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Sometimes you want to add an image to your Illustrator file, to do that go to File > Place, find your image, and click Place. Now my image isn't the right size, so I'm going to have to scale it up. I don't want to distort it, so I'm going to hold down Shift as I drag on the corners. Ultimately, I want it to show behind that checkered artwork and just show through the openings in it. But here is a little problem, it's weigh too big and I don't want it dangling off the artboard. There is no way to directly crop an image in Illustrator, but you can create a mask that will crop it.
So I'm going to get my Rectangle tool and I'm going to draw a rectangle that corresponds to the edges of my artboard. And then I'm going to get my Selection tool and Shift+Click so that I select the image. So I want the rectangle to become a mask for the image, so I need both components selected. And then I go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make, and notice when it turns into a mask that that rectangle is no longer carrying a fill of white and a stroke a black, now that it's just operating as a mask. So I need to move this down from the current layer into the bottom layer and then I need to position it below everything else.
So I grab my little Clipping Group, drag it below the bottommost artwork, and there you go, now it's showing through. I had to make a decision how I'm going to transport that image to somebody else if I want them to work on the Illustrator file. If I go to Window > Links, you can tell that that image is part of this file. But it actually isn't, it's linked to the Illustrator file. So if I were going to send this to someone else to work on, I have to send them the Illustrator file, plus that watercolor.jpg that I've placed in there.
If I don't think they're going to edit it and I just want to make sort of an intact piece that has the image and everything in one spot, I can select that image in the Links panel and then I can choose to embed the image. This is an 8 meg image, when I embed it, I have now increased the file size of my Illustrator by 8 megs. But it means that this file is now completely portable. What if I needed to unembed that image and get it out or what if I decided that I don't want to embed but I want to make sure that I gather up the fonts and the image and everything that constitutes this file for somebody else? There is a third-party product called Scoop that will do both things for you.
It'll unembed an embedded image and also it will package up all your fonts and all your placed artwork, so that you have a little folder with everything in it. How do you decide whether you're going to embed an image or link to the image? Well, it depends on what you think is going to happen to your project after you release it. If you want to ensure that nobody can edit your image, then embed it. If you want to enable them to edit the image later on, then link to it when you ship the job to them.
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