Learning Paths

The great disappearing shape mystery

In this blog we are going to cover the case of the disappearing shape mystery in Adobe Illustrator, which often catches many people out or causes them to do extra work, which isn’t necessary. We will make the shape reappear – no magic or wands needed. First lets take a look at the artwork, although he might be a cute dinosaur his spots are protruding off his body, see below. Lets stop those spots protruding by masking them using a clipping mask.

  1. Order is important. The shape that is going to do the masking has to be the top item; this is the shape of our dinosaur’s body. Selecting it with the Selection Tool and pressing Cmd + Shift + ] (mac) or Shift+Ctrl+] (windows) will bring it to the front making it the top item.
  2. Next the spots have to be selected too, which are now hidden underneath the dinosaur’s body, but can easily be seen and selected by going to View > Outlines, see below. Great, so I now have the dinosaur’s body and the spots selected.
  3. Going back to View > Preview will turn the view back to normal, so we can see all the colours again.
  4. Choosing Object > Clipping Mask > Make, masks/clips the spots to the dinosaur’s body and fixes that protruding issue, but we have lost the dinosaurs body colour – has the shape disappeared? No, it’s just lost it’s colour attributes which is normal when creating a clipping mask so no need to panic. It wasn’t really a mystery was it?
  5. Next, we need to do a bit of digging to find our dinosaur’s body, which is now a Clipping Path, buried within the Layers panel. Clicking on the triangular shapes (indicated with blue circles) within the Layers panel has allowed me to access the sub-layer that contains the Clipping Path, I then clicked on the circular target symbol (indicated with a red circle) to target/select that sub-layer.
  6. Next I choose a colour for my dinosaur using the Swatches panel and our disappeared shape is back. The dinosaur has a body again – long live the dinosaur!
  7. Just the matter of the missing eyes and mouth to sort out. I selected the dinosaurs body and sent it to the back using the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Shift + [ (mac) or Shift+Ctrl+[.  See below for final image 🙂

Any comments, suggests, or perhaps you would have preferred a triceratops. Then please add them below.