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Creating Masks in Fireworks

Sandee Cohen shows you the finer points of creating masks in Fireworks.
From Chapter 11 of Fireworks 4: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Sandee Cohen

Creating Masks

Masking is the technique that uses the shape of one object as a contour to crop - or clip - other objects. Only those parts of the objects in the mask are visible. A stencil is a type of mask that allows you to add color within the mask.

Masks don't have to be limited to single objects. The compound objects created by the Join command can also be used as masks.

The easiest way to create a mask in Fireworks is to use the two menu commands. The Paste as Mask command is usually used when the masking element is the topmost object.

To paste an object as a mask:

  1. Position the objects to be masked below the object that is to act as the mask.

  2. Select the object to be used as the mask (Figure 1).

    Figure 1

    Select and cut the topmost object to be pasted as a mask.

  3. Choose Edit > Cut. The object disappears from the document.

  4. Select the objects to be masked.

  5. Choose Modify > Group. This combines all the objects onto one thumbnail in the Layers panel (Figure 2).

    Figure 2

    Group the objects to be masked by the Paste as Mask command.

  6. Choose Edit > Paste as Mask. The bottom object is visible only inside the masking object (Figure 3).

    Figure 3

    The Paste as Mask command turns the cut object into a mask for the grouped objects.

The pen icon inside the Mask Thumbnail indicates that the mask is a vector object (Figure 4). You can also use bitmap images as masks.

Figure 4

The Mask Thumbnail shows the object used as the mask.


You can still use the Paste as Mask command even if the masking object is not positioned above the other objects. It still masks all objects below.

Another simple way to create a mask is to use the Paste Inside command. This command is used when it is easier to select and cut the objects to be masked, rather than the masking object.

To paste objects into a mask:

  1. Position the objects to be masked above the object that is to act as the mask.

  2. Select the objects that are to be masked (Figure 5).

    Figure 5

    Select and cut the stripes - the objects to be masked by the Paste Inside command.

  3. Choose Edit > Cut. The object disappears from the document.

  4. Select the object to be used as the mask (Figure 6).

    Figure 6

    Select the question mark text - the object to be used as a mask.

  5. Choose Edit > Paste Inside. The objects are automatically grouped and appear inside the mask (Figure 7). The Layers panel shows the new grouped object and its mask (Figure 8).

    Figure 7

    The Paste Inside command displays the cut objects - the stripes - within the contours of the question mark mask.

    Figure 8

    The Paste Inside command automatically groups the cut objects and displays them within the contours of the mask.

You can still use the Paste Inside command even if the masking object is not positioned below the other objects.

You can use also a text object as a mask. Not only that, but you can still edit the text in the Text Editor.

You can also create a mask using the Layers panel. This approach makes it easier to visualize what happens when objects are masked. It is also more familiar for anyone who has created a Layer Mask in Adobe Photoshop.

To mask objects using the Layers panel:

  1. Select and cut the object to be used as the mask.

  2. Select the objects to be masked. If they are not grouped, choose Modify > Group. This combines all the objects onto one thumbnail in the Layers panel.

You can also select the grouped objects by clicking the Object Thumbnail in the Layers panel.

  1. Click the Add Mask icon in the Layers panel to add an empty Mask Thumbnail next to the Object Thumbnail (Figure 9).

    Figure 9

    Click the Add Mask icon to add a Mask Thumbnail to the right of the Object Thumbnail in the Layers panel.

A Yellow square around the Mask Thumbnail indicates that you are now working on the mask. In addition, a yellow and black stripe appears around the edge of your document.

  1. Choose Edit > Paste. The cut object appears in the Mask Thumbnail (Figure 10).

    Figure 10

    With the Mask Thumbnail active, you can add or paste objects to act as a mask.

To release a mask:

  1. Select the mask and the objects being masked.

  2. Choose Modify > Ungroup. This releases the mask and leaves it positioned on top of the objects that were being masked.

This technique works with all types of masks regardless of what kind of objects they are and how the mask was created.

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