Cropping Images in Illustrator

It’s great that you can combine photographs with vector artwork inside Adobe Illustrator. But sometimes you might decide that you want to crop part of a placed photo. Do you then need to go back to Photoshop to crop the image? Heck no! Illustrator is quite capable of cropping placed images (as well as its own objects), and in fact offers several methods for doing so. For a simple crop, you can create a clipping mask from a vector object. You can create more complex cropping effects by using the Transparency panel, along with blending modes to hide parts of an image with an Opacity Mask. You can also create fades and transitions this way, by incorporating gradient fills in the mask.

To demostrate these cropping methods in Illustrator, Adobe Community Help and Learning’s Erica Larson has posted the following YouTube videos. If you’re new to cropping in Illustrator (or just need a refresher on the basics), they’re well worth checking out.

Cropping Images with Clipping Masks

In this video you will learn a quick and easy method for cropping images in Adobe Illustrator CS6 and CS5. Using clipping masks allows you retain the area of the image you cropped out as well as modify the clipping path later on.

Cropping Images with Opacity Masks

In this video you will learn a versatile method for cropping images in Adobe Illustrator CS6 and CS5. Using opacity masks allows you retain the area of the image you cropped out, modify the clipping path later, and use complex blending modes, transparencies, and knockout groups.

Erica Larson is a BFA 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 highly communicative. Erica is inspired by underground comic books, vintage signage and wood type, Japanese food packaging, kittens, Mad Men, Motown, and Herbert Matter. You can reach her at

Posted on: August 23, 2012

Mike Rankin

Mike is the Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and He is also the author of several video training series, including Font Management Essential Training, InDesign FX, and InDesign CC: Interactive Document Fundamentals.

4 Comments on Cropping Images in Illustrator

  1. I some time like to crop my family pic to keep them in a better way or make some albums and i am using a small software for it i have no idea about the illustrator these videos helped me a lot thanks.
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  2. Great job showing how to use these two methods for cropping. You illustrated how easy it is to do and how versatile these tools are. I mainly use the clipping mask but will start playing with the transparency mask. Thank you.

  3. Problem the opacity clipping thing is good unless you actually want to crop the image!!!!!!!! I have a massive *.dwg file that i need to properly crop(remove outside data completely) so my computer can edit the diagram efficiently without lagging loads. Can I crop an image properly in illustrator? If possible I think it should be added into this video.

  4. You can use Magic Eraser script for cropping in Adobe Illustrator. It crop vector artwork automatically

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