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We know that when we're working with images, we can use the special Mask command inside of Illustrator to very quickly and easily crop a photograph. However, it only does so by using a rectangular shape. Many times, you might want to create a mask that's of a different shape, or alternatively, you might want to create a mask for not just an image, but also for vector artwork. To do that, we're going to use the Clipping Mask command inside of Illustrator. Say, for example, I would like to create a circle, and I want to see the photograph through this circle shape.
Well, the first thing I need to do is first create that vector shape. So, I'm going to go to my Tools panel here. I'm going to select the Ellipse tool, and I'll move my cursor right about over here and hold down the Option key or the Alt key on Windows, to drag out my circle from the center. Because I want it to be a perfect circle, I'll also hold down the Shift key, great! So I'll draw a circle about this big. Now I'm going to switch to my Selection tool, and I'm going to click and drag to marquee-select both the image and the circle in front of it. Here's what you have to know about how masks work.
To create a mask, I need at least two objects. The topmost object will become the mask, meaning anything inside the boundaries of that topmost object will become visible. Anything outside the boundaries of that topmost object will become hidden from view. It's also important to note that when Illustrator creates a mask, it automatically now groups these two objects together. So now that we are aware of this, let's go ahead now and create the mask. I'm going to go to the Object menu. I'm going to choose, at the bottom here, something called Clipping Mask, and then I'll choose Make.
The keyboard shortcut for creating a clipping mask is Command+7 or Ctrl+7. Once I choose that option, you can now see that the photograph is only visible through the insides of that circle. Now, let's say you want to see a different part of that image that's there. Well, if you take a look over here at the Control panel, in the upper left-hand corner, there are two icons here. This one over here identifies the clipping path. This one identifies the contents that are inside that clipping path. So for now, let's say, I want to reposition the artwork inside of that circle.
I'm going to click on this icon. You can see right now that my image is actually selected. If I move it around, I'm repositioning the image inside of the mask. Likewise, if I click on the other icon, now you can see that the mask itself has been selected, and I can make adjustments to this shape. While the icons are really nice over there, I find it much easier way to edit masks by doing the following. I'm going to double-click over here on a blank area, and now I have nothing selected. We know that in Illustrator I have something called Isolation mode.
If I double-click on a group, Illustrator automatically locks and dims everything else inside of my file, and lets me focus specifically on a group. Well, since Illustrator created a group for me when I went ahead and made this mask, I can now take advantage of that by using Isolation mode. So I'm going to come here on the mask and double-click on it. Now that I've double-clicked on it, I can use my regular, plain Selection tool to click on the middle part of the image here and just reposition that artwork inside of the mask. If I wanted to change the mask, I can just click on the boundary here to select the mask as well.
But because I'm in Isolation mode, I can easily do this. When I'm done editing, I can either tap Escape or double-click on any blank area, to exit Isolation mode.
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