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How to Cut an Image in Illustrator

Sometimes, while working in Illustrator, you may need to use just a portion of an image. There are two ways of cutting or cropping it, one is using Crop Image and the other one is with a Clipping Mask. We will explore both in the following tutorial.


I’m using a photo of petals from the Conceptual photos collection to illustrate both options.


Using the Crop Image method


Step 1 - Import the image

In Illustrator, create a new document or open the one you want to work with. To do this, go to File > Place (Shift + Command/Control + P), and navigate to where the image/images you want to import are saved.


Place image in Illustrator


Once you have decided on an image select it and click Place.


Select image in Illustrator


Click inside the document as many times as the number of images you are placing.


Click to place in Illustrator


Resize the images if needed. Remember to hold down the Shift key to keep the image proportional.



Step 2 - Cut the image using Crop Image

Right-click on top of the selected image and choose Crop Image. Alternatively, click on the button on the top menu.


Crop image in Illustrator


When the following window pops up, click Ok.


Crop image popup in Illustrator


Select the portion of the image you want to keep by moving the handles of the crop window. Then, click Apply in the top menu.


Apply crop in Illustrator



Using the Clipping Mask method


Step 1 - Define the clipping area

First, you need to define the area you want to keep. To do this, select the Rectangle tool (R).


Rectangle tool in Illustrator


Next, create a rectangle that covers the portion of the image you want to keep. You can use the Ellipse tool (E) or the Pen tool (P) to create different types of shapes. Set Fill and Stroke color to none.


Create rectangle in Illustrator



Step 2 - Make the Clipping Mask

In this step, we will create a clipping mask. Select both the image and path with the Selection tool (V).


Selection tool in Illustrator


Then, right-click on top, and choose Create Clipping Mask or go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command/Control + 7).


Make clipping mask in Illustrator


If you want to modify something, click on the Edit Clipping Path button on the top menu.  This will modify the path that cuts the image.


Edit clipping path in Illustrator


You can also click on Edit Contents to modify the image.


Edit contents in Illustrator


Another way to access Edit Contents is to go to Object > Clipping Mask > Edit Contents.


Edit contents in Illustrator


With the Edit Contents option, the bounding box of the image will appear so you can modify it.


Clipping mask in Illustrator


Remember that you can use other tools like the Ellipse tool (E), or the Pen tool (P) to create different types of shapes in case you need a more precise path.

If you liked this tutorial make sure to check out our guide on using the recolor artwork tool, creating SVGs in Illustrator, and using the blend tool with text in Illustrator.

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