I created a design where there is a clipping mask over a photo. When I save the AI file as a pdf the full photo shows without the clipping mask. I have tried to save it a variety of different ways including with the Illustrator editing capabilities checked.

I went back and expanded the clipping mask thinking maybe that would help but the full photo still showed up in the PDF.

I can't tell if its an issue with the PDF or with the native AI file (how I made the clipping mask et.)

Any ideas?

Thank you!

  • Hi Megan, welcome to GD.SE! There is not much we can say without seeing the file and knowing how you exported. I have never come across a situation when exporting an AI (with a clipping mask) to a PDF did not keep the clipping mask. Are you viewing the PDF in a PDF viewer like Adobe Reader? What happens if you exported for screens as a JPG?
    – AndrewH
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 23:55
  • Thank you for the welcome! I am viewing the PDF in Adobe reader, I haven't tried exporting it as a JPEG. I will try that but the final product needs to be a PDF... I tried something else in a different AI file, its a fade on a photo thats been applied through a gradient layered over the photo to create a mask. That also doesn't show up In the PDF reader...
    – Megan
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 18:33
  • Here's a another instance where the problem is similar although not the exact same issue...I layered a gradient over a photo and masked it to create a fade. When I save the file as a PDF and place the file in an email the image doesn't show the fade. I've saved it every way I can think of as a high quality print, press quality, et. I've played around with the compatibility, checked and unchecked the options available. No change, the fade still, well, fades. Any ideas?
    – Megan
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


I also had a similar problem. I saved a AI wich had a layring mask of a gradient over a photo, as a PDF to print. When I open the PDF with Acrobat Reader it opens ok, with the layring mask. But when I open the PDF with Chrome or Firefox, it doesn't shows the gradient. I couldn't find the problem within the PDF settings. The way I found to surpass this was to flatten the image with the clipping mask (not the best solution, but now the gradient appears the way it should no matter where I open the PDF file).

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