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How Do I Create a Mask in Illustrator?

Using a clipping mask in Illustrator is a convenient way to mimic a cropped image without actually opening the image in Photoshop and cropping it. A clipping mask is composed of various layers. The base layer (on the bottom) defines the visible portions of the remaining layers.
When working with an image, you could use the base layer as the shape or mask, then layer an image above it. The image will appear to take the shape of the opening in the mask beneath it. Whether you’re a photographer or graphic designer, learning how to mask in Illustrator is a valuable skill that can help you create a variety of projects.
Hide Portions of Objects With a Clipping Mask
To hide portions of an object with a clipping mask, follow these steps:
  • Create your “clipping path” (the object you’ll use as the mask). Keep in mind that only vector objects can be used as clipping paths.
  • In the stacking order, move the clipping path to the top of the object(s) you want to mold to the shape of the mask.
  • Select the objects you want to mask and the associated clipping path.
  • Choose Object > Clipping Mask, then select Make.
You will need to group the objects first if you’re using the area where multiple objects overlap to create your clipping path.
Remove or Add a Masked Object
To remove or add a masked object to your artwork, select the object in the Layers panel and drag it out of or into the clipping path layer or group.
Create a Group or Layer Clipping Mask
If you want to create a group or layer clipping mask, do the following:
  1. Create your clipping path.
  2. Create a layer or group that includes the objects you want to mask and the clipping path.
  3. Make sure the masking object is located on top of the layer or group by arranging it correctly in the Layers panel.
  4. Click on the name of the group or layer.
  5. Click on Make Clipping Mask from the Layers menu or select the Make/Release Clipping Masks button (located on the Layers panel, at the bottom).
You can also edit your clipping mask after you’ve created it by choosing Object > Clipping Mask, then selecting Edit Mask and making your desired edits. Once you’ve learned how to mask in Illustrator, you can create unique designs or modify the shape of stock photos from Shutterstock for use in your projects. To find the ideal images for your design, browse through Shutterstock’s impressive inventory of photographs. You can also use the stock photography company’s leading editing tools to create the look you want.
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