How to Crop in Adobe Photoshop

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May 7, 2021
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  • #1

Using the Crop Tool in Adobe Photoshop​

Cropping photos is probably the most popular task involved with editing images in Photoshop. There are few cases where cropping isn’t an essential step in a photographer’s workflow. It begins like this: open photo, look at it, crop it to size. The thing is, there are many methods of cropping and Photoshop offers a plethora of tools to make your life easier. The era of eyeballing a photo to guess the proper size or aspect ratio is over.

In this post, I’m going to cover a basic introduction of using the crop tool. While this tool may appear rudimentary on the surface, it’s actually quite involved. It’s best to learn what it is and what it offers from the very beginning so you don’t pick up any bad habits. Also, by cropping photos correctly, you’ll save a ton of time.

Where is the Crop Tool?​

If you take a look over to the left inside the Photoshop toolbar, you’ll see an oddly shaped square inside an icon. The icon is the fifth one down the line of tools. If you don’t see something that looks like two corners coming together, simply click and drag the icon to the right. From there, you should see something that looks like what’s in the red circle below.


By the way, the photo I’m using as an example in this post is one that I shot back in 2012. I was experimenting with some macro photography and found a stunning purple iris to take advantage of on my property.

Cropping Non-Destructively​

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. For years, when I first began using Photoshop, I used the marquee tool to crop anything and everything. It’s actually a great tool for cropping. The problem with it is that once you select an area to crop, the rest of the image is gone. It disappears and if you ever want it back again, you can’t have it.

Using the crop tool is a much better choice for cropping because this tool enables you to crop non-destructively. This means that you can open your image in Photoshop, select an area to crop with the crop tool and crop it, all the while saving the remainder of the image for use later on. How do you do this? Well, there’s a check box that appears in the option menu once you click the crop tool icon. I’ll show you where it is in the screenshot below.


The area inside the red circle is the “Delete Cropped Pixels” check box. If you uncheck this box, you’ll save any cropped area within your file, so keep this unchecked.

Free Cropping by Clicking & Dragging​

Once we select the crop tool and uncheck the box I just referred to above, how do we go about selecting the area we’d like to crop? That’s easy. All we need to do is to click and drag any part of the crop tool outline. We can click one side, drag it to where we want and then repeat the process over and over again. There’s no limit to how many times we can click and drag to select the perfect area we’re looking for. In the example below, I merely reduced the size of the entire image to select the center.

If you want to add a bit of speed to your process, I suggest you make use of the corners. If you click and drag a corner, you’ll have the ability to move two sides of the selection area as opposed to only one.


Also, if you size the area you’d like to crop and have it perfect, you can always click inside the crop area to drag your image around.

Actually Cropping Your Image​

Now that we’ve selected the area we’d like to crop out of our image, let’s go ahead and actually crop it. In Photoshop, there are a few methods to accomplish this. First, we can simply click “Enter” on our keyboard. That’s probably the easiest and fastest. By clicking enter, Photoshop will remove any area of your image that’s outside your crop selection. Now, as you may have noticed, I italicized the word “remove” in the previous sentence. By removing, I mean that Photoshop will hide the area you want cropped out. If you work on your photo and then go back to select the crop tool and click around, you’ll see that your entire image is still available for recropping or any adjustments you’d like to make to your crop selection area. Also, if you select your pointer tool, you’ll notice that you can move your full image inside your crop selection area.

If you don’t want to use the keyboard shortcut for cropping, you can always head up to the “Image > Crop” menu and click. This will have the same effect as clicking enter on your keyboard.

Lastly, if you double-click your mouse pointer inside of the crop selection area or click the “check” icon to the right, up in the option menu, you’ll have cropped your image the same way the previous two methods did.


And as one final tip for when you’re dragging your edges around in an attempt to resize the visible area of your image, if you click and hold down the “Shift” key on your keyboard, you’ll lock in the ratio of what you’re currently working on. So if your photo has a ratio dimension of 9 inches wide and 6 inches tall and you click shift while dragging the crop edges, that ratio will be locked in while you work.

Changing the Overlay​

In my previous example screenshots, you most likely noticed that there were some grid lines inside the crop area. Those lines are referred to as an overlay. And so far in this post, I’ve used the “Rule of Thirds” overlay. Never heard of the rule of thirds? If this is the case, you may want to read up on composition when it comes to photography. I wrote a post that covers this topic a while back – it’ll explain everything.

Anyway, if you don’t want to work with this specific overlay or want to shut the overlay off all together, simply click the “Overlay” drop-down box up in the option menu and make an alternative choice. As you can see in the screenshot below, I chose the “Grid” overlay.


Locking in a Crop Aspect Ratio​

I alluded to locking in an aspect ratio in a previous section of this post. That was a simple shortcut method of getting something done quick and dirty. If you’re serious about cropping to a specific ratio, taking advantage of the “Ratio” drop-down box up in the option menu is a much better choice. You’ll have more maneuverability by using this tool.


If you take a look at the choices you’ve got in that drop-down box, you’ll see that many different options are available. Go ahead and click a few of these to play around for a while. The results are interesting.

In general, I don’t use the presets in the drop-down. I tend to know the ratios I work with often and I simply type those ratios into the two boxes to the right of the drop-down menu. If you look closely at the screenshot above, you can see that I typed a “9” in the first box and a “6” in the second. This creates a 9×6 (width x height) ratio that will be locked in as I work. I tend to use this ratio when I resize and crop images for my blogs. For the header intro images on this very website, I use a 9×4 ratio.

If I decided to select the 2:3 crop aspect ratio from the preset menu, my crop area would look something like this:


If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and found it helpful, please share it with a friend. Thanks!


May 7, 2021
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  • #2

The idea of cropping an image and resizing that same image at the same time is initially a challenge to wrap your head around. I already discussed how to crop an image in Photoshop and how to do so with a fixed aspect ratio, but I haven’t discussed how to resize the image using the crop tool yet. That’s what I intend to cover in this post.

To get this job done, only a few steps are involved. Of course, like so much in Photoshop, you can delve into this topic and create a workflow around it as complicated as you’d like, but to keep things simple here, I’ll only cover what I think needs covering.

Check Your Image’s Initial Size​

In this post, I’m going to use another photo from my visit to the “Washington Oaks Gardens State Park” in Palm Coast, Florida. I’m not sure what type of flower this is, but it sure will work out well when it comes time to crop as an example.

When cropping an image to a specific ratio and pixel or inch size, the very first task you need to complete is to check what its current dimensions are. To do this, we need to head up to the “Image > Image Size” menu up towards the top of Photoshop. More specifically, we need to look the image’s physical dimensions as well as its resolution.


In my case, I’ve got a photo that’s 5184px x 3456px at a resolution of 72dpi. This is fairly standard for a photo that was shot in JPEG mode with DSLR. If I shot this photo in raw mode, the pixel dimensions may have been the same, but the resolution would most likely have been 300dpi.

Resizing the Image​

Now, here’s where things get sort of confusing. The goal with this project is to resize the image with a specific ratio and simply trim off any excess material that’s left over from our original. A scenario like this may arise when you take a photo that’s absolutely perfect. You don’t really want or need to crop it, but it’s not the ratio that’s right for your output.

For example, say that we take our example image used in this post and want to output it almost just as it is (composition-wise). The only problem is that instead of using our pixel width of 5184, our printer tells us that he can only accept a file that has a maximum pixel width of 5000. Also, he informs us that the height can be no larger then 3000 pixels. Notice how I’m using pixels in this example. The same is true for inches. I’m merely leaning towards pixels here for simplicity. And the reasons why a printer can’t accept certain sizes vary. One case might be that the output may not fit in a picture frame if not altered.

So let’s continue on with our scenario of being limited to a 5000px x 3000px dimension. We’ll keep the resolution the same because changing resolutions is beyond the scope of this post.

The first thing we need to do here, if we want to keep as much of our composition as possible is to resize our image using the “Image Size” dialog box we already opened. If we’ve already got a dimension of 5184px x 3456px, then all we need to do is reduce the larger one to 5000px. By doing this, and keeping the aspect ratio locked, both dimensions will change. Let’s go ahead and shrink that one dimension and see what happens.

If you take a look at the next screenshot, you’ll see that by changing one dimension, the other changes as well. The thing is, we can’t seem to resize the way we want. If we go down to 5000 pixels, the other dimension changes to 3333 pixels. If we attempt to change the 3333 pixels to 3000 pixels, our 5184 pixels reduces all the way to 4500, which is too small for what we’re looking to do. This is the challenge we’re trying to overcome – aspect ratios never staying where we want them to. The answer lies with the crop tool.


Using the Crop Tool​

Now that we’ve set our maximum width dimension to 5000px and clicked “OK,” we can head over to the left toolbar in Photoshop and select the crop tool.


When we click the tool, notice how a new option menu appears up top. Inside this menu, we’ve got a drop-down box that offers us all sorts of selections. The one we want is labeled “W x H x Resolution.”


If you make that selection, you’ll notice that a few related options appear to the right. In the first dark box to the right of the drop-down, we’ll place in our desired width dimension of 5000px. In the next box, we’ll place our desired height of 3000px and inside the box right next to that one, we’ll place our resolution, which we’ve already decided will remain at 72dpi. After that, we’ll choose the px/in selection in the drop-down box.


If you take a look at the screenshot directly above, you’ll notice that the crop area over the photo has changed to a specific ratio. It’s now in basically a 5000×3000 (or 5×3) ratio. This ratio has nothing to do with the final pixel dimension the photo will crop to. It’s merely the shape the photo will result in (which I guess are the same thing).

Here’s the neat thing about using this tool. No matter how much we drag the edges of our crop area, our ratio will remain locked. Also, no matter how much we shrink or expand our crop area, when we apply the crop, the size will be 5000px x 3000px at 72dpi. We’re not going to do any dragging around or shrinking in this case because we’ve already defined our dimensions, but if the photo was huge and we had the space, we can shrink to our heart’s content.

Applying the Crop​

Once everything looks good, we can go ahead and double-click inside the crop area to apply it and take a look at the results.


Now, you may not notice it in the above screenshot, but the photo has been cropped and the new dimensions are 5000px x 3000px. But to be sure, we need to double-check our work.

Checking Our Work​

If we head back up to the “Image > Image Size” menu, we can take a look at what our new dimensions are. In our case, they are as expected and we can consider this a job well done.


If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and found it helpful, please share it with a friend. Thanks!


May 7, 2021
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  • #3

A Smart Use of Multiple Cropping Methods in Adobe Photoshop​

For the longest time, I used the Rectangular Marquee Tool in Adobe Photoshop for all my cropping. I used it, it was great, things got done. It wasn’t until I learned about the power of the Crop Tool that I switched over to that. There are distinct benefits to using the Crop Tool and I talk about many of them in this post:

Using the Crop Tool in Adobe Photoshop

Through the years, instead of abandoning the Rectangular Marquee Tool entirely for this use, I decided to use it in conjunction with the Crop Tool. And in today’s post, I’ll show you why. As great as the Crop Tool is, it does have its disadvantages. There are some workarounds to those disadvantages, however, and I’ll talk about them below. By the end of this post, I hope you’ll get a grasp on how you can creatively use both of these tools to make your life easier while editing.

Demo Photo​

For this post, I’ll be using a demo photo of a starry night. In this photo is a silhouette of a person and a vehicle. The reason I chose this image is because of the identifiable object in it. Since I’ll be cropping, I needed something to crop.


The Problems With the Marquee & the Crop Tools​

In my intro, I indicated that there were a few issues with both the Rectangular Marquee Tool and the Crop Tool. In this section, I’ll let you know what those problems are.

Back when I used to crop with the Rectangular Marquee Tool, I quickly found that my method wasn’t all that great. For example, let’s say I wanted to crop inside of the demo photo.


In this case, to separate out what’s inside the marquee, I could either copy and paste the selection into a new file or I could simply use the Image > Crop menu item.


Either way, I’d be left with two undesirable scenarios.

First, after copying and pasting into a new file, I’d lose all the surrounding pixels from the old file. Basically, I’d lose the remainder of the image, so if I ever wanted to edit or change my crop later on, I couldn’t. When these pixels are gone, they’re gone. And actually, the same is true when using the Crop menu item. Those pixels get deleted as well.

Second, when cropping while using either of these two methods, it’s cumbersome. I can’t even tell you how many times I cropped and then said, “Hmmm, nope, I gotta go back and change that.” While cropping with the Rectangular Marquee Tool, going back to change things takes more steps than necessary. While it’s doable, which I can attest to, it becomes a pain in the side.

Now, you probably already know the Crop Tool in Photoshop is awesome. It’s potentially non-destructive (if using the proper setting) and is really easy to use. It’s also got some neat features that I’ve already covered in previous posts. There is one area that you need to be very careful of though and that’s making sure that you don’t delete any pixels while cropping. So, if I set up a crop area in my image like this:


I need to be extremely sensitive to this one setting up here:


If the Delete Cropped Pixels setting is checked, my cropped image will have the same characteristics as the one where I used the marquee tool. Any surrounding pixels will be deleted and that’s what I call destructive editing. That’s no good. Left unchecked, all of the pixels in the entire image will be saved leaving me the opportunity to go back and change my crop later on.

Applying a Filter​

You may be asking yourself, “If using the Crop Tool is so much more flexible and less destructive than the marquee tool, why not just use that all the time?” Well, here’s your answer. Let’s say I wanted to apply some soft of filter to the cropped part of the image. While not all filters do this, some do. They open up a dialog box that shows the entire image, even after it’s been cropped. Basically, because this method of cropping is non-destructive, everything shows while using these types of filters.

For this example, I’ll use the Lens Correction filter. I’ll just open the filter to show you what I’m talking about. Remember, I’ve already cropped the image to that small square.


Here’s the filter dialog box:


Yeah, that’s a problem. It may not seem like it in this case, but just imagine you were using a filter while targeting, very specifically, the cropped part of the image. If the entire thing opened up in the filter dialog box, how would you know where you cropped? You might think you know, but can you be absolutely sure? You wouldn’t be able to see the edges anymore. Everything is blended together.

This type of issue occurs when you use the following filters; Filter Gallery, Adaptive Wide Angle, Camera Raw Filter, Lens Correction and Liquify. All I’m saying is that photo editing is a very technical process. If you make a crop and then want to further edit the image, you certainly don’t need the entire photo returning. That’s as confusing as all get out.

The Solution to the Problem​

So far, we’ve uncovered a few issues. In the first case, pixels were deleted, which is no good. In the second case, pixels remained, which was no good either. Let’s see if we can unearth a trick that will help us deal with both of these issues. I’d like to preserve all of the image but have the ability to use some of the Photoshop filters on just the cropped area.

This solution is so simple it’s going to make your head spin. To start off, I’ll crop the image using the Crop Tool.


Next, I’m going to use the following keyboard shortcuts (Command on Mac): Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. All this does is select the entire cropped area using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, copy the area and then paste it into a new layer.


If you look at the above screenshot, you’ll see two layers. The top one is the copied and pasted layer, which consists of only those visible pixels. All other pixels have been deleted. The bottom layer is the entire image, but was cropped with the Crop Tool. So, that bottom layer has the entire image preserved inside of it, even though it’s not visible.

Now, if I head up to the Filter menu and click on Lens Correction, let’s see what happens.


Ahh, that’s better. Since I selected the top layer and chose the filter, only the cropped pixels are appearing. I can now go ahead and edit the filter the way I see fit, knowing that I have the entire image to fall back on if I need to do so. And the best part is, everything is contained in the same .PSD file, so I can open it and work on it any time I want. Now that’s workflow if I ever saw it.

This post may sound a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with these two cropping methods. I suggest you play with them a bit to get used to them and if you have and questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 7, 2021
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  • #4

Changing Some Basic Crop Tool Settings in Adobe Photoshop​

Have you ever wondered what the most popular tool in Adobe Photoshop is? It’s the Crop Tool. Isn’t that interesting? I think so. Out of all the fancy things Photoshop can do, the basic task of cropping is what the majority of folks choose to do the majority of the time. I don’t know, I just find that fascinating. I would have guessed the most popular tool would have been one of the selection tools or one of the healing brush tools. Oh well.

There’s a lot to the Crop Tool these days. Back when I first began using Photoshop, I took advantage of the Rectangular Marquee Tool, made a selection around the object I wanted to preserve, visited the Image > Crop menu item, clicked and was done with it. I still use that method sometimes when I want to crop out a certain shape or selection, but those instances are few and far between.

In today’s post, I’d like to visit the Crop Tool and just mess around a bit. I’ll use a photo to experiment with and I’ll attempt to demonstrate some of the functions that are contained within. I’ll also visit the Crop Options area to give you a peek behind what makes this tool tick. Inside of this area, I’ll have the opportunity to revert back to the original Crop Tool (pre Photoshop CS6), show and hide certain aspects of the image I’m cropping and even adjust the opacity of the area outside the crop. This is actually a very powerful tool with tons of bells and whistles, so follow along down below to learn a little something about it.

The Demo Photo​

Of course, I needed something to crop, so I decided on a cow in a field. I mean, what else is there? Since the subject is isolated, I think my demonstration will be clear and easy to understand. Here’s the photo.


My Previous Post​

I’d like to let you know that I’ve already written a pretty good post that covers a lot of what the Crop Tool can do and how it works. If you’re interested, please click through this link below.

Using the Crop Tool in Adobe Photoshop

In my previous post, I talk about the functions of the tool and how to change many of the basic settings. Below, I’d like to focus more on a few areas I haven’t covered before.

What is Cropping – Really?​

If you think about it, the act of cropping is really just an isolation of a part of an image. It’s a focus, if you will. You’re attempting to remove anything other than that on which you wish to work. The strange thing is, back in the early 2000s, I was doing what I just explained. I was isolating areas so I could work on them further. I got rid of everything I didn’t want and I continued on with my projects.

Although my process worked most of the time, I did come across a few issues. I can remember cropping something and then doing a bunch of work to an image and after all that work, I’d tell myself how much I wish I had part of the image back. Meaning, I cropped too much out and because of the old method of cropping, those pixels I got rid of were gone forever. Because of this type of thing, I found myself making backup layers (duplicates) of everything I ever wanted to crop. Things got ridiculous after a while.

One of the areas Adobe has focused on in recent years is making various tools non-destructive. All this means is that, in this case, if I were to crop something out of an image, whatever it was that seemingly disappeared was never really gone. It would always be recoverable. I can’t even tell you how much this has helped through the years. No more backup layers for me – well, for this purpose anyway.

Lesson #1​

When using the Crop Tool, never delete the cropped pixels. With the tool active, you’ll see a check box up in the options bar. This box is the Delete Cropped Pixels box and by default, it shows as unchecked. I advise that you keep it that way, unless you’re a master user and you really know what you’re doing.


If you were to go ahead and check this box, you’d be nullifying many of the advancements this tool offers. You’d really be removing the pixels that aren’t used in your focal area and they wouldn’t be recoverable, ever. That’s not a good thing.

Using Classic Mode​

As I said, the Crop Tool has grown up a lot over the past few years. If you’re using versions of Photoshop before CS6, you’ll be using what’s known to us futuristic types as Classic Mode. While there are major differences between the classic mode and this new version of crop, the most visible one is the fact that when you click on the Crop Tool icon in the left vertical toolbar, with this new version, you’ll instantly see the crop border surround the entire image. From there, you’d either pull the border in towards the center to shrink the workable area or out to create a larger work area. With the classic version of this tool, you won’t see the border. To crop, you’ll need to click and drag over the area you’d like to keep. While this old way isn’t terrible, I can tell you that you get used to the new way mighty fast. The new way isn’t bad at all.

If you’re using a newer version of Photoshop (post CS6), you can still use Classic Mode if you want to. To activate it, simply activate the Crop Tool and then click on the Crop Options icon up in the options bar. When you do that, a drop-down will appear and all you’ll need to do is check the first box. This one says, Use Classic Mode.


From there, you’ll enjoy the older version of the tool.

The Front Image Option​

This one is for all of you out there who have tons of photos to work on that all need to be sized to the same dimensions. This type of situation is so common; it makes my head spin when I try to think about the best way to get these types of edits completed.

As an example of how this feature works, I’ll open two images of different dimensions into Photoshop. The first image (the one with the bull) is 5760px x 3740px.


The other image I have opened is of a fox. This image’s dimensions are 4928px x 3280px.


Both images have a resolution of 300dpi.

Let’s say I wanted to crop the image with the bull in it to the same exact size and resolution of the fox image (or vice-versa). How could I do that? Well, to accomplish this sort of task, I would first click the tab of the image that has the dimensions I desire. In this case, since I want to shrink the bull image to the size of the fox image, I’d click the fox tab so that image is showing in the Photoshop workspace. Then, I’d activate the Crop Tool by clicking on its icon in the left toolbar. After that, I’d head up to the drop-down box and select the Front Image option.


What this option does is set the image’s dimensions into the Crop Tool fields, as you can see in the above screenshot. To crop the other image to these dimensions, all I would need to do is click the other image’s tab to make that one active in the workspace and then, because the Crop Tool is still active and those same dimensions are still in the options bar (they carried over), double-click with my mouse to initiate the crop. Either that, or I could just press the Enter key on my keyboard. It’s that easy.

Creating a Quick Border​

Besides cropping, creating borders around images is a very popular thing to do. I think I’ll cover a really fast method for doing this now.

Most people think about reducing an image’s area when they crop, but I’d like to let you know that you can also extend an image’s area just as easily. There’s no reason you can’t click on one of the crop border handles and pull it outward as opposed to inward. This is just something most people don’t think about doing all that much.

To create a simple border around an image, I’ll first click the small background layer lock icon in the Layers panel. This will unlock the layer. Then, I’ll click the Add New Layer button down at the bottom of the Layers panel. I’ll arrange this new layer so it’s underneath the image layer. This is what the Layers panel will look like after I’m finished with these steps.


Next, I’ll activate the Crop Tool, head up to the drop-down box in the options bar and select the Ratio option. This option will lock the shape of the crop bounding box into the same ratio as the one the image has.

Finally, I’ll hold down the Alt key on my keyboard, click anywhere on the crop border and drag outward. I’ll drag until I see the border thickness I like. Holding the Alt key forces the crop box to expand from the center of the image, making the border sides equal to one another.


When I’m done with that, I’ll press the Enter key on my keyboard. That will tell Photoshop to accept and apply the new image size.

To fill in the border with a color, I’ll choose a color from the color picker, click on the empty bottom layer in the Layers panel and then use the Paint Bucket Tool to pour the color into the layer. This is how the result will look.


Pretty cool, right? And it didn’t take much effort at all.

Changing Crop Area Opacity​

I’m going to show you something now that you most likely never knew existed. First though, I’ll activate the Crop Tool and click and drag some of the corners of this tool so the edges hug the bull in the photo fairly tightly. Take a look at what I did.


Do you see the area around the crop box? The inside is nice and bright at 100% opacity while the outer area is much dimmer. Right now, 80% of the light in the area around the primary crop box is being hidden, so basically, the outer area is at a 20% opacity. What if that was just too dark for me and I wanted to see the outer area brighter? Or darker? Or the same as the image itself? Well, the opacity value of the outer area is adjustable and I’ll show you right now how to make that adjustment.

I’ll first activate the Crop Tool so the proper options bar appears above the workspace. Then, I’ll click the Crop Options icon again and at the bottom, I’ll click the Opacity slider.


If I push the slider to the left, the outer area will remain brighter. If I push it to the right, it will get darker. In this case, I’ll set the Opacity slider so only 25% of the light is being hidden, which will make the outer area brighter. Then, I’ll click and drag the crop edge inward again. Let’s see the difference between this example and the last one.


See? It’s so easy to change the opacity of this type of thing so you can truly customize your experience while working.


I hope I clearly showed you some areas surrounding the Crop Tool in Adobe Photoshop that you may not have known about. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!