How to Make a Clipping Mask in Illustrator

Cut out images with custom shapes in Illustrator.
Ash Ash (362)

The clipping mask tool in Illustrator allows you to cut out images with custom shapes and paths. If you’ve ever seen text or logos that seem to have a full picture inside, this is one technique you can use to replicate the effect.

It’s not too hard to understand the concept, this guide will go over the basic process of how to set up your project to make a clipping mask and different ways to implement the tool. While this is a basic tutorial, you can use your creative flair to make some truly unique artwork beyond the simple shapes used in this guide.

Adobe IllustratorAdobe Illustrator ×1

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Illustrator Image

First things first, you’ll need an image to apply the clipping mask to. This can be anything from a photo to digital art. Just make sure it’s considered an object in Illustrator with its own layer.

Illustrator Mask Path

In a second layer above the image you want to clip, create a path. This path will be the shape that cuts out everything outside the path, preserving the image in the layer below within its boundaries. In my example, I’ve created a circle using the Ellipse tool.

Illustrator Mask Path Selection

Select both the image you want to cut and mask path, so they’re both highlighted at the same time. Both of these must be selected in order for the clipping mask tool to work.

make a clipping mask in Illustrator

There are a few ways to initiate the clipping mask tool. In my example, I’ve right-clicked the path and chose “Make Clipping Mask”. Here are the other methods that will also work:

  • If you prefer keyboard shortcuts, hold Ctrl (or Command for Mac users) and press 7.
  • Use the drop down menu at the top of the screen by going to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.
  • Click on the "Make/Release Clipping Mask" icon located at the bottom of the layer menu next to the magnifying glass icon.
Clipped Image Illustrator

Congratulations! You’ve made the cut.

Now that you’ve clipped your image, you can continue working or go on to save and export your work.

We're not cutting corners here.
Ash Ash (362)
2 minutes

Images are easy to crop in Illustrator—it even comes with a tool just for the job. Any version of Illustrator will work, but sometimes menus move between different editions.