Pretty basic concept. I have a large object, and only want a sub-section of said object. In PS I would just use rectangle tool to select the area I want and click copy, however in Illustrator I don't see this same type of functionality.

What would be the easiest way to do this? Example. I have a picture of a snowman, and instead of the entire thing, I just want from the head up.

  • Could plz place a screenshot. Probably with particular task you'll get more specific answers. – Ilan Aug 28 '14 at 6:08

Fundamentally this just isn't how Illustrator, or vector applications in general, operate.

Think of vector artwork as pieces of construction paper. You can't simply erase part of a piece of paper. You have to cut it then remove the cut section. This is how you would remove part of an object or group of objects in Illustrator. Features such as the Pathfinder Panel and Shape Builder Tool can make this "cutting" easier. There are a great many tutorials for these features on the web if you search.

One other possible method would be to use a Clipping Mask to hide the portion of the art you do not want visible. This is often helpful if the artwork contains many pieces or is very complex and cutting would cause either a change in the overall appearance or be to difficult to perform accurately.

  • Simply draw a shape around the area you want to keep visible
  • Select that shape and the artwork
  • Choose Object > Clipping Mask > Make from the menu.
  • I'll give it a shot. Thanks for the analogy as well, it helped. – Mike Purcell Aug 28 '14 at 7:03
  • I drew a rectangle around the head of the snowman, then selected both the rectangle and the object, then clicked Object > Clipping Mask > Make and now it only has the head of the snowman filled in, but the body is not. How do I copy only the head as a new object into a new .ai file? – Mike Purcell Aug 28 '14 at 18:28
  • Hi @MikePurcell, unfortunately you're exploring the basic operations of the application and there is generally far, far, far, too much to cover in a simple Q&A format. You should spend some time going over basic Illustrator tutorials to get a grasp of the tools and how they work. I can't provide a blanket answer for "how to move the head" I don't know how the file is constructed. – Scott Aug 28 '14 at 18:31
  • No problem, thanks for the response tho, I was able to get it to a point where I could hide the body. – Mike Purcell Aug 28 '14 at 18:42

Just came across this question as I was looking to do the same thing. Building on the answers above, here is a solution that worked for me. Leaving this answer behind for someone trying to solve the same problem.

  1. Copy the object you want to clip from to create a duplicate image. I'd suggest putting this duplicate image somewhere else on the desktop, potentially off the artboard you are working on.
  2. Use the rectangle tool to create a box and place that box over the portion of the duplicate image that you want to extract (you should be able to do this with any shape you want - there's nothing magical about rectangles)
  3. Select BOTH the duplicate image and the rectangle. Then right click and select make clipping mask. This will effectively obscure any part of the duplicate image that wasn't covered by the rectangle.

Now you will have your original image, and a subset of the original image as a separate object that you can place on the artboard.

  • 1
    This is pretty much exactly what I suggested at the end of my answer. Note that a clipping mask does not alter the original artwork. There's no need to store duplicate artwork anywhere. You can always remove the clipping mask and you're right back to where you started. – Scott Dec 18 '20 at 18:49
  • Thanks - that's useful. I'm not an Illustrator power user by any means, so it's good to know this. In my specific case, I made the duplicate because I needed to put the clipping mask on top of a piece of the original artwork. It may be that I took an unnecessary step though. By the way, it was your answer discussing clipping mask is what put me on the right path in the first place. – John Strohecker Dec 23 '20 at 1:28
  • Thanks John Strohecker,it works like a charm. -Henrik Simonsen – Henrik Simonsen Mar 30 at 16:26

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