Want to make your vector illustrations sing? Just add texture. Artist Joyce Hoeven (aka @joycehvn) shows you how it can be done quickly and easily in Adobe Illustrator, using a very handy tool – the Clipping Mask.

What you'll need

Set up your project

Start by opening up Adobe Illustrator and the illustration you want to work with. This could be your own, or you could get started on Joyce’s. You’ll be using the Transparency panel for this tutorial, so if it’s not already in your right-hand toolbar, go to Window > Transparency. To extend it fully, click on the menu icon in the top right of this panel and then Show Thumbnails. This won’t be an option if it’s already extended.

Group your shapes

You now want to make sure everything you’d like to add texture to is grouped together. To do this, hold Shift and select all your objects. Then press Command/Control and G to group them.

Create a Clipping Mask

With your objects selected, go to the Transparency menu and select Make Mask to create your Clipping Mask. You’ll notice that the objects disappear, but this will only be temporary. 

Add your texture

Next, click on the Clipping Mask (the black square in the Transparency panel) – this is where the texture will be placed. Go to File > Open and open up your texture file. Resize it accordingly so it covers the area you’d like it to appear. The texture you use must be black and white – the black areas will be the negative space (i.e. they won’t show up) and the white parts will be visible. If you’d like it the other way around, you can choose Invert Mask in the Transparency panel.

Have a play around

Move your texture around and resize it if you wish, to find a section you like. Then click on the layer in the Transparency panel and you’re done.

Go back and edit

If you want to go back and edit your texture, click the Clipping Mask in the Transparency panel to make your tweaks. And if you’d like to entirely remove the Clipping Mask and texture from your object, click the Release button in the Transparency Panel.


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