There are two main methods for cropping or hiding parts of an image in Illustrator: Crop image, which permanently deletes parts of an image, and masking, which lets you edit what is cropped later. Let’s explore both to see how they are different.
Cropping an image with Crop image
With an image either placed (File > Place) or pasted into Illustrator, you can crop it using the Crop image feature. This is useful for cutting off parts of an image for fitting or to improve composition.
- Select the image to be cropped. Click Crop image in the Quick actions section of the Properties panel. An image must be embedded to crop it using this method. If it’s linked, a dialog box with a warning appears. Click OK to embed the image and continue or Cancel to leave the image linked and stop the cropping process.
- Illustrator identifies the visually significant portions of the selected image. A cropping box appears on the image, and you can drag crop handles on the image to remove the parts you don’t want.
- In the Properties panel, while cropping, you can decrease the resolution if you like using the PPI setting. Click Apply and the image is permanently cropped.
Masking an image
Masking an image involves hiding parts of an image with a shape, also called a mask. Masking can be useful because it lets you edit the hidden parts of the image later. Here’s how to mask an image:
- Select the image you want to apply the mask to. Click Mask in the Quick actions section of the Properties panel. A shape is created that is the size and shape of the image. The image and that shape are grouped together as a special kind of group called a ”clip group.” It doesn’t look like anything happened, but you will see a change when you edit the mask or image next.
- With the Selection tool selected, click away from the image and then click back on it to see Clip group at the top of the Properties panel.
Editing the mask
With a mask applied to an image using the Mask command, you can then edit both the mask and the image, the image alone, or just the masking shape.
- With the Selection tool selected, and the masked image selected, click the Edit contents button at the top of the Properties panel to edit the image within the mask. The image is now selected, and you can scale, rotate, move, and replace the image.
- Click the Edit clipping path button at the top of the Properties panel. The mask is now selected, and you can transform it in different ways separate from the image.