Creating Compound Clipping Paths

A compound clipping path is made up of two or more subpaths used to mask each other. For example, if you need to enclose an image in a doughnut-like shape, you can draw two circular paths to clip the image inside and outside the O shape. The shape doesn't have to be circular; it can be any shape, as long as the paths are not open (Figure 10-5).

Figure 10-5: A compound clipping path used to create a vector layer mask.

To create a compound clipping path, assuming that you want your image to appear inside a doughnut-shaped ring, take the following steps:

1. Select the Ellipse tool (one of the hidden shape tools).

2. In the options bar, select the Paths icon (second from left) and the Exclude Overlapping Path Areas icon (last of the four inline icons).

3. Create a cross with guides to mark the center of the doughnut.

4. Press Alt+Shift (Windows), Opt+Shift (Mac OS), click the cross, and draw an inner circle.

5. Press Alt+Shift (Windows), Opt+Shift (Mac OS), click the cross, and draw an outer circle.

6. Save the work path by double-clicking the Work Path tile in the Paths palette and then name it for good measure.

7. Choose Clipping Path from the Paths palette menu and select the path that you just named. Leave the Flatness value text field blank.

It doesn't matter whether you draw the inner circle or the outer circle first; as long as the Exclude Overlapping Path Areas option is active when you draw the path, it ends up as a compound clipping path.

You can double-check whether a work path is a compound path by choosing a pen or shape tool, pressing Ctrl (Windows), ^ (Mac OS), drawing a marquee around the subpaths, and then seeing which icon highlights on the options bar. The Exclude Overlapping Path Areas icon (the last options icon) should highlight if the work path is a proper compound path. If the icon does not highlight, click it to convert the selected work path to a compound path.

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