Geckos — and Using Clipping Masks in Illustrator

Another week, another Spoonflower fabric design contest.  The theme for this contest is Australian Animals.  So many great options it was hard to pick — kangaroos, wombats, koala bears, emu, platypus, Tasmanian devils…  I googled Australian art and was inspired by the Aboriginal dot paintings.  I thought I’d try a modern take on the dot paintings using kangaroos and geckos.

I’ll go through the technique I used in Adobe Illustrator to create the multicolored animals. gecko-outlines

I started by drawing outlines of a gecko and a kangaroo.  I wanted to keep the outlines pretty simple since there would be a lot of detail inside each animal.

Next, I picked a general color palette and I drew some basic shapes using multiple colors in each shape.  My plan was to combine and distort the shapes in various ways for each animal.


I copied various shapes along with the kangaroo onto one layer in Illustrator.


Next, I copied and re-sized shapes and started covering over the kangaroo.


One of the effects I used a lot was the zig zag effect (using the command Effect ==> Distort and Transform ==> Zig Zag).  This effect creates flowers out of the circles, and wavy lines from the stripes.


I kept adding shapes until the kangaroo was fully covered.


I grouped all the shapes except for the kangaroo.  Then I moved the kangaroo to the top, selected the kangaroo and the group of shapes, and applied a clipping mask (command Object ==> Clipping Mask ==> Make).


And here’s the result.  One of the reasons I liked using clipping masks for this was that it lets me keep the kangaroo outline (the mask) separate from the artwork inside the kangaroo.  Then I can edit the mask separately from the artwork, changing either one if I want.  I can also ‘release’ the clipping mask and start over.



I created a bunch of kangaroos and geckos and put them together into this design.


This was a bit chaotic, and I thought the animals were hard to identify in the multicolor shapes.

I took out the kangaroos and arranged the geckos in alternating rows.


That was too regimented.  Next I tried them on a diagonal.


This was better, but I still didn’t like all the tails lining up.

Here’s the final design.  I mixed the geckos into a more random pattern.


You can see all the Australian Animal designs in Spoonflower’s contest here.


I have no fear of losing my life – if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.
— Steve Irwin

I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message.
— Steve Irwin

1 thought on “Geckos — and Using Clipping Masks in Illustrator

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been wondering how the designs are created for so long. Your explanation was perfect!

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