Think Outside the Picture Box

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You've surely heard the management consultant's rallying cry "Think outside the box!" It refers to breaking away from habitual thinking to achieve a goal, and the credo is as useful for graphic artists in T-shirts as it is for CFOs in yellow ties.

mage inside a framed box is fine for some designs, but when you're trying to make a strong visual statement that really catches the viewer's eye, try letting your pictures break outside their boxes, if only a little bit. Say you're working with a photo of a gleeful woman with outspread arms. You can put it inside a framed picture box, but the box's rigidity may work against the action in the photo. Make your subject's arms break past the frame border, and you add life and motion to your layout.

It's easy to cross boundaries once you understand how QuarkXPress 4.1 and Adobe Photoshop 6 handle cropping and clipping. QuarkXPress picture boxes crop images into the shape of the box--usually a rectangle. Photoshop lets you clip an image into any shape by embedding Bezier paths into the image. QuarkXPress can read those paths and merge them with cropping rectangles to create custom paths that free your pictures to go beyond their boxes.

DAVID BLATNER is the author of The QuarkXPress 4 Book (Peachpit Press, 1998) and a coauthor of Real World Photoshop 6 (Peachpit Press, 2001). Find him at

1. Create a Clipping Path You can use QuarkXPress to build a clipping path around an image with a white background, but you'll almost certainly get a better result if you make a path with Photoshop's Bezier tool and save the path in Photoshop's Paths palette.

Open the image in Photoshop. You'll get the cleanest results by drawing the path with the Pen tool (press P to toggle to it) (A) and adjusting it with the Path Component Selection tool (press A), commonly called the "Arrow tool." Draw the path slightly inside the foreground object's edge so you don't pick up background color, which causes halos. When you're done with the path, double-click on the Work Path tile in the Paths palette (B), and then give it a name in the Rename Path dialog box that appears.

Because QuarkXPress lets you choose any embedded path as a clipping path, you don't need to specify the path type in Photoshop. Once you're satisfied with your clipping path, save it as a TIFF file.

TIP:  QuarkXPress 4.X can't read clipping paths saved in TIFF files from Photoshop 6.0. Fortunately, Adobe's free 6.0.1 upgrade can fix the problem (

2. Import the Image and Select a Clipping Path Your picture has to have a border to burst out of. In this step, you'll choose a frame and then select the correct path.

Open your QuarkXPress layout and import your image into a picture box. If the picture box doesn't already have a border, go to the Modify dialog box (Item: Frame) and add one. The frame can be almost any thickness, but for a noticeable effect, make it at least 2 or 3 points thick (A). Now open the Clipping dialog box (Item: Clipping), choose Embedded Path from the Type pop-up menu (B), and pick a path from the Path pop-up menu. QuarkXPress 4.1 can see all the paths you've embedded in your TIFF images, and it lets you choose an active clipping path. (If you use EPS or DCS images, QuarkXPress will still see other embedded paths, but they may not print correctly if you choose one other than the "official" clipping path you specified in Photoshop.) Of course, if there's only one path in the image, only it will appear in this menu.

Leave the other settings in this dialog box as they are, and click on OK.

3. Crop the Image Images can often benefit from judicious cropping. In this step, you'll ignore clipping (for the moment) and crop your image.

Change the size of the picture box by dragging its corner (A) or edge handles (B) until the part of the image you want cropped out is invisible. The box should be exactly the size you want it to be in the final layout. (You can change the shape of the box later on.) At this point, you're focusing only on cropping, so you can ignore the fact that the portion of the image you want to break outside the box is currently cropped out.

TIP: Behind the scenes, clipping paths and cropping are actually the same thing. The image file itself stores clipping paths, and the page-layout program handles cropping--but when it comes time to print, the PostScript device can't tell one from the other.

4. Extend the Picture Box Now it's time to focus on the portion of the image that breaks past the box boundary. This is the weird part: to create this effect, you first need to extend the picture box so that the parts you want ultimately to appear outside the box are inside it.

If you want the box to be a shape other than rectangular, you must convert it to the Bezier format (select the Bezier Box option from the Shape submenu, under the Item menu); then add points to the box's edge by option-clicking where you want them. To add an arch to the box, for example, click on a point and go to Item: Point/Segment Type: Symmetrical Point. You can then create an arch by dragging points (A). After adding points and making the arch, you can drag the points around until your box is the right size and encompasses the parts of the foreground image you want visible (B).

This point-adding technique is worthwhile because you don't have to move any of the box's original corners or edge handles. Preserving the corners and edge handles makes it easier to get the look you want.

5. Crop to Box  Just as you can turn off clipping (by selecting Item from the Clipping dialog box's Type pop-up menu), you can also turn off cropping. In this step, you're merging the embedded clipping path and the cropping box into a new clipping path.

Now that you've cropped your image, retaining the portions you want to break through the frame, return to the Clipping dialog box (Item: Clipping, or command-option-T). Deselect the Restrict To Box option (A) and click on the Apply button. With Restrict To Box turned off, QuarkXPress clips but doesn't crop, and your picture can spill past the box's borders. At this stage, the parts you eventually want cropped out should appear outside of the box (not cropped) (B) and the parts you want to appear outside of the box should be within the modified frame (C).

Now you can merge the clipping path and the cropping shape by clicking on the Crop To Box button in the Clipping dialog box. Click on OK, and you've got a cropped-but not clipped--image (D). Your image will appear unchanged; in the next step, the difference will become clear.

6. Set the Crop Again The last step in this technique restores the box to its original shape. When you're done, you'll have an image cropped only where you want it cropped; the rest will be outside the box.

To return the box to its former shape, remove the extra points by option-clicking on them (A). When you're done removing the points, you can leave the box as it is or go to the Shape submenu and change the box back to the rectangle or oval or whatever shape it was to begin with. The result is a boxed image with a cropped section and a section that extends past the box's border (B). If you didn't add points to the box (as in step 4) but rather dragged out a corner or edge handle to enclose part of the image, you can ignore the previous paragraph and instead drag the box's handles to make it smaller again. As you drag, you'll find that the parts you want to extend over the box's border are doing so. Warning: Don't drag the corners or edges that affect the cropped sections (the part of the image you want cropped), or you'll ruin the effect.

7. Clipping Portions of an Image You may want to include your image's background. You can't achieve this with a single picture box, but you can fake it easily enough.

Now you have part of your image appearing outside of the picture box. If you want to restore your image's original background, go to the Item menu and choose Step And Repeat. Make one duplicate of the picture box, with offsets set to zero (A). (This clones the picture box and keeps the two boxes in perfect registration.) With the duplicate box selected, go to the Clipping tab of the Modify dialog box (press command-option-T), and select Item from the Type pop-up menu to turn off the clipping path entirely. Click on OK.

To put the cloned box behind the original, where it belongs, choose Send To Back from the Item menu. Now you should see the image background and part of the image breaking out from the box. As a final touch, group these two boxes (command-G) so you won't accidentally move one without the other later on.

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