Paths aren’t what they used to be. All the defaults support masking. Not necessarily a bad thing since that is a very useful function (one of my favorites). Then there are saved selections, also handy.
However, I can whip out complex paths in minutes and re-use that shape or the cut-out image for a multitude of uses. This has been especially helpful in corporations I’ve worked at with image libraries I created and managed plus image editing processes established and style guides strictly enforced — all in the name of branding. Haven’t used a library with saved selections and masks in lieu of paths, but there’s always a first time.
With consistency at the heart of any worthwhile identity and quality work a brand trademark, process efficiencies have quite an impact in any graphics department, in the form of man-hours. Drawing out a permanent eps path rather than saving selections and masks, when an alternative product plug-in is not used, remains my best practice.
At the department I’m in now, a co-worker asked me how to solve her compound path issue, so here it is – a downloadable instruction sheet about compound paths. In the instruction sheet, I go beyond the following paths article very helpful about paths and masking – check it out too!