Illustrator 3.14 [complex clipping masks]

“Complex Clipping Masks”


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  1. With Illustrator open and a series of shapes (defined by paths) on the Artboard, place a texture or image you wish to mask into the document.
  2. The image you place may need to be re-sized. You can do this with either the free transform tool (remember to hold down shift to keep the image proportional) or you can use Object > Transform > Scale to type in a percentage value of the scale you wish to perform.
  3. Select all of the shapes you wish to use as your clipping objects (you can hold down shift and select multiple objects) and navigate to Object > Compound Path > Make. This process will create a compound path out of the many paths that previously defined multiple shapes.[premium content]
  4. Next, look at the layers window. (Window > Layers) Click on the small arrow next to the layer name (shown with red circle above). This arrow will expand the layer showing the objects and paths contained within the layer. Double click on the layer name and change it to “Clipping Mask 1”
  5. Now, with the layer expanded, pay careful attention to the order of the objects/paths within the layer. You will likely see a “<Compound Path>” and a “<Linked File>” The “Compound Path” is the shape that will be doing the clipping, and the “Linked File” is the photograph you placed into the drawing that will be clipped.
  6. The “Compound Path” object MUST be on top of the object to be clipped (“Linked File”) in the layer stack. If it is not, drag the “Compound Path” object above the “Linked File” object. Your layers window should look like the example you see above. There must be no other Paths in the layer stack as this will cause the clipping mask to fail. If you have additional paths, create a new layer, select the object defined by the path, then drag the square representing the object in the layers window to the new layer.
  7. Now making sure the main layer, “Clipping Mask 1” is selected (it will show up as blue as it does above), click on the Layers shortcut menu (red rectangle above) and select “Make Clipping Mask” from the context menu that appears.
  8. You should see your photograph clipped by the shapes defined by the “Compound Path” layer.
    • Note: You can add additional photographs (linked files) below the “compound path” sub-layer and they will be masked by the “compound path” as well.

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