How to Make a Clipping Mask in Adobe Illustrator

As a non-destructive method of editing, creating and applying clipping masks in Illustrator is an incredibly helpful tool to mask objects or shapes over one another, to show a specific part within the shape. You can also use the clipping mask tool to cut shapes or make an image fit in a shape.

My name is Aly. I have over five years of experience in Adobe Illustrator, and in this article, I will be showing you how you can make clipping masks in Illustrator. 

Key Takeaways

  • Clipping masks are a group of layers to which the mask is applied. 
  • A Clipping mask can only be a vector image or a vector path object, but any artwork can be masked.  
  • Clipping masks are non-destructive, which means they can always be edited at any point. 

How to Make a Clipping Mask in Adobe Illustrator

I’ll show you an example of how to use the clipping mask in Adobe Illustrator to add an image background to text. Before you start, remember that clipping masks can only be vector objects.

Step 1: Select the Type Tool after creating a new document. If you don’t want to use text, simply skip this step and use any shape tools if you prefer that instead as either of these options will work.

Step 2: Add text (or shape if you want to make a clipping mask on shapes). Make sure to create a text outline because clipping mask doesn’t work on live text in Adobe Illustrator. 

Right-click on the text and choose Create Outlines. This will turn your live text into a vector path. 

Now you can use it as a shape to create a clipping mask. 

Step 3: Add the image you want to use as the text background in Adobe Illustrator. To do this go to File > Place

Make sure the image is larger than the shape you’ll be making the clipping mask with, otherwise there will be empty white space on your text later. 

Step 4: The clipping mask is the top layer, so we will need to put the image behind the text or shape. To do this, click on your image, go up to Object > Arrange > Send to Back and this will arrange the image behind our text or shape. 

It should be something like this. 

Step 5: Select both the image and text. Go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + 7 (PC) or Command + 7 (Mac). Your text or shape should now have the image you’ve selected inside of it, like in my example image below. 

Tip: If you would like to edit your clipping mask since they are non-destructive, you can either choose the clipping mask, right-click, and select Isolate Selected Clipping Mask, or you can double-click the clipping mask.

Double-click outside of the clipping mask and its masked objects or press Esc to leave isolation mode.

Final Thoughts

Making clipping masks in Adobe Illustrator is an ultimately simple process to learn, and once you know it, it’s very easy to create some very interesting and eye-catching designs. I hope that this article helped teach you the basics of creating a clipping mask!

Any questions about making a clipping mask in Adobe Illustrator? Leave a comment and let me know.

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