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Transparency and Opacity

Any discussion of Illustrator's transparency and masking capabilities must start with a few words about terminology. When the term transparency is used, it generally refers to an object or path's opacity. When an object is transparent, you can see through it. When it is opaque, you cannot. When an object has an opacity of 25%, you could think of it as 75% transparent. (This is, however, not quite accurate. The object would be better referred to as translucent.) Reserve the term transparent for that state of 0% opacity—completely invisible.

There are also two different types of transparency or opacity. The hard-edged border between opaque and transparent areas, like that formed by path-based masks and clipping paths, uses pixels that are either transparent or opaque, with no variations. Transparency that fades, such as that used for drop shadows, can be considered variable transparency. This can be created with a gradient mask, Illustrator's effects, and the impact of a blending mode on a gradient or gradient mesh object.


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