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How to use clipping mask in Adobe Illustrator

clipping mask adobe illustrator

Clipping mask is a basic tool to learn in Adobe Illustrator. In this tutorial I’ve come through some elemental ways of using clipping mask. Having a skill in clipping mask will help you explore your creativity even more and you can work on design projects with full potentiality.

Simply, clipping mask is a shape that masks other artwork and only reveals what lies within the shape. It will be useful for making creative artworks, logos, template, portfolio design and enhance your design on presentation.

Clipping mask is really simple to use. Once you know how to use clipping mask techniques it will be useful for your further illustration.

To learn clipping mask in an easy way I’ve fabricated four different task. Each task have a unique way of using clipping mask. After you go through all four task you can intensify your creativity with the process of using clipping mask.

To Clip an image inside a circle using clipping mask

adobe illustrator logo

Say you need to clip this logo inside a circle using clipping mask. At first what you need to do is draw a circle over the logo using ellipse tool.

To draw a regular circle, press shift + alt key and start drawing from the middle of the logo which you want to clip. As you want, increase or decrease the radius of circle to fit logo inside the circle. Make circle transparent about 50% from the transparency panel.

masking ma logo using clipping mask

Making circle transparent will help in arranging the circle better into it’s place. After you have finished arranging the circle; select both image (i.e. circle and the image you want to clip) using selection tool. To make a clipping mask go to ‘object’ -> ‘clipping mask’ -> ‘make’. Color of circle does not matter because circle is used just for clipping the image inside it.

logo design

At last the image/logo will get clipped inside the circle. It’s like cropping an image. But Adobe Illustrator do not provide shape crop builtin for this software, so clipping mask comes into play.

To Clip a Picture inside a group of Hexagon

To make hexagon, select polygon tool and click the left mouse button. Set the no. of sides to six.

polygon tool

First make one hexagon, then copy another at the bottom using alt key + click and drag. Again select two hexagon and copy at the bottom. Guides will help you create equal spacing for all the hexagon. If your guide is not on go to ‘view’ (at the top bar) -> turn on ‘smart guides’. Now make a hexagon pattern as shown below.

hexagon pattern

To clip a picture inside group of hexagon we have to make a compound path. Basically, compound paths let you use an image to cut a hole in another image. It will also group multiple images together. To make a compound path, first select all the hexagon using selection tool, then go to ‘object’ -> ‘compound path’ -> ‘make’.

clipping image inside hexagon using clipping mask

After creating a compound path import any picture you like. At first, imported picture will be above the group of hexagon. To bring the group of hexagon above; you can use layer panel and arrange picture below the “group of hexagonOR select the group of hexagon and then right mouse click -> ‘arrange’ -> ‘bring to front’. Arrange the group of hexagon above the subject properly. Here, lady is my subject so the group of hexagon is above the lady.

Now select both image (i.e. group of hexagon and the picture) and make a clipping mask..

portfolio design

To clip an Artwork inside a Text using clipping mask

After you have learnt to clip a picture inside a group of hexagon, you can easily clip an artwork inside a text with the same process. But, here you don’t have to make a compound path for a single text.

masking a text using clipping mask

At initial, import any artwork you have created or downloaded from the internet. Write a text above the artwork and choose font as you like. Now select both image (i.e. text and the artwork) and make a clipping mask. The resulting image will look like this.


To Clip any shape inside the Boarder

Sometime you have to clip image/shape with in the boarder of another image. This process will remove/clip all the image that is selected and is outside the boarder.

First trace over the blank document with rectangle or square using rectangle tool and check the edge if it is properly aligned or not.

art work adobe illustrator

Now create any artwork surrounding the rectangle. As an example, here I’ve created a poly-chromatic combination of colors in circles. Select the rectangle in the background (not the circles) and then go to ‘edit’ -> ‘copy’. To paste it in same place, again go to ‘edit’ -> ‘paste in place’.

clipping circles inside boarder of rectangle using clipping mask

After pasting it into the same place select all the image by clicking and dragging with selection tool. Now to create a clipping mask again go to ‘object’ -> ‘clipping mask’ -> ‘make’. All those circles will be clipped inside the boarder of rectangle which you have created at first.


If you don’t want rectangle in the background; first make circles, then overlay it with a rectangle, select all the image and at last make a clipping mask. This way you can get a transparent background.

Work of clipping mask with compound path

When not to make compound path?

When the ‘image you want to clip’ is below the ‘image or text you want to clip inside’ and there is only one image or text you want to clip inside. In the above task; the ‘image you want to clip is circular color’ and the ‘image you want to clip inside is a rectangle’.

When to make compound path?

When the ‘image you want to clip’ is below the ‘image or text you want to clip inside’ and there are multiple image or text you want to clip inside. Make compound path for the multiple image which will also group those images together.

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