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How to add an image in illustrator

Creating an SVG file, or Scalable Vector Graphics file, to use for your website can be done with fairly simple design tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or Corel Draw.

If you are comfortable and experienced with coding, you can choose to instead code it yourself through your preferred code editor.

Either way, there are a handful of things to keep in mind and look out for when you are creating an SVG file and, later on, how to optimize it for speed.

If you want to learn about why the optimization process is a good idea, read our article on how the SVG file can enhancing web performance.

Ok, now let’s get to Illustrator and create an SVG file like a pro!

Create an SVG file in Adobe Illustrator

Step 1:

If you are looking to create an SVG file and use it on your website, then open up any logo/illustration in an .ai or .eps file

Keep in mind, just because you can do something on Illustrator or even Photoshop, doesn’t mean that the SVG file will also be able to do it. If you’re working with a wide variety of blend modes, gradients, or highly unusual fonts, it may not work in SVG.

The first thing to do is click on File > Save As. Decide where you want to save it on your computer, and give it whatever name you choose.

Next, in the “Format” box, choose SVG. Then, click Save.

How to add an image in illustrator

Step 2:

After you save it, a dialog box will pop up to give you a variety of options.

Click on the button in the lower left-hand corner labeled “More Options” in order to see the entire range of options to set up the file.

Make sure that your SVG Profiles say “SVG 1.1” and under Fonts > Type, the default will always be SVG, since that is what you are creating.

The next option, Fonts > Subsetting, has a number of choices you can decide on.

If you want to, you can select the default to System Fonts, which will provide you with replacement fonts that are in the system.

How to add an image in illustrator

In the above screenshot, you can see that there are other choices as well for Fonts > Subsetting.

If you choose “Only Glyphs Used” or “All Glyphs” and this will take the fonts that you have used and put them within the SVG file (however, this won’t always work).

To try and combat that, you can go back to the “Type” section, and instead of selecting the default, you can choose “Convert to Outline.”

This is an alternative choice instead of embedding the font. However, it does make the file less accessible because it will no longer be in a text form.

It can also make it into a larger file size.

Note: If you are looking to make your SVG file more accessible read our tutorial on How to Make Your SVG File Accessible for Screen Readers.

Step 3:

Next, to keep it simple, in the Advanced Options > CSS properties, choose “Presentation Attributes.”

Also, check the Responsive option.

How to add an image in illustrator

This is hugely important because this selection deletes the width and height in the XML code of your SVG file.

By turning on Responsive, it allows the file to be responsive to any screen size and ignore the image width and height properties.

Step 4:

Click “OK” in the lower right-hand corner to create a size-responsive, SVG file.

After finalizing, it’s a good practice to go back and double check. So, just open the file and double check that it’s how you want it to be.

And that’s all there is to it!

Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Files for Speed

Once you have created an SVG file, the only issue left is that it won’t be fully optimized coming right out of whatever program you created it in.

So, the next step is to properly optimize it.

To do that, read our tutorial on How to Optimize an SVG File Step-by-Step and please share your thoughts in the comments section!

How to add an image in illustrator

Need to cut out an image in Illustrator quickly? The most effective way to do it is by creating a clipping mask. Even if you’re a complete beginner, this simple tutorial will teach you how to cut out an image in Illustrator in 8 steps.

1. Import the Image

First, import the image of choice into the Illustrator artboard.

How to add an image in illustrator

2. Add a New Layer

Find the “Create New Layer” button at the bottom of the Layers Panel and click it. This will create a second layer. Then, lock the original layer, to prevent you from editing and selecting it. In order to do this, click on the little checkbox next to the layer. A padlock icon will appear indicating that it has been locked.

How to add an image in illustrator

3. Remove the Fill

Select the second layer and remove the fill by clicking the corresponding button at the bottom of the Tools panel.

How to add an image in illustrator

4. Select the Object

Find the Pen Tool(P) in the toolbar on the left. Use it to select your object. To create straight lines, simply click on the artboard. To create Bezier curves, click, and drag.

How to add an image in illustrator

5. Move the Second Layer

Select the second layer and move it below the original layer.

How to add an image in illustrator

6. Select All

Now, go to “Select” and press “All”. You can also use the shortcut – Ctrl+A/Cmd+A.

How to add an image in illustrator

7. Make a Clipping Mask

Finally, we’ll have to create a clipping mask. Find “Object” in the main menu, navigate to “Clipping Mask”, and click “Make”. For those who prefer using shortcuts, press the Ctrl+7/Cmd+7 key combination.

The best part about this method is that even if you don’t get the mask exactly right the first time around, you can always go back at any point of your editing and refine it.

How to add an image in illustrator

8. Done! Save the File

Once you have done that, the image will be cut out. You’ve successfully completed the tutorial!

How to add an image in illustrator

Now you know how to cut out an image in Illustrator quickly and with minimal effort. This skill will help you follow the most popular Adobe Illustrator tutorials with ease. You can also learn how to vectorize an image in Illustrator to be able to use your image in any size without losing quality.

How to add an image in illustrator

Ok..How to embed images in Illustrator, seems simple right? Well even though this is an Illustrator Basics tutorial, this is something that alot of people get stuck with, and if you jump on the forums you’ll see many questions regarding this topic.

That’s where I come in, Mr Eddy Creative, Mr Layerform himself…I’m here to teach you the magic, to pass on the wisdom of Illustrator!

So sit back, go grab yourself a cup of coffee, and lets get started! 🙂

How to Embed Images in Illustrator – The Basics

Ok so when it comes to embedding images for Illustrator there are a few basic ways to accomplish it. However, before starting, try to make sure that your images are high quality, ideally 300dpi before embedding.

Illustrator is a vector program, unlike Photoshop, and importing high quality rasterised images is an absolute must.

File > Place

This is widely considered the most popular technique when considering how to embed images in illustrator. Its a feature that goes wayyyyy back with the various illustrator versions and unless you’re a newbie, you wont be surprised.

With that being said, this tutorial is for newbies. So what you’ll want to do is start a new document (File > New) and at the very least have one layer, like our set up below.

How to add an image in illustrator

From here, you’ll want to go to File > Place and then proceed to locate your document, ideally in a .JPG or .PNG format in high resolution.

How to add an image in illustrator

Select it and then click on the canvas, you’ll typically find it just slaps it in there, so you’ll have to resize it to suit the canvas size.

How to add an image in illustrator

Voila! You just learnt the main way how to embed images in illustrator. But are there any other ways? Of course, you can always simply copy and paste, but image compression will not be as good as simply doing the above and going to file > place in illustrator, unfortunately!

Another way! Window > Links > Embed Images

Of course, this is a Layerform tutorial, so we’ll show you as many ways as possible to achieve the end goal baby!

This wont apply to all of your project files, but for certain projects for certain clients you’ll want to keep file sizes low, and keep flexibility high. Creating linked content means that if you edit the placed file in Photoshop for example, the linked item will update in Illustrator (once placed) as its not fully embedded, but rather “linked”.

The process is essentially the same, you need to go to File > Place How to embed images in illustrator – Completed it mate!

There we have it, a few ways in which you can embed images in illustrator, I hope you learnt something new today, thanks for tuning in, and keep an eye out for our new video tutorials starting soon, I’ll be creating a Beginner / Basics set of tutorials on Photoshop and Illustrator! See you soon!

When creating complex artwork, it’s a challenge to keep track of all the items in your document window. Small items get hidden under larger items, and selecting artwork becomes difficult. Layers provide a way to manage all the items that make up your artwork. Think of layers as clear folders that contain artwork. If you reshuffle the folders, you change the stacking order of the items in your artwork. You can move items between folders and create subfolders within folders.

The structure of layers in your document can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. By default, all items are organized in a single, parent layer. However, you can create new layers and move items into them, or move elements from one layer to another at any time.

The Layers panel provides an easy way to select, hide, lock, and change the appearance attributes of artwork. You can even create template layers, which you can use to trace artwork, and exchange layers with Photoshop.

For a video about keeping your artwork flexible and organized by using layers in your document, see Organize artwork with layers.

  • You use the Layers panel (Window > Layers) to list, organize, and edit the objects in a document. By default, every new document contains one layer, and each object you create is listed under that layer. However, you can create new layers and rearrange items to best suit your needs.
  • By default, Illustrator assigns a unique color (up to nine colors) to each layer in the Layers panel. The color displays next to the layer name in the panel. The same color displays in the illustration window in the bounding box, path, anchor points, and center point of a selected object. You can use this color to quickly locate an object’s corresponding layer in the Layers panel, and you can change the layer color to suit your needs.
  • When an item in the Layers panel contains other items, a triangle appears to the left of the item’s name. Click the triangle to show or hide the contents. If no triangle appears, the item contains no additional items.

How to add an image in illustratorLayers panel

A. Visibility column B. Edit column C. Target column D. Selection column

The Layers panel provides columns to the left and right of the listings. Click in a column to control the following characteristics:

Indicates whether items in the layers are visible or hidden (blank space), or whether they are template layers or outline layers.

Indicates whether items are locked or unlocked. The lock icon indicates that the item is locked and cannot be edited; a blank space indicates that the item is unlocked and can be edited.

Indicates whether items are targeted for application of effects and edit attributes in the Appearance panel. When the target button appears as a double ring icon (either or ), the item is targeted; a single ring icon indicates that the item is not targeted.

Indicates whether items are selected. A color box appears when an item is selected. If an item, such as a layer or group, contains some objects that are selected and other objects that are unselected, a smaller selection color box appears next to the parent item. If all of the objects within the parent item are selected, the selection color boxes are the same size as the marks that appear next to selected objects.

You can use the Layers panel to display some items as outlines and other items as they will appear in the final artwork. You also can dim linked images and bitmap objects to make it easier to edit artwork on top of the image. This is especially useful when tracing a bitmap image.

How to add an image in illustratorDisplay options for layered artwork

A. Object displayed in Outline view B. Bitmap object dimmed to 50% C. Selected object displayed in Preview view

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In Illustrator CC, what is the way to create a simple border around a rectangular image? Thanks!

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You can create separate rectangular shape and use it as a mask and border for the image.
Create rectangular shape, be sure it is above the image. Select the shape and the image, and use Object > Clipping Mask > Make command (Cmd+7 / Ctrl+7)

Then you have to select the mask (rectangular frame) only using ‘Direct Selection’ and choose color and weight in the Stroke panel.

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Also it is possible to create a border without adding new objects but using effects in Appearance panel.

In this way we need to use ‘Add new stroke’ button in Appearance panel. Then select this Stroke in the panel and click on ‘Fx’ button there, find in the list and add Convert to shape > Rectangle effect. In effect options just use ‘Relative’ size instead of ‘absolute’ values.
I’m not sure that this way is easier But it also works

Welcome to another installment of LabelValue.com’s Design Mini-Series. These design-focused blog posts are designed (see what we did there) to give you tips, tricks and valuable insight from our team of graphic designers here at LabelValue.

View all of our design mini-series:

  • Tip 1:How to Trace Objects with the Pen Tool
  • Tip 2:How to Equally Duplicate a Shape Around A Circle
  • Tip 3:How to Link and Embed Images
  • Tip 4:How to use the Align Tool in Adobe Illustrator
  • Tip 5:How to Set up Document Bleeds in Adobe Illustrator
  • Tip 6:How to Create a Clipping Mask using Adobe Illustrator
  • Tip 7:How to Type on a Circle Using the Path Tool in Adobe Illustrator
  • Tip 8:How to Use the Shape Builder Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Our design-focused tutorials are all about learning the “ins-and-outs” of the Adobe Creative Suite. Be sure to check back frequently, as we are always adding new design oriented content and posts.

Is Your Label Art Print-Ready?

You’ve done the research, created your product or service, and have made some really awesome labels or stickers for your business – hopefully with the help of our tutorials. Now you’re ready to print, but you’re not sure where to start. We know the process of printing your labels or stickers can be overwhelming. Dealing with the quote process, sending your files to print, waiting to hear back from sales people, and the agonizing wait of turnaround time.

Luckily for you, at LabelValue, you can skip all of that. With our online label tool InstaProof you can instantly quote, upload and order your labels. And when you place your order, you’re instantly put into the production queue. No more waiting, or back and forth – just your labels, printed exactly the way you like them.

How Do I Scale and Resize Objects in Adobe Illustrator to a Specific Size?

In this tutorial, we will be going over one of the basic functions of Adobe Illustrator – scaling an object, image or artwork to a specific size. Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based design software. Meaning you can infinitely scale vector artwork without any loss in quality or resolution.

This differs from raster-based artwork like images, as these are pixel based. Pixel-based objects degrade in quality as they are enlarged, because you are stretching each pixel. Vector objects are created by using 2D points connected by paths, lines and curves. Each of these points are then plotted along an X and Y axis, which allows for the infinite scaling of the object.

We will show you how to scale and resize objects in Illustrator proportionate to the ratio of the original object. When scaling objects, you want to avoid skewing, or changing the original width x height ratio – unless absolutely necessary, as this changes the look and overall shape of the object from the original size.

How to add an image in illustrator

STEP 1: It is important to note that Illustrator allows you to scale in a variety of units of measurement. In this tutorial we will be using inches, however you can also scale in whichever measurement best suits the project you are working on. To change your unit of measurement in Illustrator quickly, press CTRL + R (CMD + R on a Mac) to bring up your rulers tool. You will see it appear on the left and top side of your working area in Illustrator. To change the measurement, move your mouse over top of the ruler, and right click. Here you will see a pop-up appear of different units of measurement. Select your desired unit of measure, and now all your measurements will be in that unit. You can change this unit of measure at any time.

How to add an image in illustrator

STEP 2: Select all parts of your artwork you want to scale with the selection tool, by and clicking and dragging. We are using a vector illustration of a dog and some text for our example. When scaling, you always want to work with vector artwork, as raster-based images will lose quality the larger you scale. Once you select all parts of your artwork you want to scale, right click and select group in the menu. Doing this makes all selected art into one “object” – keeping the proportions of your artwork maintained.

How to add an image in illustrator

STEP 3: To scale to a certain size, we can use the transform tool. Go to your top tool bar, navigate to Window > Transform. This will open the transform tool.

How to add an image in illustrator

STEP 4: With your artwork you want to scale selected, navigate to the transform pop-up toolbar you just opened. Make sure the “Constrain Width and Height Proportions” button is activated. This makes sure when you scale your artwork, the dimensions remain proportionate. Enter your desired height, we will enter 70” here, and press enter. Your artwork then scale proportionately so your artwork remains correct.

How to add an image in illustrator

STEP 5: Scaling also works in reverse – meaning we can make vector based images smaller without losing quality also. Make a copy of your grouped object (CTRL + C), and paste it (CTRL + P) next to your original. To reduce the size of the image, we will use the transform tool again. Select your grouped artwork you just pasted into the document. To reduce in size, begin by navigating to the transform tool. Make sure the “Constrain Width and Height Proportions” button is active. Enter the desired height, here we will use 65.5 inches. Illustrator automatically scales the width down proportionate to the height.

How to add an image in illustrator

Step 6: Please note, this step is not necessary, we are comparing our original enlarged object to our reduced object to show that our proportions have remained the same.

How to add an image in illustrator

STEP 7: We can now use the align tools within Illustrator to confirm our proportions are scaled correctly on the resized version. To do this, use the selection tool and drag over both the original and resized version. Navigate to Window > and then select “Align”. This will open the align toolbar in Illustrator. Select Align to Artboard, and then align both grouped artworks to horizontal and vertical center. You can now visually see that the artwork has kept its original proportions and is smaller by half an inch.

While somewhat basic, knowing how to scale and resize objects in Adobe Illustrator to a specific size is extremely important. It allows you to maintain your artwork’s original width and height proportions regardless of size without skewing or affecting the final design.

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I’m having a problem to add a stroke “frame” around my tiff image in Illustrator. My image is a “traced picture” from Photoshop. I used the following technique:-

  1. Choose File > Place and select an image to place into Illustrator document.
  2. The image is selected. Open Appearance panel and from the Appearance panel flyout menu, choose Add New Stroke.
  3. With the Stroke highlighted in the Appearance panel, choose Effect > Path > Outline Object.
  4. However, the result I got was the stroke around the image NOT the frame around the image.

How do I achieve it. Any help and tips are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Can you provide screenshots of your 1) results achieved and your 2) desired results?

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It sounds as if you are simply placing a raster image in Illy and trying to work on that. Do you actually see the stroke round the image or does it only appear in the Appearance panel? What does the Layers panel have to say about the object(s)?

At least in an older version you will have to create a separate vector object.

1) Select the image,

2) Create a rectangle of the same size by clicking with the Rectangle Tool and inserting the W and H seen in the Transform panel,

3) Align the rectangle with the image (Align>Align Objects),

4) With the frame object stroke selected, you may Object>Path>Offset Path by the desired width of the frame,

5) Select both rectangles and Object>Compound Path>Make.

To avoid a separate stroke, you may use a fill/nostroke rectangle in 2).

As an alternative to 4) + 5), you may use a stroke/nofill rectangle and move the stroke outwards by half the desired width of the frame (in CS5 you may do it while creating the rectangle) and Object/Effect>Path>Outline Stroke.

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Things you did are right, no prob with those. u need one more step to go on

after u did outline object, just go to Object>Expand Appearance

hope it will help u..

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These are 2 screen shots I managed to get. The 1st one was the orginal tiff placed and result is shown in 2nd screen shot. The stroke is round the image NOT the rectangle frame. Pls adv. Thanks a lot.

How to add an image in illustrator

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The best answer is tio use Jacob Bugge’s suggestions listed above which is similar to what I would have recommended–using a separate non-filled stroked rectangle to simulate a frame. You can even add 3D effects to a rectangle this way to simulate a 3D frame with a little more work involved, of course–but this is also possible.

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If I understood it in the right way, that you wish to have the frame following the Bounding Box (rectangle forming the boundary), I believe my post #2 holds the answer.

Edit: Hi markerline.

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Hi Jacob, I guess we replied about the same time .

That seems to happen quite often in adobe forums.

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So I have to create a rectangle of the same size by clicking with the Rectangle Tool? Unless it is a placed image without traced then adding stroke will accomplish my desired result. Thanks a lot.

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How do I achieve it.

The image you’re using includes an alpha channel mask (i.e.; white pixels are treated as “transparent”). If the image were not transparent, the Outline Object effect would do what you want.

Regardless, it’s safer (in terms of accuracy) to just draw a rectangle than to rely on this effect.

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Thanks for all the effort and time looking at my problem. I will follow the instruction to get it done, thanks again.

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For my part you are welcome, David.

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Technique #1: Use a Mask
This technique requires Illustrator CS3 and works only when your keyline will be rectangular in shape.

  1. Choose File > Place and choose an image to place into your Illustrator document. You can either Link or Embed the image. Once you’ve chosen the image, click the Place button.
  2. The image is selected (if your image already exists in your document, select it now), so if you look in your Control panel at the top of the screen, you’ll see a button labeled “MASK”. Click on it. This creates a mask at the exact bounds of the image.
  3. Press the “D” key for Default. This gives the mask a black 1 pt stroke attribute. Adjust the stroke per your design needs.

NOTE: An additional benefit to this method of using a mask is that you now have the elements in place to simulate a “frame and image” paradigm like InDesign. Once you’ve created your mask, you can decide to “crop” your image by double clicking anywhere on the photo. This will put you into Isolation Mode. Now click on the frame edge and resize at will. When you’re done, double click outside the image to exit isolation mode and continue working. This method works wonderfully when you’re using the Selection tool (black arrow) and have the Bounding Box option turned on (in the View menu).

Technique #2: Use an Effect
At first, it may seem that applying a keyline with the use of an Effect is a tedious process. But we all know that once we’ve applied an effect, we can store it as a Graphic Style, at which point applying our keyline will become a single click. Go ahead, ask me why Adobe doesn’t ship Illustrator with such an effect as a default setting in the NDPs (New Document Profiles). Go ahead, ask me why Adobe doesn’t allow us to assign keyboard shortcuts to styles like InDesign does. I don’t have answers to either of those questions (sorry). But let’s get on with the styles, shall we?

There are two separate effects that we can use, and each provides a different benefit.

How to add an image in illustrator

Learning how to vectorize an image in Illustrator is one of the most requested Adobe Illustrator tutorials. Vectorization helps avoid problems with scaling and allows you to use your image in any size without losing quality. Follow this easy tutorial to convert raster to vector in 5 steps.

1. Activate the Image Trace Preview

First, launch Illustrator. Next, find the Window tab at the top. From the dropdown window select Image Trace.

In a newly appeared window, check the Preview box to look at your image in vector format in real-time. It’s ok if your image doesn’t look good right away, we’ll fix this is the following steps.

How to add an image in illustrator

2. Choose the Mode

The next step of learning how to vectorize in Illustrator is choosing the mode. In the Image Trace panel, find the Mode drop down menu, and choose the mode that best suits your design. Modes can be grayscale, black and white, or color.

Once your mode has been set, you’ll have to adjust the color density with the slider below. If the value is low, your image will look too simple, and if it’s too high it will look to complex. Choose whatever fits your image or your unique style better.

Depending on the Mode you selected, you’ll have a different slider, but their functionality is similar:

Colors – in Color Mode

Grays – in Grayscale Mode

Threshold – in Black and White Mode

If you open the Advanced menu below, you’ll see even more options for adjusting the tracing result.

How to add an image in illustrator

3. Ungroup Color Shapes

After that right-click on your image. Go to the Object tab and select Ungroup from the dropdown menu. If you like using shortcuts for quicker access, you can also press Shift+Ctrl+G/Shift+Cmd+G key combinations. This action will break down your color shapes into individual elements.

How to add an image in illustrator

4. Remove Color Groups You Don’t Like

After your conversion has been complete, you can freely edit the image. If there are any color groups you’d like to remove, click on a shape and go to Select > Same > Fill Color.

How to add an image in illustrator

5. Done! Save the Vector Image

You’ve successfully converted raster image into vector one and learned how to vectorize an image in Illustrator.

How to add an image in illustrator

Need to cut out an image in Illustrator quickly? The most effective way to do it is by creating a clipping mask. Even if you’re a complete beginner, this simple tutorial will teach you how to cut out an image in Illustrator in 8 steps.

1. Import the Image

First, import the image of choice into the Illustrator artboard.

How to add an image in illustrator

2. Add a New Layer

Find the “Create New Layer” button at the bottom of the Layers Panel and click it. This will create a second layer. Then, lock the original layer, to prevent you from editing and selecting it. In order to do this, click on the little checkbox next to the layer. A padlock icon will appear indicating that it has been locked.

How to add an image in illustrator

3. Remove the Fill

Select the second layer and remove the fill by clicking the corresponding button at the bottom of the Tools panel.

How to add an image in illustrator

4. Select the Object

Find the Pen Tool(P) in the toolbar on the left. Use it to select your object. To create straight lines, simply click on the artboard. To create Bezier curves, click, and drag.

How to add an image in illustrator

5. Move the Second Layer

Select the second layer and move it below the original layer.

How to add an image in illustrator

6. Select All

Now, go to “Select” and press “All”. You can also use the shortcut – Ctrl+A/Cmd+A.

How to add an image in illustrator

7. Make a Clipping Mask

Finally, we’ll have to create a clipping mask. Find “Object” in the main menu, navigate to “Clipping Mask”, and click “Make”. For those who prefer using shortcuts, press the Ctrl+7/Cmd+7 key combination.

The best part about this method is that even if you don’t get the mask exactly right the first time around, you can always go back at any point of your editing and refine it.

How to add an image in illustrator

8. Done! Save the File

Once you have done that, the image will be cut out. You’ve successfully completed the tutorial!

How to add an image in illustrator

Now you know how to cut out an image in Illustrator quickly and with minimal effort. This skill will help you follow the most popular Adobe Illustrator tutorials with ease. You can also learn how to vectorize an image in Illustrator to be able to use your image in any size without losing quality.

How to add an image in illustrator

Q. I’m having a problem with Illustrator that seems pretty basic, but I can’t figure it out. I placed a picture into my document, and I want to add a stroke around it. But when I do, the line doesn’t show up. What am I doing wrong?
A. I get this question a lot. Unlike InDesign, which has a concept of frames (and the frames have Fill and Stroke attributes), Illustrator is frameless. A placed image in Illustrator isn’t an object that can have Fills or Strokes. It’s not a vector shape and therefore lacks those attributes.
Most people use the Rectangle tool to draw a shape around the image. But even that’s too much work.
First, it’s important to understand that a placed image is not a vector object and hence, can’t have a fill or stroke attribute. So we’ll need to create another vector object to contain our stroke attribute. But I don’t want to create that object on my own. I want Illustrator to create it for me. There are two ways to accomplish this: have Illustrator automatically create a mask for the image; or use an effect to convert the bounds of the object into a vector object. Both have pros and cons and work better depending on the task at hand.
Technique #1: Use a Mask
This technique requires Illustrator CS3 and works only when your keyline will be rectangular in shape.

  1. Choose File > Place and choose an image to place into your Illustrator document. You can either Link or Embed the image. Once you’ve chosen the image, click the Place button.
  2. The image is selected (if your image already exists in your document, select it now), so if you look in your Control panel at the top of the screen, you’ll see a button labeled “MASK”. Click on it. This creates a mask at the exact bounds of the image.
  3. Press the “D” key for Default. This gives the mask a black 1 pt stroke attribute. Adjust the stroke per your design needs.

NOTE: An additional benefit to this method of using a mask is that you now have the elements in place to simulate a “frame and image” paradigm like InDesign. Once you’ve created your mask, you can decide to “crop” your image by double clicking anywhere on the photo. This will put you into Isolation Mode. Now click on the frame edge and resize at will. When you’re done, double click outside the image to exit isolation mode and continue working. This method works wonderfully when you’re using the Selection tool (black arrow) and have the Bounding Box option turned on (in the View menu).
Technique #2: Use an Effect
At first, it may seem that applying a keyline with the use of an Effect is a tedious process. But we all know that once we’ve applied an effect, we can store it as a Graphic Style, at which point applying our keyline will become a single click. Go ahead, ask me why Adobe doesn’t ship Illustrator with such an effect as a default setting in the NDPs (New Document Profiles). Go ahead, ask me why Adobe doesn’t allow us to assign keyboard shortcuts to styles like InDesign does. I don’t have answers to either of those questions (sorry). But let’s get on with the styles, shall we?
There are two separate effects that we can use, and each provides a different benefit.

  1. Choose File > Place and select an image to place into your Illustrator document. You can either Link or Embed the image. Once you’ve chosen the image, click the Place button.
  2. The image is selected (or if your image already exists in your document, select it). Open your Appearance panel and from the Appearance panel flyout menu, choose Add New Stroke. We can’t see the stroke yet, because all we have is an image. But we’ll change that in short order.
  3. With the Stroke highlighted in the Appearance panel, choose Effect > Convert to Shape > Rectangle. Check the Preview button, select the Relative option, and set both the Extra Width and Extra Height to zero (0). (Be careful not to press Tab after you enter the second value, or it will switch back to Absolute.) Click OK to apply the effect. Style the stroke attribute to match your design preference.
  4. Now make this easier to apply in the future. With the object still selected, open the Graphic Styles panel and click the New Graphic Style button at the bottom of the panel. Give the style an appropriate name. If you then add this style to your NDPs, it will be readily available in all new files that you create.

This technique obviously works only if your keyline is rectangular in shape. But what if your image had transparent areas in it? What if you silhouetted the photo in Photoshop (keeping the background transparent) and placed the PSD into Illustrator? There is a way to apply a stroke to the boundary of the art instead of to the boundary of the entire image. The method I’m about to show you will do just that, and will also do the job for rectangles as well.

  1. Choose File > Place and select an image to place into your Illustrator document. You can either Link or Embed the image. Once you’ve chosen the image, click the Place button.
  2. The image is selected (if your image already exists in your document, select it now). Open your Appearance panel and from the Appearance panel flyout menu, choose Add New Stroke. We can’t see the stroke yet, because all we have is an image. But we’ll change that in short order.
  3. With the Stroke highlighted in the Appearance panel, choose Effect > Path > Outline Object. If you’d like, style the stroke attribute to match your design preference.
  4. To make this easier to apply in the future, with the object still selected, open the Graphic Styles panel and click the New Graphic Style button at the bottom of the panel. Give the style an appropriate name. It’s a good idea to add this style to your NDPs so that it’s readily available in all new files you create.

If you’re applying this last effect to an image with no transparency, only the outside portion of the stroke will become visible. That is, if your stroke weight was set to 1 pt, only .5 pt of the stroke will be visible. To get the full 1 pt stroke, select the Stroke attribute in the Appearance panel and choose Effect > Path > Offset path. Then choose an offset amount that’s half the weight of the stroke. In our example, you would use a .5 pt offset value.
For even more fun, you can combine both of these effects by adding two strokes to your image, giving your transparent images a stroke around the bounds of the artwork as well as a keyline around the bounds of the entire image.