How to make a clipping mask in Illustrator in 4 Easy Steps

In this article, I will show you How to make a clipping mask in Illustrator using both the long and easy way. If you do not know what a clipping mask is, just skip to the bottom of this article where we explain in detail.

A clipping mask is one of the most important functions you can apply in your daily design workflow. The best thing is that making a clipping mask in Illustrator is relatively easy.

If you are a beginner you have probably been doing it by navigating to the menu which might be a little slow and time-consuming.

What is a Clipping Mask?

A clipping mask in Illustrator is a way to reveal only a portion of an object or image that lies within the boundaries of another object or shape. It acts as a window through which you can view specific parts of the artwork while masking the areas outside of the defined shape.

How to Make a Clipping Mask in Illustrator

Step 1Create the Artwork – Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new document or use an existing one. Ensure that you have the elements you want to include in the clipping mask placed on the artboard.

Create the Clipping Mask

Step 2 Arrange the Layers – Arrange the layers in the Layers panel so that the object you want to use as the mask is on top of the elements you want to reveal within the mask.

Step 3 – Select the Objects -Select both the mask object (top object) and the elements you want to reveal within the mask (bottom objects).

Step 4 – Create the Clipping Mask – With both objects selected, go to the “Object” menu, hover over “Clipping Mask,” and choose “Make” from the dropdown menu. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + 7” (Windows) or “Cmd + 7” (Mac) to create the clipping mask.

make a clipping mask

How to Edit a Clipping Mask

If you need to edit the content within the clipping mask or make changes to the mask itself, follow these steps:

Step 1 – Release the Clipping Mask- To edit the content within the clipping mask, select the mask object, right-click, and choose “Release Clipping Mask.” This will ungroup the mask and the content, allowing you to edit them separately.

Step 2 – Make Edits – Edit the mask or the content as needed. To reapply the clipping mask, select both the mask and the content, and follow the steps mentioned earlier to create the clipping mask again.

How to Use Clipping Masks in your design

The image at the back will be clipped to the shape of the front image. You can also make a clipping mask in illustrator Using Top Menu. Once you place the image and draw the shape, select both of them then go to Object>Clipping Mask>Make.

  1. Crop images in Illustrator
  2. Remove backgrounds from simple images
  3. Crop images to text designs

How to Crop Images in Illustrator Using Clipping Masks

You can use clipping masks to crop images in Illustrator to different sizes and shapes. In this example, we will crop an image to a circle shape.

Once you open Illustrator, 

  1. Go to File>New and set the page size. 
  2. Go to File>Place and choose the image – Place the image you want to crop on the artboard.
  3. Choose the ellipse tool or any shape you want to use and draw it on the image.
  4. Select both and click Control+7 on PC or Command+7 on Mac.

How to Remove Background in Illustrator Using Clipping Masks

When you place your image on the artboard, you can use your pen tool to draw a shape that cuts out an image to crop out its background. The video below shows how to do it.

Crop images to text designs

You can use clipping masks to create cool text designs that cut out images into legible text. To do this 

  1. Place the image as we did in earlier steps. 
  2. Instead of the shape, go to the type tool and create a text object. 
  3. Copy the text so that we will use it to create an outline after we clip
  4. Select both the text and image then click Control+7 or Command+7
  5. Click Control + F or Command + F on Mac to paste the text we copied. Set to outline instead of fill. Use a thick outline to make it look good.

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Clipping masks are a powerful and versatile feature in Adobe Illustrator, allowing you to create visually appealing designs by revealing specific portions of your artwork.

By following the steps mentioned in this guide, you can easily create and edit clipping masks to control the visibility of elements within your designs. Get creative with clipping masks to add depth and visual interest to your illustrations, graphics, and designs in Illustrator.


  1. How to make a clipping mask in Illustrator using Shortcut Keys

    Open Illustrator Software
    Go to File>Place and then choose the image you want to clip
    Draw the shape you want the image clipped
    Select both the bottom image and shape
    Click Control+7 on PC or Command+7 on MAC

  2. Can I apply multiple clipping masks to the same object?

    Yes, you can create multiple clipping masks on the same object or group of objects. This allows you to create complex compositions and control what parts of the artwork are visible.

  3. Can I use a text as a clipping mask?

    Absolutely! Text can be used as a mask to reveal the content within it. Convert the text into outlines (select the text, go to “Type” > “Create Outlines”), and then follow the steps to create a clipping mask.

  4. Can I release the clipping mask permanently?

    Yes, releasing the clipping mask permanently ungroups the mask and the content, but it does not delete any elements. To delete the mask completely, select it and press the “Delete” key on your keyboard.

denis maina kamau

Written by: Denis Maina

I am an experienced and skilled graphic designer with a strong focus on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. He specializes in creating a wide range of design materials, such as digital art, business cards, stationery, logos, flyers, posters, banner ads, brochures, PSD templates, and other graphics.

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