How to Crop an Image in Adobe Illustrator

Select the image you want to crop. In the Object menu, use the Crop Image option. Adjust the size and position as needed and even the resolution, then click Apply. Or use the Crop Image button in the Control or Properties panel. 

An alternate method is to use a clipping mask. Create a closed compound path and position it over the image you want to crop. Select both the image and closed path, Object > Clipping Mask > Make. This method allows you to crop an image into custom shapes.

My name is April, and I’ve been working in the graphic design field for 14+ years now. Working with design layouts in Adobe Illustrator is a must. With that comes the challenge of working with all sorts of graphics, including raster images.

Depending on your layout and design, you may need to crop an image. Illustrator offers two quick solutions to this, rather than pulling the image into Photoshop to crop it. I will go over these two methods next.

Let’s look into it. 

Key Takeaways

  • The Object menu offers a Crop Image option 
  • The Control and Properties panels have a quick access button for Crop Image
  • The Keyboard shortcut for Clipping Mask is Ctrl/Command + 7

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. 

Method 1: Object Menu

If you want a permanent solution for cropping an image in Illustrator, doing so with the Object menu is the best option. This is because you can’t change the crop once it is applied.

Step 1: I have this layout I am starting with because I need to fix my image and spacing. If you do not have a layout but want to work along with me, use File > Place and pick an image to try cropping.

The turtle photograph doesn’t quite fill the space I wanted, so I want to crop it to be a different proportion. I am going to start with increasing the size so it fits the space and I will see what I need to crop. 

Step 2: Choose the Selection Tool and hold the Shift key while you click and drag a corner anchor point to make the image bigger.

Step 3: Select the image, go to the Object menu, and click Crop Image.

This will bring you into the Crop Image mode.

Step 4: Use the handle to move the crop box to where you want the image to be cropped. The part of the image that will be cropped out will be slightly transparent.

Step 5: When you have the crop box where you want it, click the Apply button at the top.

You will now have a cropped image that cannot be changed (unless you use the undo feature in Illustrator).

Method 2: Make a Clipping Mask

Using a clipping mask is a great way to crop an image to see if it’s the look you are going for or will work with your layout. You can make changes or even remove the clipping mask later if you wish.

I am using the same layout as above, but this time I will create a clipping mask to crop the image.

If you are familiar with painting techniques,  you may know the term Blocking in. Sometimes when I am creating a layout, creating blocks of color to know where certain aspects of my design will go helps me balance it. 

We are going to use a similar concept here. I know I want to fill in more space between where my image is and where Happy Birthday is.

Step 1: Use the Rectangle Tool (keyboard shortcut M) to create a block where you want this image to fill in. 

There are two aspects that you have to fulfill to be able to use a path or shape for your clipping mask. It has to be “closed” and it has to be a compound path. 

Otherwise, when you try to make the clipping mask, both objects will disappear. To make sure the path is closed, a simple way to do this is to use the Unite button in the Pathfinder panel.

To ensure that your path is compound, go to Object > Compound Path > Make. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Command + 8.  

Step 2: Resize the image to fit in the block you created and adjust the image area you want to crop using the Selection Tool, click and drag the corner anchor points while holding Shift to make your image bigger proportionally.

Step 3: Using the selection tool, select the image and the compound path you made. You also want to make sure your clipping mask is on top of your image.

Step 4: Go to Object > Clipping Path > Make. Or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Command + 7.

Another quick fix if the image isn’t quite where you want it positioned, select your Direct Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut A) and click on the image. This will select the image inside of your clipping mask.

You can use your keyboard arrow keys to move the image around or, now that you have it directly selected, click the Selection Tool and you can resize and move it like normal.

Final Thoughts

Between the Crop Image option and creating a Clipping mask, Illustrator offers great options for working with all sorts of graphics right in Illustrator. The flexibility of Illustrator has earned its spot as my all-time favorite design software.

Have you ever cropped an image in Illustrator? Which method did you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

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