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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.
Once you've created an opacity mask inside of Illustrator you might want to go ahead now and make some edits to that mask. Now you can totally do that. However, editing an opacity mask is somewhat of a different experience than working with a regular mask. Let me explain why. I'm now going to select this object right here. Notice over here in my Layers panel that if I click on this twirl down here to reveal the contents of this group, I have one object here called glories. That's the embedded image that I was working with. But you remember we actually created the mask by using this circle that had a Gaussian Blur applied to it. Where is it? I don't see it listed here in my Layers panel at all.
And we all know that the Layers panel always shows me the entire hierarchy of my document. So somehow that circle seems to have disappeared. Well, the answer is that circle now actually became the mask, which is now kind of hidden inside of the image itself. In other words, what an opacity mask really does is it controls the visibility of the artwork that it's applied to, and it ceases to be like a regular object inside of Illustrator that I would interact with on a day-to-day basis inside my Layers panel.
So remember we spoke about these little dashed underlines that appear underneath an object. That means that there's now something else that is controlling the visibility of this artwork. In this specific case of this mask right here, there is a vector shape that has a Gaussian Blur that is controlling the visibility of this image inside of my document. In order for us to make changes, again I need to look at the Transparency panel. Let's take a closer look over here at these two thumbnails. We discussed before that this is the actual artwork in my selection and this is the actual mask itself.
Now there's a thick outline around this piece of artwork right here, which currently means that right now Illustrator is in this mode of showing me the artwork itself. If I go ahead now and I take my cursor and I click on the mask itself, notice now that this has a dark outline around it. And if I look at my Layers panel right now, I can see that the image is gone. In fact, everything else in my document is gone, because the Layers panel right now is only showing me the contents of this opacity mask. Let's take our minds back to Photoshop for a second.
Remember we had the ability to actually see a channel and that channel was what the mask actually was. So by actually now clicking on the mask itself, I'm actually like almost going into that specific channel. I don't see anything else. My whole screen now just becomes whatever it is that's being used as the mask. So right now, that path which is the circle that has the Gaussian Blur is currently selected. Now I see that setting. If I wanted to make a change for example to the Gaussian Blur, maybe the edge was a little bit too soft and I wanted to kind of make it just a little bit less soft, I can actually click on the Gaussian Blur here, change it to 20 pixels, click OK, and now my mask no longer has as soft of an edge as it had before.
However, I needed to click on the actual mask itself in order to activate that part of my file. Now I want to be able to let's say go back to working on the actual object or the image. I would now click on this thumbnail right here and now I'm back to my regular Layers panel where I can see all the elements inside of my file. Now let's take another look over here at what happens. When I click and I move this piece of artwork around, both the mask and the image are moving together. However, if I go ahead now and I click on this little lock icon right here, that means that I can move this and you could see how now I am moving the pixels around inside of the mask itself.
In fact, I can actually move the image completely out of the mask so it looks like it disappears. What I'm simply doing is I'm moving that image around, but the mask itself is not moving. Likewise, if I now click on the actual mask itself, I can now take the object and I can move it around and I'm not moving the image around with it. Once I get the position just where I want it, I would now click again to activate that lock, and again I need to do that by first clicking on the actual object itself and then click on the little area right here to activate that lock, and now they will move together as a single unit.
Now there's one other thing that I want to show you right here. If I actually take my Shift key right now and I hold down the Shift key on my keyboard and I click on the mask itself, you will see that I will temporarily disable the mask. Let's say I actually want to see what my artwork looks like without being masked at all. So now I've temporarily disabled the mask and you can see a red X that kind of runs through it. And if I Shift+Click on it again, it will reactivate that mask. By the way, the exact same keyboard shortcut works inside of Photoshop as well. In fact, there's yet another reason why I took the time to show you how layer masks work inside of Photoshop and that's because layer masks in Photoshop and opacity masks inside of Illustrator are one and the same.
I can actually take my Illustrator document right here and choose to export it as a PSD file. And when it opens up inside of Photoshop, my opacity mask now becomes a layer mask, meaning that my pixels are actually not damaged. I would actually see all of the image pixels inside of my file. Likewise, if I create a Photoshop file with a layer mask and I choose to now place that now and embed it into Illustrator, any layer masks become opacity masks. So now you know how to both create and to modify opacity masks inside of Illustrator.
These incredibly powerful masks can be used for a variety of different tasks. And in the following movies we'll actually see how to use these opacity masks to achieve those tasks quite easily.
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