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:
- Place your image.
- In the
Appearance Panel select
Opacity and hit
- Now select the newly created all black Mask in the Dialog.
- Now you can add any object/shape (make sure it is white) to create a knockout in the mask.
- 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.
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
• 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.