Placing bitmaps into Illustrator

by Design Workshop Sydney


Although Adobe Illustrator is primarily a vector program used in the creation of clean line work and solid colours, we do occasionally want to place bitmap images into our designs. We cover this topic in all our Adobe Illustrator training courses.


First of all we create a new document, A5 in size for example. Now go to the File drop-down menu at the top if the Illustrator interface, and select Place. Having done so, a dialog box opens in which we now navigate to where our bitmap (or raster) image is saved. Illustrator will import various file formats, the most common being the JPEG format. We can choose whether to Link or embed the image at this point. Deselecting Link is recommended if you’re sending the artwork to a client or colleague. When you hit OK the pixel-based image will appear within your Illustrator art-board.

We now need to scale this to fit into the page better, so select the image with the Selection tool (the black arrow), and double-click on the Scale tool to open the dialog box with scaling options. And hit OK to close.


Note up in the Control panel we see the Mask button – clicking this will create a frame or group. Double-click on this group to resize the frame. Then right-click on the image and choose Release. To clip around the bitmap image you can put some vector artwork on top of the photo and right-click to select Arrange and Bring to Front. The example here is of a snowflake shape over a snow scene.

Note that the vector artwork must be on top of the pixel image to cut it out – it’s a bit like a cookie cutter. Then select both images and right-click to choose Clipping Mask and Make.

It’s now possible to use the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) to move the pixel image content within the vector frame. Note that it’s also possible to  copy and paste this object into Flash, the Adobe software for creating vector-based animations. Another feature worth noting is the Opacity Mask in Illustrator.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or self-taught, our courses will help you gain self-confidence in your Illustrator workflow, as well as adding to your professional skill-set. See many examples of our Illustrator clients’ work on our Facebook page.

Other related Illustrator Blog Posts:
Illustrator workspace
Illustrator basics
Illustrator clipping masks
Illustrator live trace
Illustrator brushes