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Tutorial: How to Crop in Illustrator

Cropping gets complex for the beginners as they do not get it done without ruining the whole project. If you've ever used a clipping mask to hide all of the extra artwork that hangs off the edges of your Illustrator art board, and wished you could just get rid of the excess, here's how to crop in Illustrator…

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Step 1

You can skip this step if you already know your document size, but in order to crop all of your excess artwork to the art board, you need to know it's exact size. You can start with a fresh document and enter in your exact dimensions like below, or go to File > Document Setup to check the document size of an existing Illustrator file.

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Step 2

So you have something like the example below with some extra artwork hanging off the edges and you'd like to ‘get rid of the extra.'

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

With the Rectangle Tool, click once on the art board to bring up the options, and type in the exact same dimensions as your Illustrator document size to create a rectangle that will match your art board. Mine happens to be 350 X 350px.

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork
Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Step 3

You need to make sure your rectangle is on top of everything else. You can do this (with the rectangle selected) by hitting Command/Control + Shift + ], or Right Click on your rectangle and choose Arrange > Bring to Front. Note: If you have more than one layer, this shape must be in the top most layer, and on top of all other shapes.

Step 4

Now you need to align the rectangle exactly to the art board. To do this, open the Align Palette (Window > Align) and make sure “Align to Art board” is checked. CS3 pictured below. CS2 and previous users: you'll find the “Align to Art board” option by clicking on the palette options (the little arrow in the upper right corner of the palette).

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Now, with your rectangle selected, click on these 2 buttons on the Align palette (in any order) to align your shape exactly to the art board.

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Step 5

First make sure that nothing is locked by either looking in your Layers palette, going to Object > Unlock All, or the shortcut: Option + Command + 2 (Mac) Not sure about PC, commentators? Then do a “Select All” (Command/Control + A, Select > All) or select everything with your mouse. So you should now see something like this, with your rectangle perfectly aligned to the art board, everything selected, and the rectangle on the very top.

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Step 6

Open your Pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder) and, with everything still selected, hit this button. (the crop button).

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Done!

You should now have no artwork outside of the document size after the crop. Gotta love the pathfinder 🙂

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

Final product with nothing selected:

Requested Tutorial: Crop Excess Illustrator Artwork

For a non-destructive way to achieve a similar effect, I have a post on “Layer Masking” in Illustrator. It's not the same as a clipping mask, and It gives the same effect as this tutorial without deleting any artwork. Basically a clipping mask with more freedom. Before cropping, you must be assured that which elements do you want to get rid of and which elements would you like to include in your final picture. To achieve this, you must know how to properly align different geometrical figures in Photoshop. You can learn the aligning aspect of the illustrator using the other tutorials given in this blog.

I'm the editor-in-chief of Bittbox.com. I'm a designer and developer by day, and a writer and musician when the feeling strikes. I enjoy vintage advertisements and puzzles with an absurd amount of pieces. Follow me on Twitter.

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