Using Opacity Masks in Adobe Illustrator

The "Origin of the Species - wall hanging" project makes a nice use of opacity masks in Illustrator, embedding an image in a field of text by changing the opacity throughout. But pulling this off can be difficult to figure out. This guide will run you through the steps to embed an image in a field of text merely by changing the opacity of the text itself. In this example, a silhoutted image is embedded in the full text of Romeo and Juliet.
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Step 1: Gather your image and text

This guide will use a stripped down example because the actual sizes of text and images involved in a fullsize wall hanging will grind your system down to a crawl. You should experiment on a small scale before committing to a fullsize design.

*Obtain an image (it should be something that would look good as a silhouette)
*Obtain the text (Project Gutenberg is a great resource) and format out all the newlines and other whitespace (see the "Book Wall Hangings - Flatlands - cube" project for more info on this...)

I used the text of Romeo and Juliet with an image of Leonardo di Caprio and Claire Danes from the movie Romeo+Juliet.

Step 2: Process your image

Basically you must turn the image into a silhouette. In Photoshop you can go to Image--Adjustments--Threshold and drag the slider until you achieve satisfactory results.
fwjs284 years ago
AI cs4 is a bit different from this so i gave up on the exact effect /affect, but instead overlayed the image and set the opacity to 50%..similar enough for me
fwjs28 fwjs284 years ago
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philbar8 years ago
Cool idea!!! The instructions need some work though. I did the whole thing in photoshop and it turned out alright. Instead of making multiple layers I just selected the part to the text I wanted changed and adjusted the brightness and contrast. I used the book of John from the bible and created an image of Jesus. I'm hoping this will make one of my friends a very good christmas gift.
berky93 philbar5 years ago
thats pretty cool. I'm not christian and I'm barely religious if anything, but its still a cool idea nonetheless and I can see how it would make a great gift for your friend.
Sandisk1duo6 years ago
Yay photoshop!
Thanks for the great instructions. I made a poster for a friend for xmas. Just a note to those making these. Printing times are *long*. Expect to spend well over an hour. My final print was 24x36
philbar8 years ago
That picture looks like crap, heres a link to the actual one I uploaded:
saul8 years ago
this is rock and roll. I meant to document this bit as it is difficult, but didn't get around to it. nice, thanks. saul.