Cropping is a simple concept and pretty much every photo editor should be up to the task. But of all the programs that are capable of it, Adobe Photoshop’s crop tool is one of the most intense, with multiple features for customizing your composition in post. Of course, with so many features, that means that it’s harder to learn how to crop in Photoshop. Beginners often overlook one or two crop features–which means spending more time than necessary on what should be a simple adjustment.
In this week’s Photoshop Quick Tip, Ben Willmore walks through Photoshop’s crop tool, from the most basic to the features that are commonly overlooked.
This was filmed as part of his comprehensive course, Adobe Photoshop CC: The Complete Guide, watch the video tutorial here, and learn how to crop in Photoshop:
The crop tool is located in the toolbox–it looks like this:
Once you select the crop tool, Photoshop will automatically draw a crop box around your entire image. To make a basic crop, you simply click on the image and drag to draw out the box. Everything inside will be in your newly cropped photo, while everything outside will be left out.
There are actually two simple methods for changing the shape of the crop box using the tool–you can click and drag on one side to adjust width or height individually, or to change both width and height at once, you can click on a corner and drag in for tighter crops or out for wider adjustments. You can also click inside the box and drag to move your crop to a different part of the image without changing the shape.
Cropping by hand is great, but there are a few limitations. What if you want to print out the image as an 8 x 10? What if you want to see how much you can crop without loosing too much resolution? While the tool allows you to draw out a crop box, the advanced settings pop up at the top of your screen when the crop tool is selected:
The drop-down menu on the left allows you to choose how you want to define your crop tool. For example, if you select ratio, you can use the two text fields to indicate how big you want the width and the height in relation to one another. A 1:1 ratio, for example, creates a square crop. To get that 8 x 10, you could use a 4:5 ratio.
Ratios can be a bit complex for the math-haters out there, so, using the dropdown menu, you can also select W x H Resolution. That allows you to type any dimension into the width and height fields. You can type in “8 in” and “10 in” to get that 8 x 10 crop, and you can use metric measurements as well.
Tip: The width text field is first, the height is the second. If you mix them up, you can simply hit the arrow button in the middle to switch the two.
Using the “W x H Resolution” mode introduces one more text field: resolution. This field is good to use if you’re not sure how much you can crop before loosing quality. If you want to print the photo, for example, use a 300 px/in setting here will help keep your crops at an acceptable resolution.
Once you use the the text fields to specify a dimension, you can return to the drag and drop style tool and use it just like before–but Photoshop will now lock the box at the correct ratio or dimensions. If you want to remove the ratio, just hit clear in that top toolbar.
The crop tool is also a simple way to fix a crooked image, and there are two different methods. With the box drawn on your image, you can move the cursor outside the box, near a corner, and you’ll see a curved arrow. Click and drag, and a grid will pop up on the screen, allowing you to drag the photo until it’s straightened.
You can also use the leveling tool back up inside that crop toolbar, next to the clear button. (It looks like a level you’d use for a DIY project). With the level tool selected, you can click and drag on the image to draw a line along an object that should be straight, like the horizon, for example. (You can also use the tool vertically, like on a telephone pole). With the line drawn, Photoshop will automatically straighten your shot.
Happy with your crop? Press the enter key to accept the changes so you can continue with your edits.
Like this video? Now that you know how to crop in Photoshop, join us for the next four weeks for more free Photoshop Quick Tips from Ben Willmore, or check out his course, Adobe® Photoshop® CC: The Complete Guide, or read up on the other top Photoshop online classes from CreativeLive.
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