Clipping masks are used inside of Adobe Illustrator when you need to “crop” an image. There is no crop feature in Illustrator. You can pull it into Photoshop and crop it, but inside Illustrator, you need to use the clipping mask feature. This is a skill you can learn in 20 minutes. If you practice daily, it will come much easier.
What Are Clipping Masks?
Clipping masks are described by Adobe as the following:
A clipping mask is an object whose shape masks other artwork so that only areas that lie within the shape are visible—in effect, clipping the artwork to the shape of the mask. The clipping mask and the objects that are masked are called a clipping set. You can make a clipping set from a selection of two or more objects or from all objects in a group or layer.
Object-level clipping sets are combined as a group in the Layers panel. If you create layer-level clipping sets, the object on top of the layer clips all of the objects below it. All operations that you perform on an object-level clipping set, such as transformations and alignment, are based on the clipping mask’s boundary, not the unmasked boundary. Once you have created an object-level clipping mask, you can only select the clipped content by using the Layers panel, the Direct Selection tool, or by isolating the clipping set.
It’s important to note that vectors are only ever considered clipping masks, but you can “mask” any artwork that isn’t a vector too.
Creating Clipping Masks:
To create a clipping mask, follow these instructions:
- With the artwork in place, draw a rectangle over the are you want “cropped”. Make sure the rectangle is white with no stroke.
- Select the artwork and the rectangle (marquee with the black arrow, or shift and click the objects).
- Go to Object–>Clipping Mask–> Make (on a PC)
This will create a clipping mask and the area that is masked is not seen.
Another “mask” is called an opacity mask. This tool is used from the Transparency tool inside of the Window feature on the toolbar. This allows you to create effects and blend layers.
In this video, I show you how to create a clipping mask, as well as how to use an opacity mask. Let me know what you think!