This path has a long history in larger project. I have cut it out and put here into its own document. Somewhere in the past, when I have been working on this path, I must have put a mask over it, and it has never forgotten that mask. If you look at the properties and appearance, there is no reason for it to look like this. enter image description here

Update: I discovered how to fix it. I do "expand appearance". This gives me a group, and then I ungroup and I get three layers. I delete the problem layer and the path becomes normal. However, I don't understand what I just did.

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    Guessing... Opacity mask. The dotted underline in the layers panel means there's a mask.. if there's no "clip group" in the Layers Panel, it must be an opacity mask, which is only seen on the Transparency Panel.
    – Scott
    Oct 2, 2022 at 18:43
  • @Scott You were right about the transparency panel. Thanks. Do you want to answer the question? I had thought that if I was looking at the properties panel and the appearance panel, then I would know everything about the path. But I guess you need to also look at the transparency panel. I wonder how many other panels might conceal information about a path?
    – Chris
    Oct 2, 2022 at 21:21
  • The Properties Panel is relatively new.. it's Adobe's way of reducing screen clutter and allowing you to not have every panel open. To that end, Adobe doesn't show everything in the Properties to reduce space necessary. What panels you want visible is your call. I keep them all open on a second monitor - so I see them all while working. Once you're familiar enough with little tells, you'll know more what to look for.. like that dashed underline and what it means. I honestly don't know what the "question" here was.. other than perhaps "how is this made"
    – Scott
    Oct 2, 2022 at 21:51
  • I'd also point out that an Opacity Mask is not "path information". It's a mask which is an object unto itself and may include paths, but can also not include paths. Example: A raster image with a raster opacity mask will have zero paths. Or a gradient mesh with a raster or mesh opacity mask will have zero paths. -- Basically, it's worth having the transparency panel visible. I can't think of anything which else which may not be obvious (like the Character panel if working on text).
    – Scott
    Oct 2, 2022 at 22:15
  • You could keep the Document Info panel open and check everything in its panel menu.. that'll show, in text, what a selection contains.
    – Scott
    Oct 2, 2022 at 22:17

1 Answer 1


Based upon the Layers Panel in the screenshot, I'd guess there is an Opacity mask applied to the object.

A dotted underline on an object in the Layers Panel means theres a mask applied to that object. Because there is no <Clip Group> in the Layers panel a Clipping Mask can be ruled out. The only other type of mask in Illustrator is an Opacity mask.

The only place Opacity masks are visible is on the Transparency Panel (Window > Transparency.)

It's difficult to state what exactly the Expand Appearance operation is doing without actually seeing it in action on the object. Expanding masks is relatively new in Illustrator. Legacy versions didn't actually expand opacity mask appearances (one had to flatten transparency). If the Opacity mask is constructed of all vector objects I'd guess that Expand Appearance is removing the mask and creating layers containing white-filled shapes which cover parts of the original object (rather than hiding parts of the object). I'd wager that an opacity mask constructed of a raster or mesh object would expand quite differently - if it expanded at all.

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