Skip to main content

Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson 41 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson 41 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

41. Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What is Adobe Illustrator?


Explore the Interface


Create and Save New Documents


Zoom and Navigate


Working with Artboards


Introduction to Layers


Rulers and Guides


Shapes and Drawing


Aligning and Combining Shapes


Pen Tool


Manipulating Stroke and Fill


Creating and Editing with Color


Painting with Gradients


Getting Started with Patterns


Adding Text To Your Document


Formatting Text


Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator


Rotating Objects in Adobe Illustrator


Effects and the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Adding Photo Images in Adobe Illustrator


Working with Linked Content in Adobe Illustrator


Packaging your Project for Handoff in Adobe Illustrator


Best Formats to Save Your Files


Select Like a Pro: Layers, Groups, & Other Unique Tools


Edit Paths Like a Pro in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Creating & Applying Brushes to Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Knife & Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Join Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Isolation Mode in Adobe® Illustrator®


Pen Tool Shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator


Other Drawing Tools & Methods in Adobe Illustrator


Transforming Techniques in Adobe Illustrator


Shortcut to Reflecting Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Get to Know Your Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Exploring Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Work Smarter with Graphic Styles in Adobe Illustrator


Color Inspiration in Adobe Illustrator


Type Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Creative® Cloud® Libraries in Adobe® Illustrator®


Capture Artwork with Creative Cloud Apps & Adobe Illustrator


Tracing Raster Images in Adobe Illustrator


Blending Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator


Using a Perspective Grid in Adobe Illustrator


Crash Recovery in Adobe Illustrator


GPU Performance in Adobe Illustrator


Curvature Tool in Adobe Illustrator


App Integration in Adobe Illustrator


Creative Cloud Libraries in Adobe Illustrator App


Shaper Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Smart Guides in Adobe Illustrator


Text Enhancements in Adobe Illustrator


SVG Export in Adobe Illustrator


Lesson Info

Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator

Next thing we're gonna do, is we're gonna talk a little bit about working with masks. Masks are awesome, they're phenomenal. They're something that I use a lot, and I use a lot in my art work. A mask can be as simple as just hiding part of something, or it can be as complex as going in and fading something away using a transparency mask or an alpha mask, it's called. Now what I'd like to do is, why don't you do this for me, go ahead and take that, if you have text down there at the bottom, go ahead and get rid of that, go ahead and click on it, select it, and just delete it. What we're gonna do, is we're gonna place ourselves a picture in here, and we're gonna do what's called a mask on the picture, because it's too big. So, make sure nothing else is selected, come up to File, let's go ahead and Place, so go to Place, and in the segment two folder you're gonna see a background.jpg, we're gonna place that one. Make sure that it's linked. We talked about this in the beginner class, just ...

because we said, if it's linked we can edit that in Photoshop maybe and have it updating Illustrator, which could be a good thing. Go ahead and place it. Now, what we're gonna do right now, is we're gonna actually place this and we're gonna drag to place it, we're gonna draw a box that we want, okay? Otherwise, it might be way too big. Come up to the corner up here, you might see the word intersect or something, the smart guide kicking in, hopefully. And then, click and drag. Now it's not gonna let you change the proportions here, what I want you to do, this might not work very well for ya, it might move. Yeah, exactly, see that might happen, it happens all the time, move around. Make sure it's taller than the Artboard. It's gonna get a little funky, I know. You guys, let go, just let go, you can zoom out and you can resize it. Okay, we can do that, that might help. What I can do, I'm gonna use the Zoom Out, you can do View, Zoom Out, if you wanna do that, Zoom Out. If you come to a corner, make sure, you guys for the picture, you hold down the Shift key, while you resize it, so as your dragging it hold down the Shift key, make it as big as you need, let go of the mouse, let go of the Shift key, okay? Alright, now I'm just gonna kinda move it a little bit, just move it over, just a little bit, towards the center I guess. What I want to do with this picture, is I wanna cut part of it off, okay? Right now it's huge, and I wanna maybe cut the top part or something like that. Come up here, and we can, if we have images out here, we can mask them really easily. If you come to the word Mask right here, this little button up here, for images, it allows you to create a quick mask. Now what it's gonna do, is it's actually gonna create a rectangle, a shape, the size of the picture. Were then gonna go edit that mask, and whatever size you make that rectangle, it's gonna hide parts of the image. That's the whole idea behind a mask. Click on the Mask button. Now, it's not gonna look like anything's different, I know, but what it just did, was it made a rectangle with no stroke and fill, set it right on top and made it a clipping mask, it's called. Now, if you take a look out here, look in the upper left corner up here. You're gonna see we now have these two little buttons, you got Edit Clipping Path and Edit Contents. What do you think Edit Contents would edit? It would edit the picture, so the path itself is the box that they made, that Illustrator made, Clipping Path and the Contents of the picture. Why don't you click on Edit Contents, if we wanna go right now, we can resize the picture and do all kinds of stuff. I don't wanna do that. Click back here on Edit Clipping Path, you can now come to the box itself, just come to a corner for instance, or a side, and just make it smaller or bigger, and it's gonna cut part of the picture off. This is really kinda hard to comprehend what we're doing here, every time I did this, I was like, what am I doing? Am I messing with the picture, am I doing this? This is just a rectangle, and I wanna prove this to you, okay? I'm gonna go over to Layers panel, you don't have to if you don't want to, and I'm gonna show you what it did. I'm actually gonna click on this little button called Locate Object to see where this thing is. If you take a look in here, look in the Layers panel up here if you want, it actually just took the Linked File of the image, it made a rectangle and it's calling it a Clipping Path, and hiding part of the image. This whole thing is basically a group, the rectangle and the picture are grouped together now, and it's called a Clip Group, it's just a group. But, this is what we're doing. A matter of fact, in Layers panel, if you just come on here, you can click on these little circles and do the same exact thing, I can then go edit that one object and start to work. Hopefully that makes sense. Does that work for you guys? Does that make sense? I love these, these masks are awesome. Alright, what I want you to do now, is we're gonna take this picture, I'm just clipping part of it off here, just kinda making it a little bit smaller. I wanna send it back, so let's go ahead and do that. So, with part of the picture hidden, come to Object, Arrange, Send to Back, alright? Now, what I just did, was I think I just set the clipping mask itself, I made a mistake, so let's fix that. Why don't you click Away from the Object, just deselect. This happens a lot in Illustrator. Click back on the picture, that's gonna select the entire thing. Then let's arrange, come to Object, Arrange, Send to Back, there we go, that work? Yeah, if you ever find yourself with something that's just not working, try that. Just deselect it, select it again, try it again. Alright, let me put the latest panel back, last thing we're gonna do here, I wanna show you how to make an opacity mask. These are awesome. Why don't you go ahead and click on this circle here. Now, you guys, this picture is a little bit too much for me, I can't see what I'm working on here. Let's do this, let's hide the picture just for a second. Why don't you click on the picture to select it, come up to Object, Hide, Selection, just temporarily. If we ever wanna get it back, we're just gonna go to Object, Show All, and it'll just show it again, okay? Go ahead and click on that fuzzy circle in the center there, and what I'd like to do, is we're gonna put a little mask on this thing, we're gonna kinda cover it up. We need to get rid of this stuff too, because I want it to be easier for your to work on. Why don't you click on this little circle and click on this shape here, by Shift clicking, and we're gonna hide those too. Go to Object, Hide, Selection and then click on the circle again. What we're gonna do is we're gonna take this circle and we're gonna fade it away. We can do this using a mask. The way we do this, we're gonna kinda have to do a little bit of work here. We're gonna create a shape that's at least the size of this circle right here, we're just gonna create a rectangle or a square, whatever, and what we're gonna do is, we're gonna put a gradient color in there. It's gonna use the gradient to say, we're gonna fade part of it away. We're gonna start really simple first. Come over here to your Tools panel, click and hold down, and go to the rectangle tool, to select the rectangle tool, go out there and draw a rectangle that just kinda covers up the actual shape that we've got. Now, we need to at this point, have this shape above the other one, okay we already do, we got it, and we need to select both shapes. How can we do that? Easiest way, just drag across 'em. I can't even see it, but I can select it. So starting somewhere over here, just drag across and you can select the two of them, I'm hoping. You know, you guys, we actually selected the text too, so we need to deselect that, but tell ya what we're gonna do, if we drag across to select, it's gonna select the text with the circle on it and everything, we don't want that. We're gonna use outline mode to try to do this. What I wanna do is, we're gonna have to click on the actual stroke or the path of the object. Click on the edge of the rectangle, to select it, and does everybody see the smaller circle right there, not the garden center? Shift click on that one to select it. You guys, we all go through this, we're trying to select stuff, there's never a perfect way to do it, but sometimes you gotta kinda fudge it. Come back to View, GPU Preview if you have it, or CPU. Now, what we're gonna do is this, we're gonna make ourselves a mask. You got the artwork to be masked, you've got the rectangle or shape above it, come over to the right and you're gonna find what's called the Transparency panel over here. You're gonna see a button in there called Make Mask, what that does, it takes the top shape and makes it a mask for the bottom shape, so go ahead and click Make Mask. Cool. Now, it's gonna look weird, it's not gonna look the way you'd expect. I'm lookin' at that going what did it just do? Look in the Transparency panel, we actually have the original artwork on the left, the thumbnail, and we have the original thumbnail right there, the artwork of the shape. The shape is the mask. Look at the color of the shape right there, mine's kinda of a browny color. What it's actually saying is, if we put a color in there, it's gonna try and hide part of this. What we're gonna do is, we're gonna take this rectangle this rectangle that we have here and we're gonna put a gradient fill in it. We're gonna have black and white. One's gonna show, one's gonna hide. What I would like you to do, is this, this is a little weird, a little tricky, but come over here and click on the thumbnail for that rectangle shape, and look at your artwork, look out there on the Artboard. Is it selecting that rectangle we just drew? It should be. Now, look up here in the tab, right up here. It's gonna say Opacity Mask Opacity Mask, we are now editing the mask itself. Here's what I want you to do, come to the fill and I want you to put a fill of black in there, for instance. Put a fill of black, and then look out there at your artwork. Is it hidden? Black hides, white shows. This is a pretty typical thing for masking, Photoshop, Illustrator, et cetera. Go ahead and fill the mask with white now, just do a fill of white. It's showing, right? Think about this, if we take that rectangle right there, that we're working on and we fill it with a gradient, that goes from black to white, or white to black, it's gonna show and hide part of it. It's gonna go out and kinda feather it out. It's a little weird, I know. Does everybody see the white black gradient in there? In the fill, go ahead and fill it with a white black gradient, and you'll see exactly what it's gonna do. I'm gonna press the Escape key to hide that panel, we don't need the swatches open anymore. This kinda hit home, because if you look over here at the thumbnail for the mask, the white part is showing, the black is hidden, but the grays are kinda fading in, 'cause it's gray right? Different grays. Now what we can do to finish this up, and be done, kinda show everything and kinda get outta here, we can use the Gradient tool to change the direction of this. Come over to the Gradient tool over here, and select the Gradient tool. You're gonna see this bar out here, which represents the colors in the gradient and the direction of it. What I want you to do is this, start up at the top, I'm gonna hold, now if you wanna watch me first, you can do this after, I'm gonna hold down the Shift key so I can make a perfectly straight gradient. I'm just gonna drag straight down here, let go of my mouse, let go of the key, and you'll see what it does. It's gonna fade it out, basically. If I wanna flip it, I can just start from down here, drag up and it'll just basically flip the whole thing. Give that a try. Started at the top, Shift drag down to the bottom, let go of the mouse, let go of the key, and you've got yourself a fade. Once you get the steps down, it's a little tricky 'cause this selecting thing is a little weird and all that kinda thing. The really hard part I think about working with these, is just kinda the beginning, and just knowing that when you put a rectangle out there, if it's not filled with anything, it's gonna look weird, it's not gonna do what you expect. Now that I know how these work, what you can do, when we drew that rectangle out there, and I had that brown weird color in there, you can put the gradient in there right away, and have it do it automatically, start with gradient. In here, I just wanted to show you how it worked, so that's why we added the gradient after the fact. That's pretty much it, now what I wanna do is I wanna go out and show the rest of the artwork and start to work, but the thing that trips everybody up, when they work with this thing, we are right now working on the mask, you can't select anything else, you can't really do anything else. What you need to do, is when you're done, you gotta click back on the actual artwork thumbnail, so click back on that. That kinda says, let's get out of this mode, this thing we're working on, we can now start to work and just keep going. Come back to Object, and Show All, so we're gonna show the things that we hid, now we can have them out there, and we've got ourselves our artwork. Now I'm gonna take this image and make it a little transparent, but that's pretty much it. That's a lot of the different things that we can work with, or work on when working with Illustrator. I'm gonna show you the final I had earlier, it took me a little time to work on this, but I just did it up. We can work with different types of effects, working with the appearance panel to be able to do all this, to make it easy on ourselves, go in and just do everything we need to do. The whole masking thing is super important, just because we're gonna do it a lot, we really are.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Project Files Part 1
Project Files Part 2

Ratings and Reviews


I am a pretty computer literate person but an Ai beginner i.e. I am completely new to the Creative Cloud/Adobe Illustrator. (This is also the first time I've used CreativeLive.) I think this course it is fantastic. The pace is good as is the content which progressed logically and covers all the basics you'd hope it would. The course is 2 full days' worth of material but it is broken down into segments so you can revisit or skip through as you need to. The presenter is really personable and easy to watch (even for me, a Londoner!). I would also say I think it is pretty good value for money -- I am currently enrolled on a part time course, basically doing the same sort of stuff, and I have to say this is better and a bit cheaper! I definitely recommend it to you!


A brilliantly designed course. it's almost magic. It's everything you hope for in a follow-along software class. Brian Wood has engineered it so that you start on a project that just needs basics, and then you move on to more & more complicated projects, and almost without realizing it you've learned Illustrator. This doesn't just happen -- Wood has clearly put a LOT of effort into creating this course. Here's one trivial example: he doesn't overload you with a lot of keyboard shortcuts right at the beginning -- you start with the actions themselves, using the (admittedly tedious but easy) pulldown menus, and then after you're comfortable with what you're doing, he'll throw in the shortcut. It may seem obvious, but so many instructors feel they have to give you an extensive foundation of definitions, shortcuts, interfaces, etc., before you ever do anything. Good stuff to know, but you'll never remember it. Wood has you up and working almost immediately. And he's a joy to listen to, at a perfect pace. Highly recommended.

Philippe LIENARD

Top course. Very well explained, clear, good examples, pleasant teacher. I like it and recommend it. One suggestion, it would be nice to have a detailed table of content of the course in the material. For instance, it took me quite a while to find back the part of the course where how to make a gear was explained.

Student Work