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How to Make a Clipping Mask in InDesign

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Curious if you can you make clipping masks in InDesign? Masking is an essential skill to learn in many different design applications, and InDesign, of course, is no different. There are a few different ways in which we can make masks with InDesign, but one of the most convenient ways is by using custom frame shapes. We'll be looking at a number of different ways to create clipping mask InDesign effects in this tutorial.

Ready to explore how to make a clipping mask in InDesign? Here are a few different clipping mask InDesign techniques you can try out!

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Need

The following assets are used in this tutorial:

We'll use these images as we explore clipping masks in InDesign. You are welcome to use them along with me. Otherwise, make sure you have images of your own to work with.

Now, let's dig into some of the ways we can create clipping mask InDesign effects.

1. How to Create a Clipping Mask Using Frame Shapes

Step 1

In InDesign, most objects we use are within frames. Interestingly, these can be considered clipping masks in and of themselves. As the frame and the content within can be moved separately, InDesign comes with this basic form of masking built in.

We can use this to our advantage by creating frame shapes and pasting images we want to mask into them.

Within your document, import an image you’d like to mask by going to File > Place.

Then select the image you want to use and press Open.

Place Image in DocumentPlace Image in DocumentPlace Image in Document

Step 2

By selecting the middle circle on the image, we can move the images from inside the frame. We can also use the Transform Tool to clip the edges of the images if needed.

The Image FrameThe Image FrameThe Image Frame

Step 3

However, rather than using the default rectangle frame the image was imported into, let’s use a different shape to create a more interesting clipping mask.

From the toolbar, select the Ellipse Frame Tool.

Select the Elipse Frame ToolSelect the Elipse Frame ToolSelect the Elipse Frame Tool

Step 4

Click and hold the circle tool over the top of your image. This is a good way to gauge where you want your mask to be placed. In this case, I'm going to create a clipping mask over a single bird in this image.

Drag Ellipse ToolDrag Ellipse ToolDrag Ellipse Tool

Step 5

Go back to your image by using the Selection Tool and clicking on it. Now, cut the image using Edit > Cut.

You can also copy the image if you would like! Cutting is a good idea, though, so that we don't have multiple copies of the same image on our stage.

Cut the ImageCut the ImageCut the Image

Step 6

Now that you have cut the image, select the circle frame we created. Now go to Edit > Paste Into.

Note that the other methods of pasting the image will give the image a new frame rather than placing it into the frame we just created.

Pasting Image into Circle FramePasting Image into Circle FramePasting Image into Circle Frame

Step 7

And there you have a quick way of creating a clipping mask with a different shape. Of course, you can use this same method with all the frame shape tools, including the Rectangle and Polygon Frame Tool.

Images Masked with CircleImages Masked with CircleImages Masked with Circle

2. How to Create a Clipping Mask Using Customized Frame Shapes

Step 1

While the Frame Shape tools are useful, there may be times when you need more complex clipping masks than what’s provided. Luckily, we can create complex shapes by using the Pen Tool. Let's look at how to do a clipping mask in InDesign with customized shapes.

Start by selecting the Pen Tool from the toolbar.

Select Pen ToolSelect Pen ToolSelect Pen Tool

Step 2

Next, we’ll create a frame to use as the shape of our clipping mask.

Create a single point, and then click again in another spot. Continue this process to create a shape that works for you.

Create Clipping ShapeCreate Clipping ShapeCreate Clipping Shape

Step 3

When you are satisfied with your shape, close it up by connecting the line to the starting point. If it's not perfect, don't worry too much—we can make edits and refine our mask at any point!

Close Up Clipping ShapeClose Up Clipping ShapeClose Up Clipping Shape

Step 4

Next, we want to get the image into our new shape, so it can act as a clipping mask. With the Selection Tool selected, click on the image to select it. Then cut it (Edit > Cut).

Cut Image For Clipping MaskCut Image For Clipping MaskCut Image For Clipping Mask

Step 5

Now select the clipping mask once again. To paste the image we cut into the frame, we have to use a special form of paste. To do this, go to Edit > Paste Into.

By using Paste Into, we are placing the images into the frame we created.

Paste Image Into Custom Clipping ShapePaste Image Into Custom Clipping ShapePaste Image Into Custom Clipping Shape

Step 6

Now the background is gone, revealing only the shape of what we cut out. Now you can use the move tools, just like with the rectangular frame the image started in. As you can see, this is a really powerful tool that leaves a lot of room for creativity.

The Pen Tool is also very versatile, so you can work with just about any shape you need.

Completed Clipping MaskCompleted Clipping MaskCompleted Clipping Mask

Step 7

Let's refine our new clipping mask a bit!

The shape we just created may have a stroke around it due to using the Pen Tool. We can remove this from the Properties panel. 

With the shape frame selected, set the Stroke to 0.

Stroke SettingsStroke SettingsStroke Settings

Step 8

One of the benefits of creating our own shapes is that we can use the anchor points to edit the mask. By using the Direct Selection tool, we can move around the anchor points.

To do this, select the Direct Selection tool and then double-click an anchor point. You will now be able to move it to a better position. This is a great tool for when you need to make edits to your clipping masks at a later point in the project.

3. Using a Typeface as a Clipping Mask

Step 1

Next, let's take a look at some InDesign text clipping mask techniques. 

Using the shape tools to create masks has a lot of uses. However, tracing over typography with the Pen Tool would be really time-consuming. Luckily, there is a handy tool for turning typefaces into a layer mask.

To start, create some type by selecting the Text Tool. Place your text, and choose your typeface and font size.  

Typeface SetTypeface SetTypeface Set

Step 2

Now select the text frame with the Selection Tool. Then go to Type > Create Outlines.

Create Outliens For TypeCreate Outliens For TypeCreate Outliens For Type

Step 3

Now that we have the outlines created, we can paste an image into this frame. To do this, cut the image and then select the typed outline. 

Then go to Edit > Paste Into.

Paste Image into Text OutlinesPaste Image into Text OutlinesPaste Image into Text Outlines

Step 4

Now, you can move around your image as needed. 

Text Masking ResultText Masking ResultText Masking Result


As you can see, there are a lot of ways of creating clipping masks in InDesign by using the frame tools. InDesign is really useful in this regard as it conveniently places all our images into frames by default. We can take this feature to the next level by creating custom frame shapes; we can get really creative with this. 

From InDesign text clipping mask effects to custom shapes, there's so much we can try here. Hopefully, this has given you some insights into how to do clipping masks in InDesign scenarios. 

If you liked this tutorial, you may like these other InDesign-related tutorials.

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