InDesign Tutorial – Masking Photos With “Knockout Groups” as Alpha Masks


Knockout Groups are very useful to add complexity and style to your InDesign layouts. By combining vectors with photos you can more seamlessly blend your photos into the background, or add extra creativity. Here are some samples of what “Knockout Groups” can do:

the transition on this photo is made with a grunge vector and a knockout group

the transition on this photo is made with a grunge vector and a knockout group

 

This sample shows a photo with a vector pattern that has been "Knocked Out". Underneath the photo is a gradient that can now be seen beneath the photo.

This sample shows a photo with a vector pattern that has been “Knocked Out”. Underneath the photo is a gradient that can now be seen beneath the photo.

Step 1: You’ll start by placing whatever you want to show underneath the photo you are “Knocking Out”. In this case a 3 color gradient. Making gradients in InDesign can be a pain, so I would recommend making the gradient in Illustrator and then copy and pasting it over to InDesign. If you want to show white underneath the knockout (as shown in sample 1 above) then you can ignore this step.

Start with whatever you want to show underneath the knockout.

Start with whatever you want to show underneath the knockout.

Step 2: Place whatever photo you are trying to knockout on top. In this case, a photo of a skate park.

This is the photo we will be knocking out.

This is the photo we will be knocking out.

 

Step 3: Now we need to get the vector that we will be using to knockout the photo. In sample 1 the vector is a grungy ink smear. In sample 2 we will be using the floral pattern shown here. Open your vector in Illustrator and copy it.

knockout vector

Then go back to InDesign and paste the vector on top of your photo. Resize and position the vector however you want.

paste knockout vector

 

Step 4: Turn the opacity on your vector layer down to 0%

The floral pattern should now be invisible.

The floral pattern should now be invisible.

 

Step 5: Group the vector layer and photo layer together. Even though the vector is now invisible, it can still be selected and grouped.

Group the photo and the vector together

Group the photo and the vector together

 

Step 6: Time to knockout! With the grouped vector and photo selected, open the Effects panel and check the “Knockout Group” box.

Check the Knockout Group box.

Check the Knockout Group box.

 

You should now be able to see the gradient (or whatever you had underneath).

All done!

All done!

 

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