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Clipping with Patterns in Adobe Illustrator

Using raster images for fills By Dave Nagel
It's easy enough to create a clipping mask over raster images in Adobe Illustrator. However, when you do so, you might be left with a very inconvenient bounding box that can get in your way horribly while you're trying to work. And nothing you do can get rid of it beyond simply locking the object, which then makes it uneditable.

Below you see an example of a raster image inside a clipping mask. Obviously, if I intend to do much further work in this image, the boundaries of the original image are going to keep getting in the way. In particular, I'm likely to select the hidden portions of the image constantly, causing all kinds of problems and frustrations.

But there is a technique that can get you around this and allow you some freedom when it comes to working with both the clipping mask and the raster image it contains.

Convert it to a pattern swatch
1. To begin, place your raster image into your document. Make sure you place a linked object, rather than an embedded one. Here's my placed image.

2. Now open up your swatches palette.

3. Then physically drag the entire image into the palette. It will appear in there alongside your colors and other patterns.

4. After you've done that, delete the placed image from your canvas.

5. Now create the shape that you would be using for a clipping mask. To keep things simple, I'll just create a star object.

6. Finally, with your shape selected, fill the object with your image by clicking the new pattern in the Swatches palette.

Voila! No bounding box to worry about. However, it's very likely that the image is not positioned properly inside your shape. So here's how you fix that up.

Transforming the shape and the image
In order to place the image inside your shape properly, you need either to move the shape without moving the image, or move the image without moving the shape.

To move around the mask without moving the pattern, open up the Transform palette in Illsutrator. Then click on the flyaway menu in the top right of the palette. From the list of options, choose "Transform Object Only."

Now you can simply click on your object and drag it around, allowing you to position the mask properly over the object.

When you have the object positioned properly, you should go back to the Transform palette and reselect the "Transform Both" option so that the next time you move the object, the fill will move along with it.

If you prefer to transform the pattern, rather than the "clipping mask," you can do that in the Transform palette by choosing the "Transform Pattern Only" option from the flyaway menu. However, with this method, you must use numerical entries to transform the pattern, rather than simply transforming it with the Select tool.

As an alternate to both of these methods, you can also use any of the transformation methods in the Object menu to affect either the pattern or the clipping object (or both). To do this, select the object with the raster fill, and choose one of the option under Object > Transform. These include Move, Scale, Shear, Reflect and Rotate.

When you call one up, simply select the Pattern checkbox or the Object checkbox. You can also turn on the Preview option to make the results more predictable.

That's all there is to it. If you have any further questions, be sure to visit me in DMN's Adobe Illustrator forum by clicking here.

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Related Keywords:adobe illustrator, clipping, hide image bounding box


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