I have created an AI file that contains images that have portions hidden by clipping masks. When I save this AI file as a PDF file, the PDF file contains the full images. Is there a way to save to PDF that will not include the portion of an image that is hidden by clipping masks.

As a corollary to this. If clipping masks isn't the right approach, is there another mechanic that behaves like clipping masks (i.e. I retain the full image in the AI file and I can adjust the size and positioning of the image within the mask) but removes the hidden portions of the image when I save to PDF?

I would like to avoid a permanent clip in the AI file because I may want to adjust it later. I just want the clip to be permanent when I save to PDF.

  • Clipping masks can not actually be expanded in all cases because there is no function that can exactly replicate the rasterizer bound stop it provides. In cases where it can be you need to make stuff way more complicated to match the result thus balooning the file. If you dont want something in your final file just dont put it there, keep two separate files.
    – joojaa
    Feb 15, 2022 at 21:05

3 Answers 3


I don't think there is a way to do this in Illustrator, at least not automatically. If it's is any help to you, InDesign can trim images in frames for export to PDF via a setting in the PDF export dialog.

One possible work around in Illustrator might be to crop* the raster images inside the clipping mask. Basically select the image inside the clipping group and use the Crop Image button, click and drag the crop to just outside the area of the clip.

*Note that cropping in Illustrator is destructive, so you can't edit it later. You could get round that by saving your AI before cropping the images, and crop just before you save as PDF. If you need to reposition the clip or create a new clip, edit the AI file which will contain the whole image.


When you create a PDF from an Illustrator illustration, it is cropped to the artboard. Anything outside the artboard is not saved as part of the PDF. So, if you want to eliminate anything that is outside your clipping mask, change the size of your artboard so that it is the same size as your artboard.

  • This is not true, at least with whatever settings I’m using. Feb 15, 2022 at 20:48
  • 1
    "Change the size of your artboard so it is the same size as your artboard" -- erm... huh????
    – Scott
    Feb 17, 2022 at 22:24
  • Yes, it is right. If you have a artwork, let's say 10 inches in width but the artboard size of illustrator is 8 inches in width, then while you will convert it into PDF, the width of the page will be 8 inches and anything beyond the 8 in (2in here) will be cropped (hidden) in the PDF. May 5, 2023 at 5:50

Take a look if there are some hidden layers that include the full image. Make sure that there are no more layers in the AI file besides the layers that u want to show on the PDF

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