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Chapter 18. Transparency > Opacity Masks

Opacity Masks

If you've used a layer mask in Photoshop, you've created the same effect as an opacity mask in Illustrator. The concept behind an opacity mask is simple. You place one object or group of objects that is the mask over artwork. Wherever there is white in the mask, you can see the artwork. Wherever there is black in the mask, you can't. Anything in between has an opacity applied and can be partially seen. So 50 percent gray in the opacity mask allows you to see the artwork below at –50 percent opacity.

Opacity masks allow you to create more sophisticated effects than you could get by simply applying opacity settings or feathering objects. For example, Figure 18.12 shows an opacity mask created from a radial gradient. The funky shadings in the artwork would be almost impossible to achieve using other techniques in Illustrator. The figure shows the original image and the gradient that was used as the opacity mask. Notice how the portions of the clock are faded out. Those areas correspond to the darker areas in the gradient. Where the artwork is more pronounced, the gradient is lighter.


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