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(Last updated on January 7th, 2021)

Need to crop an image in Adobe Illustrator? You’ve come to the right place. Here, I will give you step-by-step instructions on cropping an image, masking an image, and an extra tutorial at the end where I use the tools in practice.

Want to see how Illustrator compares to Photoshop? Read our in-depth Illustrator vs. Photoshop comparison.

Cropping Images in Illustrator

  • Open your image in Illustrator.
How to Crop an Image in Illustrator 1
  • Next, switch to the Selection tool by clicking the arrow at the top of the toolbar or using the command V.
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  • Click on the image to select it. A blue border will form around the image.
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  • Once your image is selected, the Crop Image button will appear in the toolbar. You can also select it by going to Object > Crop Image.
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  • Once the Crop button is active, a white cropping border will form around your image. From here, you can crop your image to your desired shape.
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As you are cropping, the cropping bar will give you several options to look between.

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PPI displays the current pixels per inch of the image. You can adjust this value by typing it in manually or selecting an option from the drop-down. You can always change it to the original PPI of the image.

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Next, you can choose the reference point for the object. Whenever you make a transformation in Illustrator, the action is performed around the fixed reference point. The default is a central reference point; however, you can change this as you see fit.

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Next, you see the X/Y coordinates of the reference point in the object.

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Next are the width and height of the crop. Here, you can enter the values. Clicking the linking icon in the middle will maintain the current proportion. If you don’t want the proportion maintained, then click again to unlink.

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If you hit apply, the crop will be applied to your image.

Crop an Image using a Clipping Mask

  • Open your image in Illustrator.
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  • Draw a clipping mask over the image using any shape you want. To draw a shape:
    • Use the shape tool. Here, you can draw a rectangle, rounded rectangle, ellipse, polygon, star, or flare shapes.
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  • To create a shape, first, select a shape tool. Then, either drag across the canvas or click into the canvas. If you click on it, a window will pop up asking you for the shape’s dimensions. Enter the data, hit okay, and the shape will appear.
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  • You can also create a shape using the Pen tool. To use, create points around the canvas, connecting them to form the shape.
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  • As a tip, to see the future shape of your mask better, make the shape transparent, and increase the stroke of the shape. This technique will help to visualize the end result of the mask feature.
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  • Now, you have a masking shape. Confirm that the mask shape is above the layer you want to crop. Here, I have the ellipse shape above my picture. You can crop multiple images at once. The images all need to be below the masking shape.
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  • Switch to the Selection tool, either by pressing the black arrow icon or using the command V. Select the layers you want to mask, the masking shape, and the object or photo. A dot will appear to the right of the layers, signifying that they’ve been selected.
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  • To create the clipping mask, either use Control/Command + 7 (Windows or Mac, respectively) or go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Or, you can right-click and select Create Clipping Mask. Doing this will now create a clipping mask that crops all objects below it.
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  • Your mask is now complete.

To delete the mask

  1. Switch to the Selection Tool, clicking the black arrow icon or the command V.
  2. Select your clip group. After clipping the layers, the layers will form a clip group in your layers panel.
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  • With the group selected, go to Object > Clipping Mask > Release or use the command Alt + Control + 7 (Windows) or Option + Command + 7 (Mac). This command will release the mask from the object or image.

To edit the mask

  1. Open up the clip group layer and select just the mask layer.
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  • From here, use the arrow keys to shift the mask to nudge the mask’s cropping area to a different part of the layer below.
  • To resize, drag the box around the mask to change the mask’s shape and size.
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If you have multiple objects under one mask and want to unmask one:

  1. Switch to the Selection tool by either hitting the black arrow icon or the command V.
  2. Open up the clip group and select the layer you want to move out.
  3. Drag the layer out of the clip group. This layer will now be unmasked.

Trim Marks

You can also create trim marks on your image. Trim marks are helpful for printing an image or aligning it for a different Adobe application. To create them:

  • Follow steps 1-3 of Cropping your image to select your object or image. Once selected, go to Object > Create Trim Marks. From here, crop marks will be displayed on your image.
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To delete the crop marks, select the crop mark layer in the layers panel. Select the layer and hit the command Delete or go to Edit > Clear.

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Now, I will provide an extra tutorial to help you apply what you learned and give you ideas on masking and cropping. In this lesson, I will show you how to make the card below.

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  1. First, I’ll start with placing images into my canvas. To place an image, go to File > Place. This command will direct you to choose and place the image on the canvas.
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  • Next, I want to crop the image to fit into the letters of Travel. To do this, I switch to the Selection tool and select the image layer and the text layer, making sure the text layer is above the image.
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  • I then right-click and select Create Clipping Mask. This action will crop the image to the text boundary.
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  • I do the same process for “Anywhere.”
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  • I don’t love the image I picked for “Travel,” so I go ahead and place this mountain image. I drag the mountain’s image into the clip group to replace the previous image, deleting the other image in the group.
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  • At this point, I still want to adjust my image underneath the text. I select the image layer in the clip group, shifting it by pressing my arrows up/down, right/left, and resizing by grabbing the controls until it’s adjusted just right.
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  • And that’s it! We are finished.
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Now you know how to crop an image in Adobe Illustrator. The process is simple and quick.  

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