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Understanding clipping masks

From: Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

Video: Understanding clipping masks

When working inside of Illustrator, there may be times when you want to hide portions of your artwork without physically deleting them from your file. That may be because you want to maybe adjust them later on or you only want to be able to see certain parts of a file right now, but at any point may want to readjust the positioning of it. The functions we use to accomplish this task is something called masking. Now in Illustrator, when you want to create a mask, you do so by creating a new vector shape and that particular shape then clips or basically decides which parts of the image can or cannot be seen. The most classic case of working with masks in Illustrator is when they're applied to photographs. For example, you can't really change or adjust the actual shape of a photograph. All photographs are rectangular in nature.

Understanding clipping masks

When working inside of Illustrator, there may be times when you want to hide portions of your artwork without physically deleting them from your file. That may be because you want to maybe adjust them later on or you only want to be able to see certain parts of a file right now, but at any point may want to readjust the positioning of it. The functions we use to accomplish this task is something called masking. Now in Illustrator, when you want to create a mask, you do so by creating a new vector shape and that particular shape then clips or basically decides which parts of the image can or cannot be seen. The most classic case of working with masks in Illustrator is when they're applied to photographs. For example, you can't really change or adjust the actual shape of a photograph. All photographs are rectangular in nature.

However, if you only want to see certain parts of a photograph, you would create a mask to go ahead and do that for you. For example, let's take a look at this file right here. I have a file here called clipping_masks and I have a photograph that's placed into this particular document. I'll zoom out a little bit here so we can see the actual boundaries of the photo and if I click on it, I see that right now I have this one image that's selected. Now I may want to crop or just come and close on this part of the photograph and I may not be interested in seeing the rest of the photograph here. Because you can actually edit pixels inside of Illustrator, what I need to do is basically define another shape that allows me to only see the pixels within a certain area.

For example, I'll choose my Rectangle tool and I'll simply draw a rectangle over this area of the photograph. With my regular Selection tool, and that particular rectangle selected, I'll now hold down the Shift key to also add the image to my selection. So now I have two objects selected, both the photograph and the rectangle. I can now go to the Object menu. I could choose Clipping Mask and then choose Make. Now, I only see the photograph inside of the boundaries of that rectangle. I'm going to press Undo twice to actually remove the rectangle from my file also.

I want to show you that there is another way that Illustrator also creates clipping mask in a very simple fashion. You'll notice that any time you have an image selected inside of Illustrator, there is a button in the control panel called Mask. Clicking on that button actually does two things; first of all, it creates a rectangle that's the exact same size of your photograph itself. Second, it uses that as a mask for the photograph. Now once I've gone ahead and I've adjusted that mask, I haven't deselected the image yet. I can now simply grab the corners here and adjust how that particular rectangle looks.

In doing so, I now have basically defined a mask and cropped my image the same way that I might crop an image, for example, inside of InDesign using a frame. Now the reason why that happened is because once I clicked on the Mask button, Illustrator not only created a rectangle and defined it as a mask, but it also adjusted these two buttons over here. Right now, I'm basically toggling between two modes. I have right now a mode called Edit Clipping Path, which is the rectangle that's used to define the mask and I have the ability to also change modes to go to edit the contents. In doing so, I'm now having the ability to actually edit the photograph or the contents that are inside of the mask.

For example, if I wanted to make the picture a little bit smaller, but I want to leave it the rectangle of the size that it was, now that I'm editing the contents or the image itself, I can now scale this down in size and the photograph adjusts inside of that particular shape. Now I'm going to press Undo a few times; I want to go back to my original part where I basically just have the image inside of my file. Notice that I see the Mask button is now active, but I want to show you yet another way that we could actually work with the actual mask or the contents of the mask, independently of each other. At the same time, I also want to use a technique to show you how you could use another shape such as anything other than a rectangle to use that as a mask.

For example, maybe I want this to fit into a different type of shape. If I go here to my Layers panel, I'll see that inside the Image layer I have a path here that I've created. If I go ahead and I turn that path on, I could see that it's this kind of a shape that's right over here. Maybe I want the photograph to be masked inside of this shape. So what I'll do is I'll click on that particular shape to select it. I'll also hold down the Shift key to select the image itself. So now I have two objects selected; I can now go to the Object menu, I can choose Clipping Mask and Make and now I've made a mask using an image that's not rectangular in shape but any custom at all. It's important to realize when you create a mask, the object that's at the topmost of your stacking order is the object that becomes the mask.

So you'll notice that here when I selected my artwork, I have the image underneath that particular object. But let's also take a closer look at exactly what Illustrator did here. If I look at my layer right now, I can see that in the image layer, whereas before I had an image and a path, I now have a group that was created and the image and the path were put inside of that group. The topmost object which was the path here now became a clipping path and you can easily identify clipping paths in the Layers panel because they always appear with an underline. So now let's take a look at how to actually edit or work with the objects on my artboard.

Now, I'm going to de-select this right now. If I want to move the mask around, I could simply click on it and move it and notice that the image and the mask both move together. You'll see that both of these elements here are gray, but now watch what happens when I go ahead and I double-click on it. I've now entered Isolation mode. Remember, we're dealing with a group here. So I've now isolated the group as you can see here with the breadcrumbs at the top of my document window. So now I have the ability to click over here and now I'm selecting the image that's inside of the group. Because I've isolated the group, I'm inside the group right now, I can move this image around independently of the mask.

By clicking on it, I can now move the picture and center it just where I want it. I can scale to make a little bit smaller and basically position the image just where I need it to be. Likewise, they can also click on just the mask itself and move the mask around without moving the picture around. When I'm done with my editing, I'll go ahead and I'll double-click to exit Isolation Mode. Now in these examples, we're using an image and of course a vector shape to define the mask for that image. But masks don't have to be used specifically on images; masking can be done on any kind of object inside of Illustrator including vectors. So let's take a look at such an example.

I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to hide the Image layer in my document here. I'm going to turn on this layer called Logo. Inside of this particular layer, you can see that I have a Path and I have a Group, which is basically meant for how much of different rays. I want to clip these rays inside of this particular shape. So the first thing I'll do is I'll just simply adjust the position exactly where I want this shape to be right on top of the rays that are right here. Remember, the mask itself needs to be at the top of the stacking order of the objects that are going to appear inside of the mask and now I can simply click and drag to select all the elements here. I'll go to the Object menu and I'll choose Clipping Mask > Make. The keyboard shortcut is Command+7 on a Mac or Ctrl+ 7 on Windows. Now you can see that the artwork that I've created, which is vector artwork, has now been clipped successfully inside of that path. Just as before, I can double-click on this to isolate it and be able to see all the artwork that's here as well. Let me go over here and click on the arrow here to exit Isolation mode.

If you want to release the mask, what you can simply do is go ahead and click over here on this particular mask itself. Go to the Object menu and choose Clipping Mask > Release. In doing so, I'm now back to my regular shapes as before. One thing that's interesting to note is that once you turn a path into a mask, it loses all of its attribute. So any fill or stroke that was there suddenly becomes set to None. But as you can see here in the Layers panel, my path is still there. So whether you're working with images or artwork itself inside of Illustrator, if you ever want to hide portions of a particular piece of artwork, using a mask is the best way to do so as it's nondestructive. Meaning, at any time, if you want to reposition that artwork or you want to extend some of the areas, you can do so without worrying about actually cutting the paths themselves.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

137 video lessons · 29127 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
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  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Using the exercise files
      23s
  2. 33m 20s
    1. Introducing Live Paint
      38s
    2. Drawing in Illustrator
      4m 21s
    3. Creating a Live Paint group
      2m 54s
    4. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      3m 17s
    5. Using Live Paint with open paths
      2m 29s
    6. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      4m 17s
    7. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      3m 41s
    8. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      5m 44s
    9. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 55s
    10. Understanding how Live Paint groups work
      3m 4s
  3. 49m 36s
    1. Introducing the trace options
      39s
    2. Setting expectations: Live Trace
      2m 26s
    3. Using the Live Trace feature
      1m 51s
    4. Understanding how Live Trace works
      5m 41s
    5. Making raster-based adjustments
      5m 52s
    6. Tracing with fills, strokes, or both
      2m 55s
    7. Making vector-based adjustments
      6m 12s
    8. Adjusting colors in Live Trace
      4m 39s
    9. Using Photoshop with Live Trace
      5m 22s
    10. Releasing and expanding Live Trace artwork
      2m 58s
    11. Saving and exporting Live Trace presets
      2m 36s
    12. Tracing in Batch mode with Adobe Bridge
      1m 35s
    13. Turning an image into mosaic tiles
      2m 28s
    14. Tracing an image manually
      4m 22s
  4. 1h 24m
    1. Introducing 3D
      33s
    2. Setting expectations: 3D in Illustrator
      2m 53s
    3. How fills and strokes affect 3D artwork
      4m 43s
    4. Applying the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect
      6m 25s
    5. Applying a bevel
      5m 40s
    6. Showing the hidden faces of a 3D object
      4m 49s
    7. Applying the 3D Revolve effect
      5m 22s
    8. Visualizing the revolve axis
      3m 5s
    9. Applying the 3D Rotate effect
      1m 35s
    10. Adjusting surface settings
      9m 33s
    11. Understanding the importance of 3D and groups
      3m 24s
    12. Preparing art for mapping
      10m 19s
    13. Mapping artwork to a 3D surface
      14m 21s
    14. Hiding geometry with 3D artwork mapping
      4m 0s
    15. Extending the use of 3D in Illustrator
      8m 7s
  5. 44m 37s
    1. Introducing transformations and effects
      32s
    2. Using the Transform panel
      12m 37s
    3. Repeating transformations
      5m 23s
    4. Using the Transform Each function
      3m 48s
    5. Using the Convert to Shape effects
      5m 49s
    6. Using the Distort & Transform effects
      5m 12s
    7. Using the Path effects
      6m 58s
    8. Using the Pathfinder effects
      4m 18s
  6. 28m 23s
    1. Introducing graphic styles
      33s
    2. Applying graphic styles
      10m 8s
    3. Defining graphic styles
      8m 46s
    4. Previewing graphic styles
      2m 10s
    5. Modifying graphic styles
      3m 30s
    6. Understanding graphic styles for text
      3m 16s
  7. 22m 49s
    1. Introducing advanced masking techniques
      32s
    2. Understanding clipping masks
      7m 15s
    3. Using layer clipping masks
      6m 30s
    4. Creating opacity masks
      8m 32s
  8. 1h 6m
    1. Introducing color
      40s
    2. Considering three types of color swatches
      7m 7s
    3. Managing color groups
      2m 58s
    4. Understanding the HSB color wheel
      3m 57s
    5. Understanding color harmonies
      2m 57s
    6. Using the color guide
      3m 54s
    7. Limiting the color guide
      3m 17s
    8. Modifying color with the Recolor Artwork feature
      6m 25s
    9. Using the Edit tab to adjust color
      5m 44s
    10. Using the Assign tab to replace colors
      8m 37s
    11. Making global color adjustments
      2m 17s
    12. Using Recolor options
      7m 3s
    13. Converting artwork to grayscale
      3m 23s
    14. Simulating artwork on different devices
      3m 18s
    15. Accessing Kuler directly from Illustrator
      2m 7s
    16. Ensuring high contrast for color-blind people
      2m 42s
  9. 53m 19s
    1. Introducing transparency
      40s
    2. Understanding transparency flattening
      2m 31s
    3. Exercising the two rules of transparency flattening
      10m 53s
    4. Understanding complex regions in transparency flattening
      4m 50s
    5. Exploring the transparency flattener settings
      8m 37s
    6. Using transparency flattening and object stacking order
      6m 39s
    7. Using the Flattener Preview panel
      6m 31s
    8. Creating and sharing Transparency Flattener presets
      2m 25s
    9. Working within an EPS workflow
      5m 3s
    10. Understanding the Illustrator and InDesign workflow
      5m 10s
  10. 50m 1s
    1. Introducing prepress and output
      23s
    2. Understanding resolutions
      8m 27s
    3. Discovering RGB and CMYK "gotchas"
      5m 42s
    4. Using Overprints and Overprint Preview
      7m 43s
    5. Understanding "book color" and proofing spot colors
      8m 1s
    6. Collecting vital information with Document Info
      2m 28s
    7. Previewing color separations onscreen
      1m 12s
    8. Making 3D artwork look good
      2m 16s
    9. Seeing white lines and knowing what to do about them
      2m 41s
    10. Creating "bulletproof" press-ready PDF files
      3m 45s
    11. Protecting content with secure PDFs
      2m 48s
    12. Using PDF presets
      2m 47s
    13. Moving forward: The Adobe PDF Print Engine
      1m 48s
  11. 35m 43s
    1. Introducing distortions
      27s
    2. Using the Warp effect
      4m 20s
    3. The Warp effect vs. envelope distortion
      3m 48s
    4. Applying the Make with Warp envelope distortion
      2m 45s
    5. Applying the Make with Mesh envelope distortion
      2m 41s
    6. Applying the Make with Top Object envelope distortion
      3m 45s
    7. Editing envelopes
      5m 0s
    8. Adjusting envelope settings
      4m 2s
    9. Releasing and expanding envelope distortions
      1m 44s
    10. Applying envelope distortions to text
      1m 27s
    11. Using the liquify distortion tools
      3m 5s
    12. Customizing the liquify tools
      2m 39s
  12. 28m 56s
    1. Introducing blends
      32s
    2. Blending two objects
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting blend options
      5m 47s
    4. Blending anchor points
      5m 36s
    5. Blending three or more objects
      2m 9s
    6. Replacing the spine of a blend
      4m 32s
    7. Reversing the direction of a blend
      2m 15s
    8. Releasing and expanding a blend
      1m 47s
  13. 46m 54s
    1. Introducing charts and graphs
      35s
    2. Setting expectations: Graphs in Illustrator
      3m 19s
    3. Creating a chart
      8m 2s
    4. Importing data
      3m 34s
    5. Formatting data
      5m 1s
    6. Customizing a chart
      10m 21s
    7. Combining chart types
      2m 40s
    8. Creating graph designs
      6m 0s
    9. Styling and updating graphs
      5m 33s
    10. Ungrouping graphs
      1m 49s
  14. 26m 36s
    1. Introducing Gradient Mesh
      23s
    2. Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature
      9m 34s
    3. Using Gradient Mesh to add contoured shading
      6m 14s
    4. Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects
      10m 25s
  15. 8m 18s
    1. Introducing flare effects
      25s
    2. Drawing a lens flare
      3m 28s
    3. Modifying a lens flare
      1m 27s
    4. Using a mask with lens flares
      2m 58s
  16. 29s
    1. Goodbye
      29s

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