The Ultimate Comparison: Clipping Path vs. Masking – Which One Fits Your Image Editing Needs?

What is the difference between the image clipping path and image masking? 

Well, when it comes to image editing and manipulation, these two terms are often used interchangeably. However, they are two distinct techniques with different applications and results. Understanding their differences is essential to determine which method is most suitable for a particular image editing task. 

In this article, we will explore in-depth, the differences between the clipping path and masking and help you determine which technique will work best for your image editing projects based on a few use cases.

Image Clipping Path V/S Image Masking: A Comparison

Based on Definition

 Image Clipping Path:

The clipping path is a technique that removes a specific object or subject from its background and creates a transparent or solid color background. This technique uses a vector or “clipping”  path, typically drawn using a pen in photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, to create a precise outline around the object. This creates a “Layer or mask” that can be used to remove the background and isolate the object. 

Image Masking:

Image masking is a technique that separates an object or subject from its background when the object’s edges are soft or difficult to distinguish. This method involves using tools such as layer masks, color range, background eraser tools, and brush tools to make unwanted image portions invisible. The process involves creating a black-and-white mask that can be used to hide or reveal parts of the image. In image masking, anything painted as black will be hidden in the image, while the white portion will remain visible in normal mode. 

Based on Techniques

Image Clipping Path:

Here are three different techniques to implement the image clipping path.

Single-layer Clipping Path

This type of clipping is commonly used to remove the background of an image and replace it with a different one or to isolate the subject for use in different designs or layouts. The common use cases of this are – product images, catalogs, brochures, etc. 

Multi-layer Clipping Path

This involves creating multiple paths around different parts of an image and, typically, its elements. It isolates specific parts of an image for more precise editing or manipulation. For instance, an image of a group of products may require a multi-layer clipping path to isolate each product separately for placement in a different layout.

Illustrator Clipping Path

This technique creates paths using vector lines and curves, unlike other clipping path techniques that rely on pixels. This method is often used to create logos, illustrations, and graphics requiring high resolution and scalability. It is particularly beneficial for designing purposes that require scaling portraits without compromising image quality.

Image Masking

Here are three different ways to use image masking.

Layer Masking

This type of masking involves creating a layer mask on an image to show or hide certain parts of the image selectively. In layer masking, designers use black-and-white marks to make unwanted image portions invisible. It is especially useful when dealing with images with complex edges, such as images with hair or fur, as it allows for precise and detailed masking. 

Alpha Channel Masking

This is another type of masking that is used to isolate objects or subjects with complex edges. It involves creating a selection based on the brightness or darkness of the pixels in the image and converting that selection into a mask. This type of masking is commonly used for images with transparent backgrounds, such as logos or product images.

Based on Related Factors

The type of subject present in an image plays a significant role in determining the suitable technique to use.  If the edges of the subject are sharp and defined, with a simple and complex outline, the clipping path technique is recommended. In this case, the clipping path becomes easier to trace, delivering a better and clearer result.

However, if the subject has intricate details and soft edges, the image masking technique is preferred. Masking allows you to hide or reveal specific selective portions of an image while preserving the natural texture and edges of the object. This technique is particularly useful in cases where the subject may have fine or wispy hair, transparent fabric, or other important details that require precise editing.


While the clipping path technique is ideal for isolating simple-shaped images and those with intricate sharp edges, it is irreversible since the path created using the pen tool cannot be restored to its original form. Although path points can be adjusted, the outcome may not be aesthetically pleasing.

On the other hand; image masking can handle even the most intricate subjects with ease. It offers the advantage of being a reversible technique, allowing you to make changes as necessary. Additionally, image masking provides the flexibility to conceal or reveal different parts of an image, making it a versatile approach for photo editing purposes.


In terms of the time required to execute each technique, the clipping path generally takes less time compared to image masking. It involves outlining the border around the edges of the object to be isolated using the pen tool, which can be a relatively quick process for simple-shaped images. However, this may vary relative to the complexity of the shapes or images. 

On the other hand, images masking creates a mask around the object by defining the areas to be hidden or revealed. This method can be more time-consuming, requiring more precise and intricate selections for complex subjects. However, one of the advantages of image masking is that it allows for more flexibility and can be edited more easily than the clipping path.

Image Clipping Path or Image Masking: Which Is Suitable for You?

The answer to this question lies in your hand, as choosing the right method largely depends on the type of images and the specific requirements of the editing task. 

However, you need certain knowledge about the type of images to identify which technique will suit you. If you apply a clipping path on soft edges, you may create a blunder with editing.

Hence, it is advisable to consider your image’s unique attributes and seek the guidance of a proficient expert if you encounter any difficulties in the editing process. 


Having grasped the difference between clipping path and masking techniques. You can now make an informed decision about which images editing method suits your images best. Nevertheless, executing both techniques requires considerable skill and expertise, which only experienced editors possess. 

If you find yourself struggling with the time and effort required to edit minor details in your images. It may be worth considering professional photo editing services that cater to your unique needs. By choosing a reputable service, experienced editors can help elevate the visual appeal. Of your photos and give them a polished, professional finish. This saves you time and hassle and ensures that your images meet the highest standards of quality and aesthetics.


What is the similarity between  ‘Path’ and ‘Masking’?

They both allow for the precise selection of specific areas of an images for editing purposes. Both methods also involve separating the subject from its background, enabling editors to modify it without affecting the surrounding areas. 

Can I apply a clipping path or mask to a video file?

Yes, you can apply a clipping path or mask to a video file using specialized video editing software. This is often used in film production, video marketing, and other types of visual media.

What file formats support clipping paths and masks?

Most professional images editing software supports clipping paths and masks in various file formats, including PSD, TIFF, and JPEG. However, not all file formats support these features, so it is important to check the specifications of your file format.

Can I avail professional help for the images clipping path?

Yes! professional images editors, photo editing virtual assistants. And image clipping path services are readily available when you find the editing cumbersome to do on your own. 

Can I edit a clipping path or mask after it has been created?

Yes, you can edit a clipping path or mask at any time by selecting it and making. Adjustments using the editing tools in your image editing software.

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