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Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency
Illustration by John Hersey

What is an opacity mask?


From:

Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency

with Mordy Golding

Video: What is an opacity mask?

In Illustrator you may already be familiar with something called a mask and you're probably familiar with something called a clipping mask. That's where you can take some artwork and place it within the bounds so that it's only visible inside of that shape. However, Illustrator also possesses a far more powerful mask, something called an opacity mask. Now before we actually learn how to create these opacity masks, I wanted to take a moment to first explain what exactly an opacity mask is, what makes it different than a clipping mask.
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  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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Illustrator Insider Training: Seeing Through Transparency
2h 50m Intermediate May 10, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • 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
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Mordy Golding

What is an opacity mask?

In Illustrator you may already be familiar with something called a mask and you're probably familiar with something called a clipping mask. That's where you can take some artwork and place it within the bounds so that it's only visible inside of that shape. However, Illustrator also possesses a far more powerful mask, something called an opacity mask. Now before we actually learn how to create these opacity masks, I wanted to take a moment to first explain what exactly an opacity mask is, what makes it different than a clipping mask.

So let's take a look at this example right here with a document that I have open. It is called opacity_masks.ai. And on the bottom of my page over here I have these two circles here. This circle and this circle, which are both masks, and inside of that mask I have an image. It's the same image of these beautiful morning glories. Now this shape that's actually being used to create the masks in both of these examples is this shape over here on top. If I click on it, it's a regular plain vector object, but it has a Gaussian Blur applied to it that gives it that blurry appearance.

I can actually click on the Gaussian Blur effect here in the Appearance panel and see that it currently has a Blur set of 30 pixels. Now the important thing to realize here is that at the bottom of my page, I've used that circle to create these two masks, but you can see that I get two very different appearances as a result of those masks. That's because the circle here on the left is created used a regular plain clipping mask. What a clipping mask does is it takes the actual vector path itself and it uses that vector path to determine which parts of my image are visible and which parts of my image are not visible.

So anything inside of the path is visible. Anything outside of the path is not visible. Now if we take a look over here at the mask on the right, this was created using an opacity mask. An opacity mask uses the same shape but it doesn't really care at all about the vector path itself. What it cares about is the actual appearance of that path. More specifically, it takes the luminosity values of that object and uses that as the mask. Now, don't worry if all this sounds very technical, because throughout this entire chapter we're going to go step-by-step and we're going to understand exactly how opacity masks work and how we can use them to perform a variety of different tasks.

For example, I'm going to open up my Artboards panel here inside of this document. Right now I have an artboard called opacity_ mask, which is what I'm looking at right now. But I'm going to double-click on Mask Examples. This is going to take me to a different artboard in this file. Just want to show you here these are two possible examples of how you might think about using opacity masks. Over here on the left I have an image. In the middle area over here I have this regular plain gradient and then on the far right I have what happens when I use this gradient as an opacity mask for this image.

Notice over here that the image completely fades out to transparent. Let's take a look at this example here at the bottom. I have some regular vector artwork. I have an image that I've brought now into Illustrator. It's an embedded image that I brought in from Photoshop and I used that image as an opacity mask to make it look as if that image has kind of parts of it eaten away, almost like a distressed pattern. I'm going to zoom in over here so you can take a better look at that artwork. You can see how parts of the artwork are simply not there. You can see background right through it. So as you can see there are many different ways that I can actually use opacity masks inside of Illustrator.

They are incredibly powerful and once we learn a few simple concepts, we'll be able to use these opacity masks to solve everyday design problems inside of Illustrator.

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