Using a gradient as an opacity mask
Video: Using a gradient as an opacity maskLet's see how we can use an opacity mask to create an effect that is used quite often these days, something like a reflection. I'm looking at this file right here called reflection.ai and I have a flowerpot on a black background. And what I've done here in this file also is I've actually created a copy of the flowerpot and I've flipped it so that I now see an upside-down copy of it right here. So I have this flowerpot right here and I'm going to be using this flowerpot right here as reflection. Now obviously right now it's too strong. I want that reflection to kind of fade out as it goes down, but I need to use an opacity mask to make that happen.
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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.
- 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
Using a gradient as an opacity mask
Let's see how we can use an opacity mask to create an effect that is used quite often these days, something like a reflection. I'm looking at this file right here called reflection.ai and I have a flowerpot on a black background. And what I've done here in this file also is I've actually created a copy of the flowerpot and I've flipped it so that I now see an upside-down copy of it right here. So I have this flowerpot right here and I'm going to be using this flowerpot right here as reflection. Now obviously right now it's too strong. I want that reflection to kind of fade out as it goes down, but I need to use an opacity mask to make that happen.
Now first let's understand what I'm going to be using as my opacity mask. The answer is in this case a gradient. I want to create a gradient that's going to go from black to white and I'll use those values as an opacity mask for the upside-down flowerpot. Let's see how that's going to work. I'm going to start out by taking my regular Rectangle tool. I am just going to draw a rectangle right about over here. I wanted to cover basically the entire flowerpot that's going to act as a reflection. Now I don't need to stroke on this object, so I'm going to remove the stroke.
Let's set it to None and the Fill itself though it should be a gradient. I'm actually going to go to my Gradient panel right here and just click on this button right here, the default gradient. And now I have a gradient applied to this piece of art. Now the gradient goes from left to right, which doesn't really help me here, so I'm going to change the Angle of my gradient to, let's do -90 degrees. And I'll explain to you why I just have -90 instead of 90 degrees. Right now my gradient over here at the top is going to be white. That's going to fade down now to black. If you remember when we start creating these opacity masks, the white area is the part that's going to be visible where the black part is going to the part that becomes not visible.
So right now I really want to see this part of my flowerpot at full strength and then I want this slowly disappear as it moves downwards. If I started with black at the top of my gradient that will mean that this part would not be visible and it would slowly become visible as I move down. Now again in Illustrator it's not the end of the world, because I have the ability to invert my mask at anytime inside of my Transparency panel. So if I'm not happy with the direction that my mask is going in, I can always invert it. But again, I just wanted you to see this upfront as you start working with it so that in your mind you get a better idea of exactly how this opacity mask actually works.
So now I've created my object that's filled with a gradient. This is now going to become the mask for my artwork. Now the artwork that's underneath this right now is a group. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to switch to my Selection tool. I'm going to Marquee-drag here. I locked the background, so that won't become selected. And I now have these elements selected. The mask which is the gradient that's going to be on top, plus the group which is the artwork that appears at the bottom of my stacking order. Now I'm going to go to my Transparency panel and click on the fly-out menu and choose to Make Opacity Mask.
So now let's go ahead and deselect and see what happens here. You can see that the flowerpot appears at full strength over here, but as it starts to fade down it slowly starts to fade out. The thing though it's doesn't really fade out nearly as fast as I need it to, but that's okay, because we can always make adjustments to our opacity masks. So let's see how to do that. I'm going to click on this element right here. Now remember the gradient is gone. It's no longer here. The gradient is kind of like embedded into that artwork and it controls the visibility of that artwork. So again, if I were to look in my Layers panel right now and I would see that group right now that I'm working with, that has the dashed underline, which lets me know that right now there is something that is controlling the visibility of that entire group.
And obviously that's an opacity mask, because I see the dashed line. I know to look at my Transparency panel and I see the mask right here. So I'm going to click on the mask. I now see that the opacity mask is a regular path. It's filled with a gradient. So all I really need to do is adjust the gradient. Now remember the white part of the gradient is going to be visible; the black part of the gradient is not going to be visible. So if I now bring the black part of the gradient kind of in somewhat, notice how more of that flowerpot seems to disappear. And if I use this little slider here to control exactly how fast or slowly that disappears, I can start to control exactly how my gradient or how my reflection actually looks.
So now if I deselect, I kind of really am happy with the way that reflection looks right now. Now I will remember to click back on this icon over here. Remember if I don't, I'm always going to be inside of my opacity mask, which I no longer need access to. So I'm going to click back on the regular thumbnail and now I'm back to working inside of my document. So what I've been able to do here is use a regular plain gradient as an opacity mask to create a really cool reflection here inside of Illustrator.
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