How to crop an image in Illustrator


One of the common queries that people ask us, when they’re starting off with Adobe Illustrator, is how to crop an image. Cropping an image is one of the basic tasks that most people expect to get done.

While there is no “Crop tool” in Illustrator, and am sure that you do understand why. Cropping is easy to do then its a bunch of pixels that you need to remove. But in the case of vector artwork its not that simple. Simply removing the anchor points and paths outside the desired area does not sound like a good idea to me. To preserve the design intent, we need to remove, or rather hide or mask, the content that we don’t need. In Illustrator, we have several methods to achieve an image “crop.” While, technically, we won’t be cropping an image, we can hide or mask the areas that we do not want. We can use Masks: Opacity masks and Clipping masks, and Artboards.

Erica Larson, created a series of videos to show you the how to use masks to crop an image.

Cropping images using Opacity Masks

clip-1

Cropping images using Clipping Masks

crop-1

Erica Larson is a BFA Design student at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and an intern with Adobe’s Community Help and Learning group. She hopes to bring the separate pleasures of digital and traditional media together to create work that is tactile and intimate but also takes advantage of the rapid and dynamic communication provided by technology. Erica is inspired by underground comic books, vintage signage and wood type, Japanese food packaging, kittens, Mad Men, Motown, and Herbert Matter.

Cropping using Artboard tool [Added 4/18/2013]

If you want to export to an image format, and use it on the web, there is another nifty way to crop: Use Artboards. The Artboard tool (Shift Control+O) is the simplest way to crop artwork for export, and at the same time preserve the design intent and source. Non-destructive crop, if you will.

artboards

  1. Add and resize the artboard, and then position it over your artwork as desired.
  2. Choose File > Save for Web, and select the desired Artboard

This works as a non-destructive crop. You don’t really crop the artwork, but effectively crop the output. You can even define multiple and overlapping artboards to different outputs from the same artwork.

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  1. #1 by Samia on June 13, 2013 - 10:02 pm

    very disappointing. Cropping is very important while editing a design file. Simply masking it is not a solution, plus it takes a up lot of resource.

  2. #2 by Amy Toussaint on July 12, 2013 - 10:43 pm

    I agree that it’s stupid that CS6 does not have the simple crop tool as CS3…but let’s move onto finding a solution for cropping. What I do it is this: Make clipping mask of your artwork and then “export” to your desktop…BUT be sure to check “All Artboards”…It will save all to the desktop…but the clipped art file is among them.

  3. #3 by Bit Stupid on July 31, 2013 - 9:18 pm

    Thanks for this simple post that actually works. I have seen so many more complex ways of achieving (what the above all rightly identify as something very basic).

    Now I am done my complimenting of the author for helping out us AI nooooobs, the haters above, wise up. The clipping mask method is both simple, quick and really very much more useful than a basic square crop tool.

    Why not just have a basic cropping function? buggered if I know im no graphic designer!!

  4. #4 by Suzanne on August 17, 2013 - 1:24 am

    George :
    I’m sorry to be so direct, but all of you who are saying that you have a way it can be done and then list five to 10 steps you have to do are missing the point of the question and what the remaining people – which is most of us – want:
    WE SIMPLY WANT TO CLICK ON A TOOL AND CROP WHERE WE WANT. PERIOD.
    No steps, no masking – just click on a tool that looks like a pair of scissors and CROP!
    It is typical of Adobe to create a program like Illustrator CS6 that can make your lunch and drive your car but can’t do one of the most basic, fundamental task that is truly needed.

    Chiming in that I totally agree with George … I thought it was just my own unawareness of Illustrator’s tools, but no … it’s a central, perhaps purposeful, flaw in the software.

    • #5 by Sari on December 2, 2013 - 3:38 pm

      yes suzanne ….you are 100% correct….we simply need to know that how can we crop the image………….

  5. #6 by Michael on August 19, 2013 - 6:03 am

    One woud think that an Adobe website instructional video would use VECTOR art not a photograph for the example since this is Illustrator.

  6. #7 by Netify on September 3, 2013 - 6:30 am

    Folks – you’re missing the greater issue: AI is for vector art, PS is too, though often used for raster images like photography – hence the ready crop option; Everything Microsoft is OLE embedded bitmaps of one type or another. If you want point-click easy at your whim, use MS products, but don’t complain about the scaling problems and poor graphical quality. If you’re finished art is ready for cropping, export to eps and do the crop in PS.
    I’m struggling myself with migrating from CS3 to CS6 is one giant leap – but I love the capabilities of vector art in AI – I had forgotten after 10 years of absence how cool it is to be able to edit absolutely everything in the vector format if not flattened.
    Keep learning!

  7. #8 by dacascas on October 28, 2013 - 7:57 pm

    Also you can use Magic Eraser script for automatically crop? It is new tool for illustrator which automatically cuts and deletes paths and shapes outside Artboard.

  8. #9 by Bill on November 15, 2013 - 8:23 am

    Cropping is a really simple operation in two steps:
    - draw a rectangle or shape around the area you want to keep
    - select crop

    It’s just that I believe most people misspell the software’s name.
    For a tutorial how to do it see:
    http://inkscapetutorials.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/inkscape-faq-how-do-i-crop-in-inkscape/

    Then keep creating nice images as against fighting the software.

  9. #10 by Sari on December 2, 2013 - 4:15 pm

    Suzanne :

    George :
    I’m sorry to be so direct, but all of you who are saying that you have a way it can be done and then list five to 10 steps you have to do are missing the point of the question and what the remaining people – which is most of us – want:
    WE SIMPLY WANT TO CLICK ON A TOOL AND CROP WHERE WE WANT. PERIOD.
    No steps, no masking – just click on a tool that looks like a pair of scissors and CROP!
    It is typical of Adobe to create a program like Illustrator CS6 that can make your lunch and drive your car but can’t do one of the most basic, fundamental task that is truly needed.

    Chiming in that I totally agree with George … I thought it was just my own unawareness of Illustrator’s tools, but no … it’s a central, perhaps purposeful, flaw in the software.

  10. #11 by Kevin on December 31, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    Truth be told, you’re using a program that comes as part of a pack. If you’re using Illustrator for what Illustrator is INTENDED then you shouldn’t need the “crop tool” period. Cropping and resizing for print beyond resizing the ACTUAL artwork (not a composite used for print) should be done in Photoshop. You need to keep in mind that Adobe (just as Corel) writes their programs so you’ll use their OTHER programs.

  11. #12 by Tom on January 15, 2014 - 12:41 pm

    Crop may not be “required” but would be extremely useful. If of example you create a large rectangle with a gradient for example to use with a clipping mask, when you go to export it you are not able to export just the visible area. It will either be the full rectangle or the artboard.

    Anyone know a solution to this? Seems like a valid use-case to me

  12. #13 by Tallinn on January 21, 2014 - 8:50 pm

    I’m a complete idiot in Illustrator, but I just used Artboard for cropping and it worked nicely, thanks.
    One correction: keyboard combination for Artboard is Shift+O, not Ctrl+O (this one is for opening an existing file)

    • #14 by Vikrant on January 22, 2014 - 11:23 am

      Thanks for catching that! I’ve made the correction.

  13. #15 by bruce bannan on January 29, 2014 - 8:13 pm

    Sari :
    yes suzanne ….you are 100% correct….we simply need to know that how can we crop the image………….

    cheers m8. needed to know this :) :) :) <3 8==D

  14. #16 by Myla on February 21, 2014 - 3:13 am

    The other capability I am expecting of Illustrator is a Set Transparent tool. It is the magic tool that removes the fill colour off any single colour part of the artwork. MS Publisher and Word can do it, why not illustrator? With this tool, there’s no need to delicately form the clipping mask around intricately shaped object.

  15. #17 by Jutamas on March 7, 2014 - 11:32 pm

    Where is the art board icon, I cannot find it?

  16. #19 by pestalnaker on March 15, 2014 - 1:48 am

    That’s why I think CorelDraw is so much user-friendler than Illustrator. I miss using it.

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