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


Cropping images using Clipping Masks


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.


  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.


  1. #1 by Jack on June 19, 2014 - 9:12 pm

    If you’re trying to crop an image to the size of your artboard, you can open the Illustrator file you want to crop in Photoshop (assuming you have both). One of the options when you import the file is “Crop to:” with a drop down menu. Select “Bounding Box” and that automatically crops the image to the size of your artboard.

  2. #2 by Colleen Kielton on June 22, 2014 - 3:58 am

    got it. Open Id, crop your image. Then drag and drop into your file in Ai

  3. #3 by aeamonaco on August 22, 2014 - 7:25 pm

    Does this crop function work in Ai and in Id ?
    Can’t seem to export to another format than the one i am working on.
    What you do think ?

  4. #4 by Rob Williams on August 28, 2014 - 7:49 pm

    Is there any way I can crop in a 3d mode, this is very simple cropping even it can be done in mspaint.

  5. #5 by Jason on October 1, 2014 - 1:51 am

    This was helpful I always wished illustrator could be just like photo shop crop tool. I do get the reason why though.

  6. #6 by Artculturemusic on November 28, 2014 - 6:53 pm

    Hi, thank you for your advices ! I always cropped my images on A. photoshop because i won’t be able to use adobe indesign with all his functions and that’s too bad. So, now I can use it with fluent creativity. Thank you.

  7. #7 by Tim on December 21, 2014 - 6:24 am

    I am using Illustrator CS Version 15.1.0. My Transparency Panel is exactly the same as the one in your video but I do not have a “Make Mask” option. I am confused because I saw this same Cropping with Clipping Mask” on Adobe TV and it said this method would work in both CS5 and CS6. Any help is appreciated.

  8. #8 by Pamela Frost Dennis on February 8, 2015 - 3:23 am

    I tried Amy’s (#2 comment) suggestion, and it worked some of the time for me. Then I found a very simple way to do it If you work on a MAC. The solution uses “Preview”.
    Here is a link to the easy instructions:

  9. #9 by Evelyn on March 15, 2015 - 2:49 am

    For me the most easy way is to use artboard tool, but of course that come use some constraints. But is pretty fast comparing to others

  10. #10 by nemrut on May 28, 2015 - 2:59 pm

    this is bs, why cant it work like InDesign which is vector based?

  11. #11 by Amanda on June 8, 2015 - 9:31 am

    No. I don’t understand why. It would be so much easier if there was just a legitimate crop tool so you could skip all these extra steps. Not to mention all these other options aren’t going to work if you need to export as jpeg or png. the hidden area of the image still shows up, even if its just a blank space.

  12. #12 by Pertti on June 17, 2015 - 5:22 pm

    Clipping mask video says that it’s not destructive even for vectors, but sadly it is.

  13. #13 by Terri on June 29, 2015 - 5:16 am

    Cropping can also be done online on the website: without any software, for example, from mobile phone with internet connection.

  14. #14 by Eric T. on September 7, 2015 - 1:07 am

    Does Illustrator CS2 have the Art board Tool?

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