The 2017 release of Adobe Illustrator added a new feature you can use to permanently crop off pixels in raster images. When you’re ready to crop, just select the placed image and click the new Crop Image button in the Control Panel.
If the image is linked when you first click Crop Image, you’ll see a dialog saying you’re about to embed and permanently alter a copy of the original image—leaving the original intact.
If you click Don’t Show Again, you’ll bypass this dialog even after restarting Illustrator. Once you click OK to dismiss the dialog, this new copy of your image will be embedded, and the Crop Image widget is activated.
If your selected image was already embedded then you’ll immediately see the Crop Image widget. With Crop Image active, the area outside of the image bounding box is grayed out. Adjust the bounding box to the desired crop dimensions manually by adjusting the bounding box, or by adjusting parameters in the Control Panel.
Whenever you have a raster image selected, the left side of Illustrator’s Control Panel displays the current effective resolution of your image. For example, if you place a 150 ppi image in your Illustrator file at half the physical size, then the effective resolution of the image in your document will be 300 ppi. With Crop Image you can reduce the resolution of the image numerically or by choosing a preset from the pop-up menu.
You can also numerically reduce the size using the H and W fields and arrows. Once your crop parameters are smaller than the bounding crop image widget, then you can also numerically adjust X and Y reference points, within the bounds of the widget parameters.
When you’re satisfied with your crop adjustments, press Return/Enter on your keyboard or Apply in the Control Panel. To cancel the crop, press ESC on your keyboard, or click Cancel in the Control Panel.
In addition to using Crop Image with raster images, you can also use this on linked vector or mixed raster/vector images (such as native Illustrator AI or PDF files). If you apply Crop Image to linked vector or mixed vector/raster files, you’ll be embedding a raster copy of the image. You can adjust all the same parameters as with any rasters with Crop Image, with a resolution maximum of 300 ppi.
Modifying an image before cropping
There are times when you may wish to modify a file or images before you apply Crop Image. For instance, you might want to crop only the images within a mixed file while retaining the ability to edit the text or vector elements directly in Illustrator. To separately access the images from within a mixed document, first choose Embed to place the vectors within the document. You can now separately select the images with the Direct Selection tool and apply Image Crop.
Cropping multiple images
Another time you might want to modify images before applying Crop Image, is to apply one crop to multiple images. To do this, you need to select any raster or vector images you wish to crop as a single rasterized image, then choose Object > Rasterize. You can then apply the Crop Image command to that new single raster image. If the multiple images were extracted from a mixed document, then you may have to take an extra step before applying Rasterize. Elements from expanded mixed documents are often within nested groups and Clip Groups. To be able to separately crop any of the elements from the other members of a group or a clip group, first Direct Select them and move them to a different layer.
Cropping prior to CC 2017
Before Crop Image was added to Illustrator, cropping a linked raster image required that you Option/Alt-Double-click a linked file in order to be able to edit in Photoshop, you’d then crop and save it again, and then return to Illustrator where you’d update the image. In order to crop an embedded image, you had to unembed it first, or find the original and edit that and re-Place that into Illustrator.
If you have the Rasterino plug-in by Astute Graphics, you already had access much of the functionality of Crop Image. But I think you’ll find that having a simple Control Panel button for cropping is even more convenient.
As rasters have become more and more integrated into how we work in Illustrator (e.g. using raster brushes and raster patterns), the ability to click the Crop Image button in the Control Panel can be a real time-saver—just don’t forget to save off a duplicate of the file before you begin!Tags