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Photoshop is the king of image manipulation. Adobe has done some great things with the app over the years and it has shown in every new release. Sometimes, however, it is not the first choice for creating imagery. Your needs may require an image that needs to be resolution independant which would lead you to Photoshop’s sister app, Illustrator. Although there are overlaps between the two applications, creating similar graphics require different approaches.

One of the simpler things you can do in Photoshop, transparent masking, has a different set of steps in Illustrator. First, lets start with an simple icon:

Now lets give the icon a little shine or gloss. With the vector tool, draw a freeform shape, with a white fill and no stroke, that will become the glossy area of the image.

With the shape, you just drew, still selected go to the Transparency Panel (shift + command+F10) and select Make Opacity Mask.

A new “layer” will appear. This is akin to the Layer Mask in Photoshop, and is where we will create our mask for the large white shape we drew. All you need to do is create a large rectangle that covers the entire area of the icon; its fill should be a simple black to white gradient fill with no mask. When finished go back to the Transparency panel and click on your icon in the left portion of the panel to return to the visible image.

Once you go back to the visible image you can immediately see the changes to your icon.

The hard white shape we drew earlier is now a soft gradient overlapping the icon, giving a soft look and feel to the icon.

You can further manipulate the mask to get the right look to your illustration. Here I have inverted the mask:

Needless to say, these masks offer unlimited potential to create more depth to your illustrations. I hope you find this tut helpful.