Join InMotion Hosting for $3.49/mo & get a year on Tuts+ FREE (worth $180). Start today.

Quick Tip: Quick Masking with the Pen Tool in InDesign


Want a free year on Tuts+ (worth $180)? Start an InMotion Hosting plan for $3.49/mo.

Let's say you are up against a tight deadline and you need to send a proof within a matter of hours to a client. Within your design you want to include a clipping path and exclude an unwanted background on one of your photographs. You don't really have time to switch to Photoshop to make your amends and then jump back into InDesign. If you did spend time perfecting your clipping path using Photoshop, your client may decide they're not keen on the image, so this is simply wasted time and money. To solve both problems we are going to create a mask within InDesign using the mighty Pen Tool.

Step 1

I am going to assume that you have a project open and ready to work with. OK let's import our image by going to File > Place. Navigate to where your image is saved, select and open. Place your image in the working space away from any other graphics or frames. I am using an image from MorgueFile, if you wish to use the same one.

Step 2

Now select your Pen tool. Clear the stroke and fill to None. To clear click once on the fill box then hit Forward slash, then do the same for the stroke.

Step 3

Start tracing around the image you want to isolate. Click once to start the path and follow the outline of the image clicking at key points. If you need to create a curve, click and drag your mouse to the appropriate arc. Once you have finished the curve, reset the point by clicking once on current point. The pen tool cursor will display an upside down v when you hover over the correct part.

Step 4

When you come to the end of your path make sure that you close the path by clicking on the first point, a circle will appear next to the pen cursor to indicate a closed path.

Step 5

The frame is now ready to create the mask. Click once on the image you are masking, right click and go to Arrange > Bring to Front.

Step 6

Now select both the path and image together. Do this by dragging over both of the elements with the Selection tool or click on one element hold down shift and click the other.

Step 7

Open the Pathfinder palette by going to Window > Object and Layout > Pathfinder.

Step 8

Double check that both elements are selected and hit the Intersect button. The mask will now be created.


As mentioned, this technique can be used to create temporary clipping masks. However, if you have an image that has sharp edges, for example a car or building, you can create your mask within InDesign and it will print perfectly with a nice crisp edge. I hope you've enjoyed this tut.