How to insert an image into a shape in Illustrator? (A Clipping mask tutorial)

To insert an image or artwork into a shape (in Illustrator) requires a tool/technique called 'clipping'. Clipping doesn't really 'clip' off an image, instead it masks other parts of the image/artwork so that the only parts visible are the ones inside your clipping mask.

Another great thing about clipping masks is that your image isn't damaged in any way so you can still edit which part of the image you want to show through the clipping mask.

For this tutorial, we are going to use the letter 'O' in the word 'Adopt Me' and clip it to an image of a puppy.

1. Pick a font to your liking and use the type tool ( T ) to type in 'Adopt Me'.
I'm using 'DayPosterBlackNF' from It's free for commercial use.

2. Change the text 'Adopt Me' into a group of compound paths.
Select your text. Go to Object>Expand. The expand panel will pop up. Click OK for now.

The text 'Adopt Me' has now changed from 'text' property into a group of 'compound paths'. Right-click and ungroup them. Now just select the letter 'O' and right-click. Choose the option release compound path. Now your work should look like this. The 'hole' in the middle of the 'O' has become a compound path on its own.

Now, just select the rectangle and delete it.

3. Let's start clipping.
Prepare your image. I googled 'puppy' and got this picture. Awww... don't you just wanna adopt it?

Save the image into your desktop and drag it into your illustrator and into your workspace. Should the image be above the letter 'O' in your work, open your layer panel Windows>Layers or press F7.

Your layers should consist of the image of the puppy and the compound paths of the word 'Adopt Me'. Now you need to click on the image layer and drag it under the letter 'O's layer. Your work should look like this now.

Select both the image and the letter 'O'. Right-click and select Make Clipping Mask. And you did it!

But wait! I think the puppy needs a bit of an adjustment. Select the image of the puppy and right-click. Select Isolate Selected Clipping Mask. You'll notice that the areas outside the puppy are lightened.

You can now click on the puppy and move it around. Once you're satisfied with the position, just right-click on anywhere and select Exit Isolation Mode.

Now that you know how to clip-mask an image, have a go with other types of fonts and images.

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