How to crop an image in Adobe Illustrator 2022 in 3 ways

Team of designers crop an image on Adobe illustrator

If you have to design any material for your content, chances are, you need to crop images or graphics. That can be chopping off areas of your material you don’t wish to show. There may be one way to crop in Microsoft Powerpoint or Canva. But how do you crop an image in Adobe Illustrator?

There are three ways you can use to crop in illustrator.

When you crop your images, vector graphics, text and more, you can either remove part of your item completely off from the artwork or only hide the items you’d like to cover, without removing any parts permanently.

Adobe Illustrator is flexible enough to help you with that.

In this tutorial, I’m using Adobe Illustrator 2022.

First method on how to crop an image in Adobe Illustrator using the Crop Image function

The first method on how to crop on illustrator is to use the “Crop Image” function. With this function, you can use it on images or photos only. This function can’t be applied to vector graphics or graphics that are editable using the pen tool in Illustrator.

It can only be applied to images with formats like .eps, .jpg, .png, or rasterized versions. In other words, this function can only be applied to an image that is in one piece.

There is no way you can ungroup this one image into smaller individual parts like how a vector artwork can be separated into.

Alright, let’s get started.

Step 1: Decide how you want your image to look in Illustrator

In this example, we will use this cute cat photo.

how to crop an image in adobe illustrator
Photo of a very cute cat

In this case, if you want to crop away more of the trees and not cut off any part of the cat, make sure the cat stays within the boundaries of the artboard or canvas.

If you want more of the trees to be visible around the cat in the same artboard dimensions, you can shrink the size of the image. You can do that in the following steps:

  1. Click on the image with the “Selection Tool”
  2. Move your cursor to one corner of the image
  3. Press the “Shift” button on your keyboard and drag the corner at the same time to resize the image
How to shrink the size of your image

Step 2: Click on the Selection Tool

Now that you’ve confirmed the size of your image you’d like to crop and what you wish to include in the image, it’s time to select this image that you want to keep.

To be able to select the image, click the “Selection Tool”, which is the black solid arrow you see in the toolbar on the left side of your Illustrator software.

Where to find “selection tool”

If you can’t find the toolbar, go to “Window”, scroll down to “Toolbars” and click “Advanced”.

Advanced toolbar

On a Mac, I click the letter “v” on the keyboard to select the “Selection Tool”

Now you will see your cursor changed to a bold black arrow like this:

Selection tool

Step 3: Click on the image you want to crop

With your selection tool selected, click on the image you’d like to crop.

Your cursor becomes like this:

Selection tool with cursor changed to selecting the image

Step 4: Go to “Object” and click “Crop Image”

Next, go to the menu bar on top and click “Object”.

Then click “Crop Image” in the dropdown menu.

Look for the function “Crop Image”

A prompt will appear as shown below. Click “OK” to go to the next step.

Notification when cropping image

What this prompt is saying is that Illustrator embeds your image after it’s cropped, but your original image file saved in your desktop is not cut up for real. But the image in your Illustrator file is cropped up and the original image size can’t be retrieved via Illustrator itself unless you import the original file back in again.

Step 5: Adjust the cropping area

Once the prompt is gone, you will see a box made up of black dotted lines outlined around your image.

You can adjust the area you’d like to crop by moving the corners and sides of the box. See below to learn how to do this:

Adjust the area where you’d like to crop using the cropping tool

Step 6: Click the “Apply” button to crop your image

After adjusting the box and area to crop your image, click the “Apply” button above your image.

Once you click “Apply”, you will only see the selected cropped image on your Illustrator artboard.

Click apply to crop your image

The second method on how to crop an image in Adobe Illustrator using the Clipping Mask function

Sometimes you don’t want to crop an image with regular shapes but with something irregular. In this case, the above method may not work to your advantage.

Here is another way to crop your image on illustrator. This method is great for both vector graphics and raster images. Even if you want a regular shape cropped image, you can use this method too. The advantage is your original image will still be preserved within your Illustrator file.

Step 1: Draw a shape on where you want to crop

First, do this by clicking on the shape tool and select the shape you want.

Get the shape tool

In this case, I’d like to crop my image into a rectangular shape. If you’d like it to be cropped to a circular shape, simply select the “Ellipse Tool”.

Draw a rectangle

Add the shape you want on the part of the image where you’d like to retain or keep. In other words, after cropping, anything outside the shape will disappear.

If you’d like an irregular shape, you can select the “Pen Tool” to draw up any shape you’d like. Same as when adding the shape to the image, anything within the shape is what you want to keep.

Step 2: Select both image and shape and make “Clipping Mask”

Next, make sure to select both the image and the shape. You can do this by clicking on the image, holding down the “shift” key on the keyboard and clicking on the shape at the same time.

Or, you can use the “selection tool”, click on the dark grey area outside the image and slide across both image and shape. Like this:

After selecting both image and shape, bring your cursor to the top menu and click “Object”. Then, go to “Clipping Mask” in the dropdown menu and click “Make”.

Make clipping mask

Once you click “Make”, you’ve created a cropped image of what you want in the shape you want it to be in, be it a regular or irregular shape.

Cropped in a rectangular shape
Cropped in an irregular shape

Third method on how to crop an image in Adobe Illustrator using the Opacity Masks function

The third method is the most interesting way to crop an image because you can easily adjust the opacity of your image using this method.

You will use the opacity mask function if you’d like some areas to be more or less transparent with the use of colours. If you want something to be completely transparent, you will add a black coloured shape over that area. If you want it to appear completely opaque, you will use white colour.

In this case, we will use white colour to demonstrate how to crop the image you want.

Step 1: Draw a shape on where you want to crop

First, do this by clicking on the shape tool and select the shape you want.

Go to the “Shape Tool”, selecting the rectangle shape.

In this case, I’d like to crop my image into a rectangular shape. If you’d like it to be cropped to a circular shape, simply select the “Ellipse Tool”.

Draw the shape on your image

Add the shape you want on the part of the image where you’d like to retain or keep. In other words, after cropping, anything outside the shape will disappear.

If you’d like an irregular shape, you can select the “Pen Tool” to draw up any shape you’d like. Same as when adding the shape to the image, anything within the shape is what you want to keep.

Step 2: Select both image and shape

Similar to Step 2 in the previous method, you can do select both image and shape by clicking on the image, holding down the “shift” key on the keyboard and clicking on the shape at the same time.

Or, you can use the “selection tool”, click on the dark grey area outside the image and slide across both image and shape.

Select both image and shape

After selecting both the image and shape, both will have a blue outline around them.

Step 3:

With both the image and shape selected, go to the menu at the top and click “Window”. Then, select “Transparency” in the dropdown menu.

Find “Transparency” function

After clicking “Transparency”, a panel pops up like this:

Transparency panel pops up

Check out this animation to see the exact steps in action:

After clicking “Transparency”, click the “Make” button with the “Clip” checked, and your image should have been cropped to the shape you’ve selected.

Click on the “Opacity” section and drag the toggle up and down to see the effect it has on your image. You can stop anywhere along the toggle to create a cropped image with any opacity you desire in Adobe Illustrator.

Are you a pro in cropping an image in Adobe Illustrator now?

I bet you are, with these 3 ways, you don’t have to limit yourself when it comes to spilling your creative juices. After learning these methods of cropping an image on Adobe Illustrator, use the one that works best for your artwork. You may also end up with just one favourite way to crop your image.

Go try it out now.

Featured image from: Online illustrations by Storyset

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