This is probably an easy thing to answer but I'm trying to make a simple image mask with a brush stroke type mask

I have a basic shape with a artistic brush stroke:

enter image description here

But when I try Object > Clipping Mask > Make the stroke is ignored and only the shape is use as the mask:

enter image description here

I want the mask to have a brush stroke edge, if that makes sense.

I've tried the the various Pathfinder options but it doesn't seem to make a difference. I'm using Illustrator 5.1

2 Answers 2


Here is another way to do this without having to expand your shapes:

Use Opacity Masks.

Similar to the way Masking works in Photoshop, you can define the visibility of objects by using the colours black or white (and every shade in-between!!). In Illustrator each object – in your case a placed image – can have its own Opacity Mask:

  1. Place your image.
  2. In the Appearance Panel select Opacity and hit Make Mask.

Opacity Dialogue

  1. Now select the newly created all black Mask in the Dialog.
  2. Now you can add any object/shape (make sure it is white) to create a knockout in the mask.
  3. After you have finished creating your mask, you'll have to open the opacity dialogue again to return to the "normal" world where you can edit your document as usual.

opacity mask

This method is rather obscure, but it has does some advantages:

• keep masking shapes live to easily edit them.

• less path points when working with complex shapes like grunge brushes etc.

• using grey values you can partially mask things

There are however also disadvantages:

• The functionality is not very intuitive as it is hidden inside the opacity dialogue at object -level

• while working on the opacity masks you enter into a stranger-thingsesque alternate editing mode with no clear indication on how to get back to the normal mode.


The stroke is dynamic and not a part of the shape itself. One solution could be to do the following:

  • Use Object > Expand Appearance to convert the stroke to paths.
  • Use Pathfinder > Unite to unite the original shape with the stroke.
  • Use Object > Compound Path > Make to convert all the individual smaller paths into one compund path.
  • Select the path and the image and use Object > Clipping Mask > Make to create the clipping mask.

  • 1
    Spot on, thank you.
    – Burns
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 12:42

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