How to create a clipping mask in InDesign by Adobe

article header image clipping mask in indesign

Creating a clipping mask in InDesign is not difficult, but it works differently from Adobe‘s other famous graphic design tools, Illustrator and Photoshop. It took me some time to find the correct answer though (not counting the explanation on Adobe‘s support site, which I found mystifying…). Here’s how to create your clipping mask:

  1. Make sure you have the two objects in the same layer: The shape object and the fill object.
    – The shape object determines the shape seen after the clipping mask is made.
    – The fill object determines the fill of the shape seen after the clipping mask is made.
  2. Select the fill object.
  3. Go to the ‘Edit’ pull down menu, and select ‘Cut’ (or: Ctrl+X)
  4. Select the shape object
  5. Go to the ‘Edit’ pull down menu again, and select Paste In…

And that’s all, the clipping mask is done!

I used characters (text field) as shape object (coloring a word with a picture for instance). In that case, you first have to select the characters (not the text field, select the characters using the ‘Type’ tool), go to the ‘Type’ pull down menu, and select ‘Create Outlines’ (same as in Illustrator, and similar to Photoshop, where you have to rasterize text before you can wreak design-havoc on them).

This works from InDesign CS5 and later, at least. Can’t say whether this works in older versions, but I think at least CS3 and CS4 work the same way.

Here’s what I did with it (the city names and squares behind the others in the right bottom corner.

example usage of clipping mask in indesign

foto Boris Hoekmeijer
My name is Boris Hoekmeijer, I'm a webdesigner and graphic designer.
I sometimes run into a problem for which I have to find my own solution because Google just won't tell me. That's when I climb behind my mechanical keyboard, and fire away until a tutorial materializes. One of the great things about the web: we can all help each other!
If this article has helped you, or if you have anything to add or ask, please leave a comment or share the post.

© 2010 ★ Published: September 22, 2010

  • Rex Jacob says:

    Great tutorial for who don’t know about this!

  • Vector Specialist says:

    WoW! you have really posted an outstanding tutorial with us.It’s amazing.This is really so needful for me.thanks again

  • clipping says:

    Really great post.Thanks for sharing

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks, great post about adobe indesign tutorial in complement I would recommend this page too if you don’t mind can be very helpful with its search engine.

  • Penny says:

    Thank you so much! this saved me loads of time creating things in photoshop and importing into InDesign.

  • Leticia Nava says:

    You are definitely right, Adobe’s help pages are indeed mystifying. You just saved me a lot of pain and wasted time.

  • Koren Schmedith says:

    What a helpful post it is. Indesign is working very well for clipping mask. But I still think, Adobe Photoshop is best for making clipping mask.

    • Boris Hoekmeijer says:

      I agree that Photoshop is easier to create masks with. However, for some things you you Photoshop and for some you use InDesign. And in both cases, you will need to be able to create a clipping mask.

  • B says:

    <3 thanks

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks so much for the post. It was very helpful, but I also stumbled upon another method. You can create a closed path (polygon), and, with that shape selected go to File –> Place; find your image file, and when you select to open it, InDesign places it within the shape. The shape becomes the frame, and you can grab the image, drag it around to where you like it. Also, if you double-click on the image after it’s placed, it will select the image (as opposed to the polygon/frame); from there you can transform, ie resize, if you like). As far as I can tell, once you place an image in your polygon this way, the polygon and the image become one, so if you trash the image from the layers window, for instance, then the polygon is trashed, too. You can, however, replace the image with another by repeating the File/Place procedure.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks for your help!

  • Anas says:

    Thank you very much for you help!

  • Hy says:

    Thank you so much. Adobes support page is really cryptic when it comes to placing text-frames inside frames, but this was what I was looking for!

  • Michael says:

    Super helpful, thanks so much!

  • Sam says:

    This is great – exactly what I needed. Thank you!

  • Petra says:

    Ha Boris,
    Wat grappig dat ik op jouw tutorial stuitte, ik was op zoek naar hoe ik ook weer een masker in Indesign kon maken en ‘voilá’ 🙂
    Het lukte alleen eerst niet, want ik wilde een collage van meerdere plaatjes ‘paste into’ doen, maar die optie kreeg ik niet, ook al had ik alle plaatjes geselecteerd. Gelukkig bedacht ik mij om de plaatjes te ‘groupen’ en toen lukte het wel!
    Die letters met plaatjesvulling, daar was ik mee aan het pielen geweest in photoshop, maar daar ben ik niet zo bedreven in, dus daar zaten ook wat haken en ogen aan (er bleef bijvoorbeeld een wit kader om de letters heen staan, terwijl het in photoshop leek dat het woord vrijstaand was…)

    Ik ben in september met Artemis Interieurstyling begonnen, deeltijd. Zeer intensief, maar ook heel leuk! Waar ben jij mee bezig?
    Gr. Petra (PS grappig om het artworksinmentalhealth artwork van je te zien!!) :-)))

    • Boris Hoekmeijer says:

      Hoi Petra,

      gefeliciteerd met je eigen bedrijf dan! Ik vermaak me erg goed met het ontwerpen van logo’s en websites, en het bouwen daarvan. Gaat heel goed 🙂

  • Abu Saeed says:

    It’s a beautiful presentation about the clipping mask. The picture is much the better. Looks like living photos. This post is very good. Thank you for presenting a very good way.

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