How to subtract a shape from a picture without using Clipping Mask?

I don't want to use Clipping Mask because it lefts a bouding box instead permanent crop.

See: Left image with bounding box (Preview mode) and Right image in (Outline mode) Image

I should use Intersect from Pathfinder, but it just works on two shapes and I want to do it with a picture and a shape.

Clipping Mask: Object -> Clipping Mask -> Make is the only way?

Edit 1: I could export the clipped image and after import it, but I am searching for a more elegant way.

1 Answer 1


Yes, Clipping Masks or Opacity Masks are the only way.

Illustrator is not a raster image editor. You can not easily crop or change the shape of an embedded or linked raster image within Illustrator.

Newer versions of Illustrator would not show the rectangle outside the clipping mask. And there are third party plug ins like Rasterino that bring some raster cropping functionality into Illustrator.

There is a trick you can use within Illustrator. . .

Rather than making a clipping mask

  • Draw the shape you want the mask to be
  • Fill the shape with white and set the opacity of the shape to 0% using the Transparency Panel.
  • Select the raster image and the shape and choose Object > Flatten Transparency.

This will essentially cut a hole in the raster image which matches the shape. Just delete the remaining portions of the raster image you don't want.

  • WOW! Thank you a lot for answering me! By the way, Rasterino could solve this? @Scott
    – richardaum
    Feb 19, 2015 at 16:37
  • Yes Rasterino allows you to crop and manipulate raster images to a degree within Illustrator.
    – Scott
    Feb 19, 2015 at 16:40
  • OMG. Your trick really worked. Thank you <3
    – richardaum
    Feb 19, 2015 at 17:18
  • I was not able to accomplish this with the Flatten Transparency trick, but I'm sure it is something I am doing. The poster's original Clipping Mask solution still worked for me. I used a Ellipse tool to draw a circle, lay it centered on top of an image I had pasted in an resized, and then set it's transparency to 0 on top of the pasted image, selected both, and then Object -> Flattern Transparency with no effect. Illustrator CC
    – netpoetica
    Aug 25, 2016 at 16:12

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