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I'm new here, so I am really sorry if this question has been already asked, but I can't seem to find an exact answer to my situation...

I'm relatively new to Illustrator, and have never really played around with clipping masks at all. But here's my situation:

screenshot of the birch trunk

I'm making a birch tree, and I am trying to shade the left side of the tree. I made a block of translucent (33% opacity) grey and put it over the places i wanted to be shaded, which is working pretty well. The translucent block is a separate layer, as is the entire birch trunk.

So here's the problem: I want to make it so that the block of translucent gray only covers the tree, and you dont get all that unwanted gray space in between the branches and the trunk, so it should end up looking like only the left side of the trunk and branches are darker gray, but not the background.

Here's the same screenshot with the actual greenery, if that helps at all:

screenshot with the finished tree

Thanks so much in advance for any answers! Please try to explain in a simplish-manner if that is possible as I am pretty bad at knowing all these Adobe terms, lol. Thankss!

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Use a Clipping Mask in the shape of the tree

enter image description here

Clipping Masks are very useful to crop elements to a border/object. They are very effective when you want a shading (in your case) or texture to be limited to a certain area. It's very easy to take your original shape, copy it, paste in place and then use that as your clipping mask.

Shortcuts are either Ctrl+Alt+G or CMD+Option+G

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