I'm trying to use a clipping mask to fill a design I've been working on. So far, when I clip them I get the message that the top object is very complex. When I press yes to go ahead, the outline, and detail of the image are clipped instead of keeping the lines (details) and filling in between the lines.

The design comes from an image trace, with some added detail, ultimately made into a compound path. (if any of that info is needed)

What I want it to look like, with the mask clipping the outline of the flower. What I want it to look like, with the background only in the flower What is currently happening post clipping mask. After clipping mask I'm learning illustrator, and after hours of scouring the internet/trying different options, I figured I'd reach out to some experts!

2 Answers 2


Here's one way to do it:

  1. This is a vector flower illustration (Expanded from an image trace) over a raster image of a watercolour texture.

  2. Copy Ctrl+C the flower graphic and then do Paste in Place Shift+Ctrl+V, and do Object > Compound Path > Release, or Alt+Shift+Ctrl+8. Then open the Pathfinder panel and hit the Unite button. This will remove all the paths inside leaving a filled outline shape.

  3. Shift+click on the background, and now both background and shape will be selected, and do Object > Clipping Mask > Make, or Ctrl+7. Then Object > Arrange > Send to back, or Shift+Ctrl+[. This will move the clipped background under the original graphic. Select all Ctrl+A and Group Ctrl+G

  4. This is the result

Note: The shortcuts above are for Windows, for Mac use Command instead of Ctrl, and use Option instead of Alt

enter image description here

  • Thank you so much Billy! I'm able to get through 1 and 2, then everything is blank when I go to create the clipping mask.
    – Maddie
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 15:34
  • @Maddie Make sure you have both the background and the shape selected before applying the clipping mask. Holding down Shift as you click will allow you to make a multiple selection.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 16:50
  • Wow, it finally worked! Thank you SO much for your help.
    – Maddie
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:32

The clipping maskis working as expected. This is exactly what clipping masks do. Make the filled color of your object the color of your objects in clipped masks.* In other words what is black becomes what was your image, which is what you see.

If you want something else you need to alter your image. So copy the image and delete the areas in the center so you have a compoetely black flower then try again.

* I understand that as a human you like to think that a line is a stroke, but this is not true. A computer is pedantic, it is a fill is its bounded by paths not a stroke jusr because it looks like one. Unfortunately this is not WYSIWYG you have to know what is what in your head.

  • Well, even though it's not what I imagined, it's good to know I did do the clipping mask correct!
    – Maddie
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 15:36

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