How to Cut Part of an Image in Adobe Illustrator

You can cut part of an image in Illustrator using the crop, pen, knife, and eraser tools. For example, the Clipping Mask will cut part of an image without the background. The Crop and Pen Tools work well for raster images (JPEGs).

You can hardly escape cutting part of an image in Illustrator when designing- whether you are designing a banner, flyer, infographic, etc. Cutting part of an image in Illustrator makes it easy to merge elements, combine shapes, and create unique effects on your designs.

My name is Rita. I have been using Adobe Illustrator for five years. Cutting part of an image has helped me create unique designs, especially with the Pen Tool method.

In this tutorial, I will show you four easy ways to cut parts of an image. Which method to use will depend on what you want to achieve and the type of image (raster or vector).

Key Takeaways

  • The Knife and Eraser tools only work on vector images.
  • You can cut part of a vector or raster image in Adobe Illustrator.
  • A raster image may still appear blurry when stretched even after cutting from an image.

4 Easy Ways to Cut Part of an Image in Illustrator

Note: All screenshots used are from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows Version. Mac and other versions may appear different. 

Method 1: Crop Tool

Using the crop tool to cut part of an image in Illustrator is easy.

Let’s cut part of the image below using the crop tool.

Image credit: Miti from Unsplash

Step 1: Open and click on the image in Adobe Illustrator. The Crop Image option will appear in the Properties panel or the Control panel once you click on the image. 

Step 2: Click on Crop Image to cut your desired part of the image. 

Step 3: Position the frame. You can move the frame around to reposition it or use the frame boundary border to resize it. 

Step 4: Click Apply to cut your desired frame once satisfied with the result. 

If you don’t want to keep the image background, use the Pen Tool method below.

Method 2: Pen Tool

You can use the Pen tool to trace the outline of the object you want to keep and make a clipping mask to cut it out.

Let’s see how this works in practice.

Step 1: With your image already open in Illustrator, choose the Pen tool from the toolbar or use the shortcut P on your keyboard. 

Change the Fill color to none and select a bright color for the stroke (this will help you see your paths).

Step 2: Outline the image you want to keep with the pen tool. Carefully outline for a cleaner result. Close the path to create an image outline.

Let’s put this into practice by cutting out the half-orange shape from the image.

Step 3: Select the pen tool path (the half-orange outline) we’ve created and the entire image.

Step 4: Right-click and select Make Clipping Mask or use the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl/Command + 7)

You can now put the shape you created on another background. You can skip making a clipping mask from the path and the image if you only need the outline.

You can use the image outline to create a vector image or silhouette.

Feel free to play around the new path and see what you can come up with. It all depends on your creativity.

This method is the secret to cutting an image from the background in Adobe Illustrator. 

If you want to cut part of a vector image in Illustrator, the scissors/knife or eraser tool is a great option.

Method 3: Knife Tool

It works like your kitchen knife. You can use it to cut an image into parts.

Let’s see how this works.

Step 1: Choose the Knife tool from the toolbar.

Step 2: Draw across the path that you want to cut. 

The image you want to cut will separate at the cut line. That will give you two image fragments to work on (you can modify or delete them based on your preference).

Let’s use the knife tool to cut through our vector image.

I’ll draw across the image from top to bottom. 

Our image is cut into two parts. Click on the parts of the image to see the individual images. 

Step 3: Remember to press the V key on your keyboard to switch to the Selection Tool. Click on either part of the vector image to edit or delete it.

You might need to cut through several times to cut between the parts of the image.

You can delete any image part you don’t want.

You can use the knife or scissors tools to cut part of an image in Illustrator. They are similar. The difference is that while you drag to draw a cutline with the knife tool, you use anchor points to cut through an image with the scissors tool.

Method 4: Eraser Tool

You can use the eraser tool in Adobe Illustrator to cut part of an image. Erasing parts of an image in Illustrator is also cutting part of the image.

That is because the erased part deletes that part of the image. You can place the image on another background to create an effect. 

You can use this method to create a “reveal effect” like you do with the brush tool.  

Let’s use the eraser tool to cut part of our sample image.

Step 1: Select the Eraser Tool from the toolbar or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + E.

Step 2: Draw the part of the image you want to cut (erase). Where you erase is where you cut. 

We’ve just erased some parts of our image to reveal the original object beneath. 

The eraser tool helps you to add more detail to your designs. It comes in handy when combining vector and raster images in a design.

You might mistake the erased part for a stroke, but it’s not. That part of the image is cut out. You can add a different background to see that it’s now transparent.

Final Thoughts

If you want to cut part of an image and use the cut part on another background, then the Pen tool is your best option. If you want to quickly cut part of an image without removing it from the background, then use the Crop Tool

Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comment section. 

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