children book design. Really enthusiastic work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *