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Editing an opacity mask

From: Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency

Video: Editing an opacity mask

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.

Editing an opacity mask

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.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Expand all | Collapse all
  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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