Thursday, February 17, 2011

Master Masking

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An ongoing design trend is the use of watercolors, gradients, and rainbows in art. Inspired by this look, I thought I'd put together an ABC poster for the kids' room.

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1) Interesting font.
I downloaded the font Kilogram from here.

2) Colorful Photograph
This carousel image is from iStockPhoto. It was a free, high-res download that I got about a year ago.

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1) In Adobe Illustrator, create your document with your final print size in mind. I plan on printing this at Costco, and the largest poster size available is 20 x 30in.
2) Typeset the alphabet. This can be aligned left as in the ABC poster example above or centered. I went with centered alignment.
3) When you're happy with how the type is laid out, outline the font by selecting it and choosing from the menu Type > Create Outlines.

4) Keeping all the type selected, go to Object > Compound Path > Make. This outline is now going to be our mask. I like to color my mask black so I can see what I'm working with. It should look like this:

5) Next, place the photograph in your file (File > Place). Optional: Before placing in Illustrator, you may want to blur the photo in Photoshop by applying the Lens Blur filter to obscure the image and give it a painterly, dreamy effect.
6) Move the photograph behind the mask. Select the mask and choose from the menu Object > Arrange > Bring to Front. Deselect.

7) Select both mask and photo. Go to the menu and choose Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Now the photo shows only through the alphabet mask. (I rotated and nudged the photo around until I was satisfied with how the colors peeked through the mask.)

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This method is a great way to design greeting cards, baby shower invites, or creating fun prints for your home. Below I used the same photograph, but with different masks:

Happy masking!

(Additional resource info - 'Love Fool' set in the typeface MaSexy and vector bike image downloaded from here. Both free.)


  1. I LOVE this! I'm getting ready to decorate the nursery and I'm definitely going to use this! Thanks!

  2. Love this Jenn! A tip and recipe in one :) Great post!

  3. Great idea/recipe, Jenn! You're so creative!

  4. I'm addicted to alphabet posters. This looks really great.

  5. So cool! How did I NOT hear about this website before now? You ladies are awesome for sharing all this. My Relief Society handouts are going to ROCK this month!

  6. Okay, your blog is way too chock full of tutorials and design delicious recipes that I'm adding it to my reader. I've always wanted to know how to do this! Gorgeous!


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