Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustration by Richard Downs

Using layer clipping masks


Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

with Mordy Golding

Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Video: Using layer clipping masks

So we know that when we create a clipping mask inside of Illustrator, the topmost object becomes the mask for all the selected artwork that appears beneath it. The Illustrator accomplishes this by taking all the objects and putting them into a single group and then turning the topmost object in that group to become the mask. Now the problem is that that starts to break down when you start to have layers in your document. For example, take a look at what I have here in this file. It's called layer_masks. I have several layers that already exist. I have a layer for the Logo type. I have a layer for the Palm Tree that's here, for the Border, and for the Rays that appear in the background.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 33m 20s
    1. Introducing Live Paint
    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 35s
    1. Introducing the trace options
    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 57s
    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
    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
    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 24s
    1. Introducing graphic styles
    2. Applying graphic styles
      10m 8s
    3. Defining graphic styles
      8m 47s
    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
    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
    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 58s
    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
    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
    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 44s
    1. Introducing distortions
    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 45s
    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
    2. Blending two objects
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting blend options
      5m 47s
    4. Blending three or more objects
      2m 9s
    5. Blending anchor points
      5m 36s
    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 56s
    1. Introducing charts and graphs
    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 22s
    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
    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
    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

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
9h 42m Intermediate Apr 03, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Tracing artwork both automatically and manually
  • Mapping artwork to complex 3D surfaces
  • Using pressure-sensitive distortion tools
  • Recoloring artwork across a document
  • Using Excel data to create charts and graphs
  • Understanding how transparency really works
  • Creating high-quality, press-ready PDFs
  • Building efficient files with graphic styles
Mordy Golding

Using layer clipping masks

So we know that when we create a clipping mask inside of Illustrator, the topmost object becomes the mask for all the selected artwork that appears beneath it. The Illustrator accomplishes this by taking all the objects and putting them into a single group and then turning the topmost object in that group to become the mask. Now the problem is that that starts to break down when you start to have layers in your document. For example, take a look at what I have here in this file. It's called layer_masks. I have several layers that already exist. I have a layer for the Logo type. I have a layer for the Palm Tree that's here, for the Border, and for the Rays that appear in the background.

Now I want to use this object here in this Mask layer which is the shape right here, but if I were to simply select now all of my artwork and remember, all this artwork lives on separate layers, Illustrator will create a group of all these objects, and because the way that groups work, you cannot have objects within a single group that live on different layers. So if I choose now to go to Object > Clipping Mask and choose, Make, you will note that right now all of these layers have been emptied. There is nothing that appears in the Logo Type layer, the Palm Tree layer, the Border layer or the Rays layer; everything has been moved up now into this new group that was created and all of this artwork now lives here.

So what I have basically done is I have lost my entire layer structure in my document. Now depending on the artwork that I'm working with, that may either be catastrophic or it may not mean much at all. But for example, if you are a map maker and you have maybe hundreds of layers inside of your document and now you need to clip a particular part of that map in a certain area, if you were to blow away all of your layers, well that could be days and days of work. So for these types of tasks, where we are dealing specifically with trying to preserve our layer structure, we'll start to employ a different type of mask inside of Illustrator, something called a layer clipping mask, not just the regular clipping mask. So I'm going to press Undo, I want to undo that aspect now.

All my layers are back to the way they were before and we are going to try something a little bit different here. Let me go ahead and expand my Layer panel just a little bit over here so we could see the contents that I have here. Inside of my Mask layer, I have a path that exists. There is nothing else in that Mask layer right now and of course I have four additional layers here with the artwork inside of it. So let me de- select everything right now because I want to show you that when you are working with layer clipping mask, you don't even need to access or touch any of your artwork on the page; it all happens directly to the Layers panel itself. Now the same overall concept of masking applies; the topmost object in our selection is going to become the mask for everything else that appears beneath it.

However, until now when we work with the regular clipping mask, we know that Illustrator creates a group and the topmost object in that group becomes the mask for everything else inside of that group. Well, what a layer clipping mask is, is where you have a layer and the topmost object in that layer becomes a mask for everything else inside of that layer. The reason why this is important to know is because in Illustrator, we can have sub-layers, we can have layers that live within other layers. So if we build our file correctly, we can actually create a structure where we don't lose our layers inside of our file.

So let's see how we do that. I'm actually going to go ahead and click over here in the Layers panel to select a Logo Type layer. I'm now going to hold down the Shift key and click on the Rays layer to select all of these four layers. Now they are all highlighted here, select is really kind of a bad word because we think about selections of artwork on the artboard itself. I haven't selected any objects, what I have done is I have actually selected just the layers in the Layers panel. So now I refer to this as just highlighting those layers instead of saying select it, just to avoid that confusion. What I'll do is I'll take these four layers right now and click and drag them so that they appear inside the Mask layer. See how that line now appears right now. What I'm doing is I'm simply dragging it into the Mask layer, so that it appears beneath the path.

So if we take a look now, my document now has one overall layer. Inside of that Mask layer, I have the path and I have four additional layers. So my layer structure still exists. I still have the Rays on their own layer; the Border is on its own layer. The same for the Palm Tree and the Logo Type as well, but the paths fit to the topmost part of the Mask layer itself. So now what I'm going to do is I'm going to tell Illustrator to turn this path into a mask for everything else inside of the Mask layer. Again, I don't need to select any artwork on the artboard itself, this is actually pretty cool when it comes to working with layer mask simply because I don't have to worry about accidentally selecting things or having to lock or unlock objects in my artboard. I can do all this directly through the Layers panel itself.

So I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to highlight the Mask layer itself. Remember the layer clipping mask is actually an attribute of the layer itself. So by highlighting the layer here, I'm basically identifying to Illustrator that I want to work with that particular layer. Now I'll move to the bottom of the Layers panel, there is a button here called Make/Release Clipping Mask. By clicking on that button, I'm basically telling that particular layer to turn on its mask. So let me first identify exactly what I mean by that, before I actually apply it. Every single layer inside of Illustrator has a mask attribute. It means basically like a light switch; I can turn the mask on and off for any layer at any time. In doing so, the layer simply identifies the topmost object in that layer and makes that the mask for everything else that lives inside that layer.

So think of it as a toggle. At any time, you can highlight a layer and turn its mask on and off. So again, with the Mask layer highlighted, I'm now going to click on this button called Make/ Release Clipping Mask, basically telling that layer to turn its mask on. Now look what happens. The path that I had at the topmost part of my particular layer now has become a clipping path; you can see that it's underlined. And this mask now has clipped all the layers that exist inside of that layer. But I haven't lost my layer structure here; it still exists inside of this layer. What's great about working with layer clipping mask is that they are easy to turn on and off, because they are just a toggle. So at any time, without even having to select any artwork on my page, I could just come down here and click that on and off to just see how that mask is applied to that artwork.

Now remember, every single layer in Illustrator has a mask attribute. That means that I could have any of these particular sub-layers also have their own masks. One important thing to know though is that inside of Illustrator, there is a bug. That is if you have nested masks, inside of your layers structure, inside of Illustrator, by going ahead and toggling the overall mask, the topmost mask in your document, all of the other masks will get turned off as well. So you may have to reapply those masks if you went ahead and you toggle that particular overall mask. For example, this Rays layer actually had a mask as well, by turning on its mask over here. By turning on or toggling this mask layer, this would also get turned off as well.

But in general, working with layer mask can really help you a lot, especially when you are trying to preserve layer structure in a document. They are easy to apply, they are easy to control, and they can save you a ton of work.

There are currently no FAQs about Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.