Learn to add a texture to an image in Illustrator using an Opacity mask – also often called a Transparency mask.

This method is fool proof and it works – it’s also pretty simple… which is good!


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley. Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I show you how to add a bitmap texture overlay over an image in Illustrator CS6. To see how we can use a transparency mask on an image to give it a sort of grunge or a slightly distressed look.

Let’s start off with a rectangle. So I’m going to create a rectangle the shape and size of my art board. And I already have it filled with a pattern here. This is the pattern that I’m using. It’s a pattern that we created earlier in another video. I’m going to choose Object and then Transform and then Scale because I want to scale the pattern down to around 75 percent of its original size. So I’ll just type 75 percent and in this case I’m transforming the patterns only. Actually that’s still a bit on the big side so let’s go back and scale this down to say 50 percent, again, just the pattern and click Ok.

So here is my pattern and I want to add a sort of grunge overlay effect to it so I’m going to choose Window and then Transparency because this is going to give me my transparency mask. And I’m going to double click here to create and edit my mask. So I have the mask selected here. This is my image selected. This is my mask selected and I’m going to add a file to it by choosing File Place and we’re going to select the sample that we created earlier and click Place. And here it is over the image. Now right now it’s fairly intense but I can invert it to reverse the colors from black and white to white and black so I get a different effect.

Now this particular mask is really quite a bit larger than the image so I’m thinking that if I scale it down to probably around 30 percent and fix the proportions of this it gets pretty near right here. So I’m just going to scale the original image to the size. Well maybe just a little bit smaller so that we can see that we’ve actually got this transparency mask effect on our image. This is the original look of our image and this is the mask version. Now again we can click Invert if we want to use the white areas of the image or here to use the black areas of the image as our mask. When I’m done with that I can just click back on my image to continue to work with it.

So here is my image or the original filled rectangle. As you can see the mask is applied to that filled rectangle and it’s going with it wherever it happens to go. So wherever I move my rectangle to three quarters or most of it is covered with this transparency mask. Just this bit is not covered. I wanted to show you that the transparency mask is only going to work on the areas of the image that we actually selected for it to work on. And it’s actually attached to this shape so it will travel with it.

So anytime you need to give an image a grunge or a distressed sort of look, head to Photoshop, grab a nice texture, turn it into as close to a black and white of an image as you can or even convert it to black and white. That’s fine too and then just bring it in onto a transparency layer as a transparency mask to give your underlying shape a more grunge look.

I’m Helen Bradley. Thank you for joining me for this video tutorial. Look out for more tutorials on my YouTube channel and visit projectwomam.com for more tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Illustrator.

Helen Bradley