First question here.
Decent knowledge of Photoshop, perhaps even better of After Effects (quite competent software actually even for graphic design, at least web-targeted).

At the moment, however, I'm working in Illustrator, since I figure it's best suited for my project, which is print-targeted, and Illustrator is definitely not my strongest point.

I've got a few text elements upon top of a hexagon patterned background, and I'm wondering if there is any way to create a gradient opacity mask (or any other kind of mask, if need be) based on the characters I have typed, and have the background pattern fade away just a few millimeters from the characters.

Hope this description is clear enough.

Any sort of help would be greatly appreciated.


I'm still experimenting on this.

Now I have my text elements in a separate layer, which is currently hidden.
I have made copies of these texts and I found out that if I add stroke to them, let's say 2.5cm, I get all sorts of funny spikes around my glyphs. This may normally be a problem, but for me it works just fine, if I can just get this spikey text elements to serve as an inverted mask for my underlying background - that is I want my background to be visible everywhere else and not within the area of the mask.

Can I?

  • 1
    Welcome. Can you share a screenshot of your current artwork (or a section of it) or an example of something similar to what you are trying to achieve. At first glance, it sounds like this could be achieved with an outer glow.
    – Westside
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:12
  • @Chris. I think you got the picture. Difference being I want the glow to be transparent. That is, in stead of a glow, I want a tiny area around the glyphs were nothing at all will be typed, so I think I need to mask the underlying background somehow... Working on a screenshot...
    – m.a.a.
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:34
  • 1
    Still difficult to understand what you are trying to achieve without anything to look at. Is there any reason why you can't just set the offset path shape to the background colour / white / paper?
    – Westside
    Sep 28, 2016 at 15:57
  • It might help to understand, that for print... white = no ink so paper/stock will show through. You really don't need to mask anything. if you merely want the stock to show through the art, just set a white stroke and you're done. If you want a soft edge, use Outer Glow as Cai suggests in the answer.
    – Scott
    Apr 27, 2017 at 4:21

2 Answers 2


If I understand you correctly, you can use something called a knockout group.

  1. Group your text and the anything you want to mask (or you can simply apply this to the whole layer, as long as you have everything you want to mask in the same group or layer).

  2. From the transparency panel check "Knockout Group" for that group (or layer).

enter image description here

  1. From the appearance panel, set a stroke (I added an outer glow to soften it too) and set the opacity of that stroke to 0%. That transparency will now "knockout" all the way through the group you set to be a "Knockout Group":

enter image description here

I used a stroke, but you can use anything (an offset path effect on another fill for example), the important thing is getting an appearance that you can set the opacity of.

A more subtle example with only an outer glow effect set on a fill:

enter image description here

You can read more about knockout groups (and other masking techniques) here:


You might have a more complex need for this mask, but its quite the same idea on AE or PS, so this link would probably suite your need.


PS: Just add effects if you still don't have the output you wish.

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