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Illustrator can be used to accomplish many different design tasks. For this reason, Illustrator CS4 Essential Training teaches core concepts and techniques that can be applied to any workflow for print, the web, or assets that will find their way into other applications. Mordy Golding explains the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of Illustrator's drawing tools. He demonstrates how to combine and clean up paths, and organize them into groups and layers. Mordy also covers text editing, working with color, expressive brush drawing, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
When you're working with images inside of your layout, you may find that sometimes you want to crop those images. Unfortunately, Illustrator itself does not allow you to edit any pixels. So there is no way to cut off pixels from a file. However, you can use a method inside of Illustrator called masking to control what parts of image can or cannot be seen. Let's take a look at how we do that. I'll start off a blank new document and I'll go to the File menu and let's place a picture on our page. I'll choose Place, navigate to Chapter 15 in the exercise files, and let's go ahead and choose this one over here called surf_sign.psd. I could use a linked image at this point right now and choose Place and when I have the image selected, we already know that I have certain buttons available to me. For example the ability to embed our image, to edit the original and to do Live Trace, all these things, which we've already explored.
However, go further to the right, you see there's an option here called Mask. This allows us with one button to create a mask. So say I only want to crop the image to be a little bit tighter to the sign in the flag itself but I don't need to see all this part of the image here, all this part of the image here. So what I'll do is I'll click on the Mask button and now when I do so, I can now use the little arrows or handles on the corners of the image to adjust what part of the image I want to see. Notice, it's not scaling the image, but I'm simply doing as I'm defining the mask inside of Illustrator for what I can or cannot see of that image.
Just to show you what this looks like if I deselect and I go into Outline mode by pressing Command+Y, you will still see that overall image is here. However, what I have done is I have actually created a mask, which really in that particular case, when I click on that button, created a rectangle, which I was able to use to control, which parts of the image were visible. When you create a mask, anything that is inside of the area of the mask becomes visible; anything outside of the area of the mask becomes invisible. When I go ahead and now I'll go back to the Preview mode, I could see that I can basically click over here and I don't see anything at all, but when I click in the picture itself, I do see it. What I can do to add this particular mask is double-click on it. Notice now I'm isolating this particular mask for this image itself, clicking down again now reveals the whole image, which I can then move around if I want to. I can then double-click to exit the Isolation mode and I can see that I can move that around as well.
In fact, let's take a closer look at how masking actually works. Let's do it in a manual way, not the automatic way that we just did right now. I'm going to choose Command+A or Ctrl+A to select everything and press Delete. Now I have a blank document again. Let's go place another picture. Let me go to the File menu, choose Place. Again, navigate to Chapter 15 of my exercise files and let's go ahead and choose maybe this one called surf_ride.psd. I'm going to click on the Place button and now that image is here. Let's say I want to focus on just this one part of the image that's right here, but I don't want to mask it into a rectangle, maybe I want to create like an oval. So what I can do is I can go to my regular tool over here inside of Illustrator, my Ellipse tool and draw a shape. I'm going to hold down the Option key, which actually let's me to draw it out from the center and draw a shape something like this.
Now what I'll do is I'll hold down my Shift key, I'll switch to my regular Selection tool and while holding down the Shift key, I'll also select the photograph. So now I have two things in my selection. I have the photograph, which is currently in the stacking order, in the back of the stacking order and I now have this oval, which is now in the front of the stacking order. It's important to realize when you create a mask manually inside of Illustrator, the object that's at the top of your stack becomes the mask and anything that's beneath it is the items that become a mask inside of that object. So now what I'll do is I'll go to the Object menu, I'll choose Clipping Mask and then I'll choose Make. Now you can see that the photograph is only visible through the circle or the oval that I have created. It's not available or visible for me to see anywhere outside of it. I can double-click again to isolate it now. Now watch I can move this photograph around inside of the circle without adjusting the circle in that way. Now again, double-click outside of it to exit that Isolation mode.
So now I could very easily crop and work with photographs, in fact if I wanted to scale the picture to be a little bit more larger inside of that shape, I can once again double-click on it to isolate it. Now what I can do is basically click on that photograph to select it and then holding the Shift key down, I'm basically now enlarging that photograph. I could of course use a Scale tool as well. When I'm done with the editing, I can exit isolation mode this way and now again double-click outside of the shape. I now see that I can have the ability to really create any custom shape at all that I want and use that as a mask.
Again, just a key thing is, is that you want to create your shape, make sure that shape is at the top level of your stacking order, then select both the shape, the photograph or the image behind it and then create your mask. At anytime, you could also choose to select your objects, go to the Objects menu, choose Clipping Mask and choose Release. When you do so, it then does away with the mask, now have the original shapes that we have created as before.
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