How to Make Clipping Masks in Adobe Illustrator

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If you're an Illustrator user, then one day you might come to a point where, while creating vectors, you would like to use the raster image too. In Illustrator, creating graphics and art using vector and raster simultaneously really is a fun thing.

The Clipping Mask in Adobe Illustrator is a ‘must-know' tool for any graphic designer.

When it comes to creating stunning background visuals, text with different shapes and textures, making cool frames, and separating any part of your artwork, the clipping mask is a tool that cannot be ignored.

Here, I'll show you some quick and easy methods to use the Clipping Mask in Illustrator for creative results. So, without any further ado, let's get into this!

Clipping Masks in Illustrator

As its name suggests, this tool creates a mask that has been clipped to something, creating/transferring it to the shape of the other object. Does that sound complicated? Let's make it more simple. The clipping mask is a path or shape that acts as a mask when placed on top of an image. The mask attains the form of the shape.

Different Methods to Make a Clipping Mask

There are many different methods of creating a clipping mask. So, let's take a look.

Just know that a clipping mask is like every other mask that is always placed on top of the object it's being applied to. So, the shape or path of the clipping mask is placed on top of the image.

Method 1: Using the Layers Panel

One of the quickest methods for creating a clipping mask is through the Layers Panel. Let's look at how this is done.

Now, say we want to separate this Rubik's Cube from the whole image. First, we will trace the object we want to apply a mask to. For tracing, we will create a path around that object. I have used the pen tool to create a path around the cube, as shown below.

You can also fill the path with color to make the selection more obvious or so that you could not lose the path (as it disappears when fill and strokes are off).

Then you go to the Layers Panel and ensure the path and image are on the same layer. As shown in the following.

After that, you select the path and image. This could be done by clicking on them directly while holding the Shift Key or by clicking and dragging the Left Mouse Button.

After this, you click on the Clipping Mask Icon on the Layers Panel, as shown below.

And there you are. You have successfully made a Clipping Mask on the Rubik's Cube.

Method 2: Shortcut Method

The quickest and easiest way to make a clipping mask in Adobe Illustrator is by using the shortcut Control + 7 (PC) or Command + 7 (Mac).

Note: Before using this shortcut, make sure that:

  • The path/shape and image are on the same layer
  • The path/shape is on top of the image layer
  • The image and path/shape are selected

Method 3: Using a Mouse Click

You can immediately make a clipping mask on an image just by clicking twice. This is another quick method of making a clipping mask. Let's use the following image with the path or shape marked for the object selection.

After creating a path, we ensure the path and object/image are on the same layer. We ensure that the path is on top of the image and that both the path and image are selected.

Then we right-click using our mouse. The following options will appear.

Now, Simply click on Make Clipping Mask and you're done with creating the clipping mask on the image.

Method 4: Using the Menu Bar

If you're not comfortable with using the layer panel or shortcut, then you can simply use the overhead Menu Bar to create the Clipping Mask. To understand this, let's take the following example of an image with the selection made with Pen Tool.

After creating the path, before we move further to the next step, we make sure that the path and the image are on the same layer, the path/shape is on top of the image, and the path is selected along with the image lying below it.

After the selection, we go to the Menu Bar and Object>Clipping Mask>Make, as shown in the following picture.

And that's it. You have created the Clipping Mask successfully.

Final Thoughts on Clipping Masks in Illustrator

You have just learned some quick methods to make clipping masks on a photo.

I hope you will take your design skills to next level by using this tool and see what you can create.

These photos were used in this article: