I have a composition in Illustrator where I want to erase some parts of a Raster (non-vector) layer.

Basically there are drops of coloured ink floating towards the PoV, and the background image has flat (vector) circles. And I want some of the colored drops to be hidden behind circles of the background and sometimes be hidden behind the background:

enter image description here

Sometimes I want the yellow ink drops to be hidden by the blue circles, sometimes I want them to be visible in the blue circle and hidden behind the purple background (it's abstract).

I think the easiest would be to "erase" in circle shapes the Pixels layer like I would do in Photoshop. But to make this simple I don't want to bring Photoshop into it.

EDIT: The raster layer is a transparent PNG. The raster layer cannot be recreated in vector (it's a photo of actual liquid drops), which is why it was brought as pixels in Illustrator. The vector shapes are easy to edit (simple circles)

How can I achieve this effect?

1 Answer 1


Illustrator has no tools to directly edit the pixel data of raster images.

You can crop an entire raster image, you can adjust the blending mode of the entire image, you can mask part of the entire image. But you cannot alter the actual pixels of a raster image with Illustrator.

If you do not want to use Photoshop, the only option you have is to edit the vector content in Illustrator to achieve your desired results - such as add anchors to your circles and edit them. Or add clipping masks to your vector circles, if that's even feasible.

Without a direct example of what you are working with it's impossible to provide further direction in my opinion.

  • I'm not sure what "more examples" I can show, I made a small mockup of my projet files, what do you mean? I would eventually consider using Photoshop but I'm afraid it would be hard to line things up afterwards. Mar 2, 2018 at 20:56
  • Well from your mock up, all I can say is.. edit the blue circles. That's your only option. But I have no clue how easily edited they may be or how defined the raster content is... there are real-world variables which can easily go beyond a mock up. If the "yellow circles" are raster in nature with slightly undefined edges, editing the blue vector circles to line up will be a challenge.... if it's easier to recreate the yellow circles as vector content, that may solve your issue entirely. It's impossible to be definitive without seeing actual images in use or at least part of an image.
    – Scott
    Mar 2, 2018 at 20:58
  • Fair point, see my edits Mar 2, 2018 at 21:03
  • Yeah your only option is to edit the vector circles.. or move to Photoshop. I suppose an Opacity mask in Illustrator might be a viable solution with some layer/object duplication. Again.. really hard to be definitive. Just post a cropped section of the image showing a drop and a circle or two.
    – Scott
    Mar 2, 2018 at 21:04

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