Imagining that the blue shape in the attached is a bead and the black path is a thread, how do I create the illusion that the path is threaded through the hole in the bead using a clipping mask? Also, is a clipping mask even the correct way to do this?

path and shape selected

I've got round this by using the knife tool to cut the path and bring a segment forward in the stack but would like to know if it can be done with clipping masks.

Desired result:

what I want to achieve

2 Answers 2


My solution is to use the [Live paint] [K] tool

please follow the steps.

  1. draw your artwork and convert the path to outline path. make sure they are in the same layer.
  2. select the two objects by the black arrow.
  3. from the toolbar select the live paint tool or type [K]
  4. select the same color that will hide the unwanted area from the color swatch.
  5. paint over the areas that you want to hide from the black path. you will notice the areas that could possibly painted will highlight in red outlines.
  6. now use the white arrow + [Alt+Shift] to muti-select the circles now move the circle in a new position and you will notice that the the live paint preserve the order. also you will notice that the transformation handles will change its look. take care not move the circles so far the way you loose the live paint effect.

enter image description here


There’s a few ways to tackle it, but all unfortunately involve having two copies of the thread or two copies of the bead. This is because objects and layers have a stacking order, and you’re after an object that’s simultaneously above and below.

You could potentially use clipping masks, compound paths, pathfinder or shape builder, depending if you want to be able to easily make changes later.

If what you’re after is really similar to the image you’ve posted, I’d construct it like this:

  • 3 objects, with two copies of the thread. Stacking order of thread, bead, thread.
  • The bottom thread object is cut at the bead hole edge, but has a point added that’s been dragged to extend under the top thread. This means the antialiasing will look correct and you won’t ever see white showing through on the edge.

Threading a bead in Illustrator

I had a similar problem for an icon I was designing in Photoshop, and tried to solve it as many ways as possible. In the end, all the solutions has duplicated objects.

iOS app icon

  • thanks. Do 'clipping masks, compound paths, pathfinder or shape builder' make changes harder later?
    – codecowboy
    Jan 11, 2015 at 19:05
  • Clipping masks and compound paths leave all the points in place (can be edited later, but messier document). Shape builder only leaves the resulting points. Pathfinder can do both. :) Jan 15, 2015 at 22:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.