Scissor Happy: Familiarize Yourself with Clipping Masks (for new designers)

Download image, paste, crop, and resize. A vicious cycle for designers working in Illustrator. There has to be an easier way!

Hi, my name is Ashleigh Bunch. I am an intern here at Harford Designs. Recently I was given the project to create a month’s worth of social media content for the company, Housekeeping By Susan. Going into this project I wasn’t proficient in working in Illustrator and was still struggling to complete basic tasks. This project challenged me to learn new tools and shortcuts in Illustrator to complete my assignments promptly.

What is a Clipping Mask?

A clipping mask allows you to conform any image to fill in the desired shape without distorting and cropping the image. Clipping masks help save time when trying to include images onto your artboards.

How Does It Work?

Download or save the image you would like to use onto your computer. Once you open up Illustrator, create a new artboard with the desired dimensions. Use the Rectangle Tool to create a box of the desired size on the artboard. Make sure the shape has a colored fill, so it is visible. Then drag your saved image onto the artboard. Depending on how big the file is you may have to resize the image a tad. Then, send the image to the back so it is behind the filled box. Next, you want to select both items together. The clipping mask action can be found in the Object tab, but if you’re a pro you can use the shortcut (CTRL+7). You did it! You just created your first clipping mask!

Now afterward, if the image is a little off for alignment you may need to do a few small adjustments. You can do so by double-clicking the mask, so you are only manipulating the image. While holding down the Shift key, align the image to your preference.

Design example
Design example

I hope this quick post helps you brush up on your skills working with Illustrator as it did for me. Happy designing!

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