Clipping and masking – the clip tool

Inkscape, Illustrator and CorelDraw tutorial

I had a few questions about clipping and masking objects with the clip tool. It’s a little bit awkward – to say the least. Inkscape makes it a little to hard and even Adobe Illustrator doesn’t make it easy to use either. Ultimately, it’s a matter of know the way the tool handles the clips to work with them effectively.
I use clipping masks a lot as you can create shading and patterns inside objects qucikly and still keep the shapes. Opposed to a path intersection, which destroys the base shapes.
This set of tutorials features the clipping functionality in Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. [A separate clipping tutorial for Affinity Designer was done a while later.] Personally, I prefer the ease of CorelDraw over the other two. Inkscape is lacking some key features to make working with an essential tool like clip masks userfriendly. [Affinity Designer makes it even easier and a pleasure to work with.]
 

Starting simple

Let’s take if from the simple shaded ball to something more complex (e.g. a cartoony plane I just did for another tutorial). In order to do the shading on the body (the darker blue part at the bottom of the plane) or the white stripes, you have to create intersecting shapes to cut the white stripes or the lighter body to match the base shape.

It’s a lot quicker and easier to create the clip mask and ‘throw’ a shape in there – even more so when the shapes get more complex.  E.g. when creating a floral pattern as a wallpaper. It allows you to ‘undo’ the action and release the clip again.
2Dgameartguru inkscape toolbar

Clip tool in Inkscape

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Firstly, start with your base shape. In this case I just created a simple circle.

Make a copy of the shape [CTRL+D].

Secondly, Create the object to go inside the clipmask [e.g. a lighter circle], select both objects…

…and create the clipmask via Object/ Clip/ Set.

It creates a shape looking like this when taking away the base circle to show the result.

Unlike Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator clips in inkscape are rather limited. E.g. adding an outline to your…

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool
2Dgameartguru - using the clip tool

… shape will require an additional [no fill just outline duplicate of your base shape to be placed on top.

In order to create a clip with multiple objects, build all the ‘inside objects’ first, duplicate you base object,
move it up [Page up]

…and select all the objects, unselect the top object and group the rest [CTRL + G] before setting the clip.

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Working with clipping masks is ideal for adding patterns to shapes or creating cartoon style shading. You can’t really layer clips inside clips but with intersections you can achieve the same effect.

Note:
Inkscape is very particular about the layering of the objects. The object on top will be the mask for the object below.

Doing clips inside clips is not possible in inkscape as far as I know [but I might be wrong]. In order to work around that problem try and use the Path/ Intersection tool to create a shape matching inside a base object.  

2Dgameartguru illustrator toolbar

Clip tool in Adobe Illustrator

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Firstly, start with your base shape – in this case I just created a simple circle.

Make a copy of the shape [e.g. via copy and paste].

Secondly, create the object to go inside the clipmask [I just made a lighter circle]…

…and create the clipmask via (Object/ Clipping Maske/ Make or CTRL+7 ) with both objects selected.

It looks something like this in the layer panel.

Continue creating more objects to put into the clipping mask…

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool
2Dgameartguru - using the clip tool

and it will look something like this. By dragging the new Path object down under the Clipping object…

you should end up with them being inside the clip mask.

Note:
Once you select the Clipping mask you can give it a colour and stroke as well.

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Working with clipping masks is ideal to add patterns to shapes or do quick cartoon style shading. You can also layer the effect and have clipping masks inside clipping masks.

Note: 
Once you have created a clipart you can work with the objects inside the clip art just like any other object in Illustrator (e.g. arrange to bring them to the front or send them back inside the stack of objects in your clipping mask).
2Dgameartguru CorelDraw toolbar

Clip tool in CorelDraw

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Firstly, start with your base shape. In this case I just created a simple circle.

Secondly, create the object to go inside the PowerClip [I just made a lighter circle] and use the Effects/ Powerclip/ Place Inside Container command.

If the result looks more like this, Corel Draw’s setting to centre the PowerClip
content is still on.

Change it in Tools/ Options (CTRL+J) and select the Workspace/ Edit setting to turn Auto-Centering off.

The resulting Powerclip will look like this in the Object Manager panel.

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool
2Dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Create multiple objects, select them and place them in a Power Clip should end up with a result like this and the Object Manager looking like this.

2dgameartguru - using the clip tool

Working with powerclips is ideal to add patterns to shapes or do quick cartoon style shading. You can also layer the effect and have powerclips inside powerclips.

Even though things might be a little easier to achieve in the other programs. Generally, Inkscape allows you to achieve the same results with a little bit of patience and trial and error.

Good luck and enjoy your vector bending!

Note:
The toolbar of CorelDraw and Illustrator might have changed slightly as I am not up to date on either program. At the time of this tutorial it’s CorelDraw14 and Illustrator CS.