How to Crop an Image in Illustrator

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Whether you’ve just started using Adobe Illustrator or have been using it for years, cropping an image or artwork is something you often encounter.

After placing an image or creating an illustration, you may find that it’s not precisely the right size or that you only need specific parts of your objects.

This is where cropping tools come in handy in Adobe Illustrator. 

Imagine you’re designing various shapes, and you only want specific parts to be visible on your poster, brochure, or any other project.

In this tutorial, I will show you 3 ways of cropping in Adobe Illustrator, keeping in mind that I find some methods to be better than others. I’ll provide insights into why I consider certain methods superior to others.

Check out this list of some of the Top Rated Vector Graphics Programs.

Crop an image using the Crop tool 

Start by opening a fresh document in Adobe Illustrator and selecting your preferred size document. There aren’t any specific document size values for this practice tutorial. Let’s place an image from your desktop. Go to File>Place… 

I found a beautiful scenery forest photo. It is too big to fit on my page. I will show you how to crop it to any desired size.

Once you place the image on your artboard, and select it you will see multiple options appear in the Properties panel. If you don’t see the Properties panel, make sure it is selected from the overhead menu. Go to Window>Properties. 

Now, with the Selection tool (V), select your image and click on Crop Image. You will see a message appear, click OK

You can also edit the values of the cropped image you want by editing the W and H values in the same Properties panel. I chose 400pt for both. And there you go! 

You can now add a frame to your image, or save the image outside of Illustrator in the new size by going to File>Export>Export As.

Related Article: Perspective Tool in Illustrator

Make sure you choose a location on your desktop to find it later. I used a teal background to complement my image. 

Crop an image using the Mask tool 

Another way to crop an image and only make certain elements appear on your artboard is by using the super Mask Clipping tool. This is a very popular tool in Adobe Illustrator because of its excellent flexible properties. 

Place the same image again as we did earlier. Now grab the Rectangle tool (M). Draw a rectangle where you want the image to be. 

With the Selection tool (V), select both the image and the rectangle (the color of the rectangle does not matter). Right-click and choose Make Clipping Mask.

What I like about this method is you can go back and edit the mask by double-clicking on your image. Drag the image up or down to make other elements visible in your mask. Awesome! 

Crop an artwork using the Clipping mask

I created below this simple artwork from abstract lines and shapes for a card. To get a better view of the outcome, I need to crop out the middle section and remove extra unwanted parts.

The lines and shapes are on different layers. Make sure the Layers panel appears on the side. You can access it from Window>Layers.

Create a new layer from the layers panel. Name it MASK LAYER like I did below. Make sure this new layer is placed on top of all your other layers. 

Now select all three layers and place them in the top layer by hold clicking while dragging them. All the layers are now moved to the MASK LAYER. Grab the Rectangle tool (M), and create a rectangle where you want your artboard cropped out.  

Select the MASK LAYER and draw a rectangle. Your rectangle needs to be placed again on top of all your layers. Otherwise, Illustrator will not recognize which shape to use to crop your artwork.  

Doing great! Now select the MASK LAYER, and click on the Clipping Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel (shown below). 

Magic! 

Have fun and add new shapes to your artwork in the same layer. You can toggle the visibility of the cropped area by clicking on the eye icon next to the rectangle layer.

Conclusion

The cropping tools may appear complicated initially, but as you become more accustomed to them, you’ll discover their practicality, making them an essential part of your work. Feel free to experiment with various shapes, including the pen tool to make your clipping masks. 

Whether you aim to eliminate unwanted parts or carve out a specific shape from an image, these three techniques outlined in this tutorial will help you achieve your desired result. 

Related Article: How to Create a Pattern in Illustrator

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