Below is a link to a very simple AI file that represents the issue I am having.


I am trying to get the dots to be coloured by the gradient behind. Please could someone explain why I can't create a clipping mask with the two objects in the artwork? I have tried all manner of manipulations of the circles in to paths, expanding, grouping, etc

screenshot of objects in file

I don't understand why it's not working. I would really appreciate 1 minute of an experienced Illustrator user's time to answer this conundrum. I am not a novice.

Many thanks.

  • Hi Rhecil Codes, Welcome to GD.SE! Thank you for your question. I would advise that you post a screenshot (image) of your graphic as users may be wary of any download link.
    – AndrewH
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 19:34
  • I'm not at a computer to look at your file and there isn't enough information in your question to be sure so my answer is an educated guess. Some screenshots of your layers and the result of you attempts would help.
    – Cai
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 19:59

3 Answers 3


You need a single path to create a clipping mask. You can't use a group of objects or objects with effects etc (the effects would be disregarded anyway).

Simple fix: Select all of your circles and create a compound path (Object → Compound Path → Make or Ctrl / cmd+8). Compound paths essentially treat a group of paths as one single path, allowing you to use that path for a clipping mask.

  • This and the one previously mentioned are the answer to the question.
    – JWhiteUX
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 3:08

*Based on your file and setup

1) Make all circles black.

2) Select both objects, in the Transparency Window click "Make Mask"

3) Then click on the "Invert Mask" checkbox.

  • This is one of two ways to do this. The other is mentioned by Cai. Object > Compound Path > Make. Select all objects and R-Click+Clipping Mask
    – JWhiteUX
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 3:07

You may not use clipping masks at all. Just select the group of circles, paint it by clicking with Eyedropper Tool on yellow-red rectangle. And at last align the gradient of the circles using Gradient Tool. That is all.

  • You would need to create a compound path from the circles first, otherwise the gradient would be applied to each circle individually.
    – Cai
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:11
  • It doesn't need to make a complex compound path. Just align the Fills of the circles with Gradient Tool dragging it from upper to lower ones.
    – user70267
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:23
  • You are right, I didn't realise you could align the gradient of multiple distinct objects at the same time!
    – Cai
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:45
  • @Diseñador Segundo, you are also correct. I also didn't realise I could align the gradient of multiple distinct objects; I thought the gradient could only be applied to each circle, like Cai said. Thanks so much. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 13:01

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