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Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating an opacity mask


From:

Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency

with Mordy Golding

Video: Creating an opacity mask

Okay, so we're here inside of the Illustrator. I'm working on this file called glories. ai and we've already seen how to create a layer mask inside of Photoshop. Let's now apply that same knowledge to creating an opacity mask here inside of Illustrator. Now on this document right here the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to go to the View menu here and I'm going to choose to show my transparency grid. It's just going to allow us to get a better idea about where this transparency is going to be and how it works. Next, I want to make sure that my Transparency panel is open because as we're going to see, all the work that we're going to do as far as creating and actually modifying these opacity masks is all going to go through the Transparency panel itself.
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  1. 7m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 6s
    2. The history of vector transparency
      4m 2s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
      26s
  2. 6m 21s
    1. Transparency living in a world of PostScript
      2m 56s
    2. Transparency...it's everywhere
      2m 13s
    3. Transparency across Adobe applications
      1m 12s
  3. 42m 20s
    1. Deconstructing the Transparency panel
      7m 48s
    2. Adding transparency to gradients
      4m 59s
    3. Using the Isolate Blending setting
      5m 20s
    4. Understanding how overprints and knockouts work
      6m 26s
    5. Using the Knockout Group setting
      6m 47s
    6. Using the Knockout Group setting without a group
      6m 2s
    7. Understanding the Opacity & Mask Define Knockout Shape setting
      4m 58s
  4. 36m 26s
    1. What is an opacity mask?
      3m 37s
    2. Learning from channels in Photoshop
      7m 20s
    3. Creating an opacity mask
      6m 44s
    4. Editing an opacity mask
      5m 31s
    5. Using a gradient as an opacity mask
      4m 44s
    6. Using image pixels as an opacity mask
      4m 4s
    7. Using a complex appearance as an opacity mask
      4m 26s
  5. 53m 30s
    1. Understanding transparency flattening
      5m 58s
    2. Learning the two rules of flattening
      8m 1s
    3. Understanding the concept of complex regions
      7m 47s
    4. Exploring the Transparency Flattener options
      11m 44s
    5. The relationship between flattening and stacking order
      8m 22s
    6. Using the Flattener Preview panel
      8m 3s
    7. Creating and sharing flattener presets
      3m 35s
  6. 24m 37s
    1. Working with PostScript (EPS) files
      7m 22s
    2. Placing Illustrator files into InDesign layouts
      3m 59s
    3. Copying graphics from Illustrator
      2m 41s
    4. Saving PDF files
      4m 41s
    5. Using the PDF/X standards
      4m 36s
    6. Printing files from Illustrator
      1m 18s
  7. 34s
    1. Next steps
      34s

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Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency
2h 50m Intermediate May 10, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this installment of Illustrator Insider Training, Mordy Golding shows experienced Illustrator users how to create transparency effects and ensure reliable printing results. This course reviews the history of vector transparency and covers features such as knockout groups, opacity masks, and transparency flattening. Mordy also shows how to establish a safe workflow when placing Illustrator graphics containing transparency in PostScript, PDF, and InDesign files. A free worksheet is included with the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding how transparency works across the Adobe applications
  • Deconstructing the Transparency panel
  • Adding transparency to gradients
  • Understanding how overprints and knockouts work
  • Using a gradient or complex appearance as an opacity mask
  • The rules of transparency flattening
  • Working with complex regions
  • Understanding the relationship between flattening and stacking order
  • Creating and sharing flattener presets
  • Saving PDF files and using the PDF/X standards
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Mordy Golding

Creating an opacity mask

Okay, so we're here inside of the Illustrator. I'm working on this file called glories. ai and we've already seen how to create a layer mask inside of Photoshop. Let's now apply that same knowledge to creating an opacity mask here inside of Illustrator. Now on this document right here the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to go to the View menu here and I'm going to choose to show my transparency grid. It's just going to allow us to get a better idea about where this transparency is going to be and how it works. Next, I want to make sure that my Transparency panel is open because as we're going to see, all the work that we're going to do as far as creating and actually modifying these opacity masks is all going to go through the Transparency panel itself.

And I want to make sure that I have this part visible also, which is currently grayed out. This part over here is going to allow me to work with these opacity masks. I don't need to actually have it fully extended to see the bottom here, because I don't need access to those settings right now. So let's take a look at what happens here. When I create a normal mask inside of Illustrator I would have two shapes or at least two shapes that have some artwork that would appear at the bottom of my stacking order. And again, if I look at my Layers panel here I can see that I have the glories.psd file, which is right here. It's an embedded image.

And then on top of that I have this path, and this path which is just a plain circle has a Gaussian Blur applied to it. I can see over here that the target circle's filled in. That indicates that I have a complex appearance applied to that shape. And I can see right away there is the Gaussian Blur here, and if I click on it I can see the Gaussian Blur has a value of 30 pixels. Great! So I now have this shape. If I were to create a regular mask, if I were to go now and select both of these elements, because to create a mask I actually select both objects, I would then go to the Object menu and I would choose Clipping Mask > Make, but if I do so, my artwork is going to get clipped within the bounds of the path itself.

The whole point of me adding a Gaussian Blur to that object is moot at this point, because the mask does not take that into account at all. So I'm going to press Command+Z to undo this, or Ctrl+Z on Windows and now instead I want to apply an opacity mask. So the steps are the same. I have at least two objects. The object that is at the top of my stacking order is going to become the mask and I now need to create the mask. In doing so I'll go to the Transparency panel. Notice over here that on the left side of my Transparency panel here, this part that was grayed out now becomes alive.

I now see a preview of my selected artwork. You know if we think back for just a moment here to what we saw inside of Photoshop, every layer inside of Photoshop has some kind of a preview on it so I could see the pixels that are on that layer, right? So just imagine for a moment that this is the actual preview that we were seeing before inside of Photoshop. Next, I'm going to go to the fly- out menu of the Transparency panel. I don't understand why Adobe requires us to actually find this hidden command all the way in this little fly-out menu here, but that's the only place where you can actually access the command to turn on an opacity mask.

So I'm going to click on the fly-out menu here and I'm going to choose this option, Make Opacity Mask, and when I do so watch what happens. First of all, now the mask is created. You can clearly see that the rest of my image is no longer visible and it fades completely to transparent in a soft fashion. I don't see that hard edge like I had when I created the clipping mask, but I now see this soft edge or this vignette that I've created by applying the opacity mask. Next, let's take a look at exactly what happened now inside of my Transparency panel.

I know that I had already seen my artwork before, but notice the circle is gone. This is the actual artwork that now appears in my selection. And on the right side is the mask itself and again if you remember what we saw inside of Photoshop, I had this second little set of preview and that was the actual preview of the mask itself, or if you remember we've even created a separate channel. That was the channel that I saw that was controlling the mask for that layer. Well this is the same thing here. Now I'm not dealing with a whole layer. I just have an object, but that circle now became the mask for that image.

So it now turns into this area here. Because I have the Clip setting turned on right now, what the Clip setting does, it actually turns the entire background of my mask to black. Because if you remember right now I had a white circle that was right here, but I didn't have any blacked area. And if we think about again the selection that we saw back inside of Photoshop, that was the channel that had black-and-white pixels. So I need to have the white contrast against something. Meaning make the white parts visible and make the black parts invisible.

However, remember that my white circle actually had a soft edge, because it had a blur applied to it. So there was a soft transition between the white area here and the black area and that's what creates the softness of the mask itself. Now I just want to point out a few things here. First of all, I have an option here called Invert Mask. That means turn everything that's white right now and make it black and anything that's black, make it white. So that would give me the inverse here. It would mean that the middle part of the circle would no longer be visible.

I have not created any black artwork here, because my Clip option is still turned on here. So I'm basically telling Illustrator, don't make the white parts visible but make the black parts visible. But I don't have any black parts here so that's why I don't see anything at all. If you ever created an opacity mask and you see that nothing happens, the first thing I suggest you try is to actually click on the Invert Mask button and see if your artwork becomes visible. As an example, if I would have created my circle right here and I would have colored it black, then when I made a mask it would become invisible, because black becomes invisible. I would have to click on the Invert Mask button to now make that artwork now become visible.

Secondly, take a look at your Layers panel here. My Layers panel now tells me that I have this file here called glories.psd. And if you look closely I have a dashed underline that appears underneath that. Whenever you see an item inside of your Layers panel and it has a dashed underline, that means that that object currently has an opacity mask applied to it. Likewise, if I take a look now in my Appearance panel, this is now a group, because as we know when Illustrator makes a mask it automatically groups the elements together. I now see that the group has an opacity mask applied to it as well.

That again appears in the Appearance panel with a dashed underline. So again, these are visual cues to let me know that this artwork has an opacity mask applied to it. Now, why would that be important? Well obviously, if I want to make changes to this mask I would need to know how it was created and more importantly how we can modify it. We'll cover how to do just that in the next movie.

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