How to crop or straighten images in Photoshop
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  • Post published:02/10/2021
  • Post last modified:02/10/2021
  • You can crop an image in Photoshop with the crop tool, found in the Tool Palette on the left side of the screen.
  • The crop tool’s Tool Options bar is at the top of the screen and lets you set the aspect ratio, use content-aware fill, and other settings.
  • It’s easy to undo and retry a crop over again if you turn off Delete Cropped Pixels in the Tool Options palette. 
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Photoshop is packed with tools for cropping images, from a straightforward Crop tool that lets you change the composition and aspect ratio of a photo to techniques that let you change perspective in a scene. 

Whether you want to simply trim away distracting elements in a photo or use content-aware fills, there’s a way to crop in Photoshop for you.

How to crop an image in Photoshop

Here is an overview of all the most important cropping methods in Photoshop. For each of these techniques below, start with Photoshop on your Mac or PC and open an image that you want to crop. 

Set crop border

Perhaps the easiest and most flexible way to crop a photo is by setting the crop border using the Crop tool.

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette on the left side of the screen — it looks like two right angles overlapping — and is found in the fifth cubby from the top. You should see the crop box appear in your image. If it’s not there, click and hold the cubby until you see a fly-out with all the tools located in that cubby.

2. In the Tool Options bar at the top, click Clear to remove any existing cropping settings. Click another tool in the Tools Palette, then click the Crop icon again. 

3. There are 8 handles in your crop border — 4 in the corners and 4 along the sides. Click and drag the crop border by the handles to resize and reposition it in your image. You can also click and drag inside the crop frame to reposition it in the image.

4. When you’re satisfied, click the check mark in the tool options bar to apply this crop to your photo. 

You can use the handles around the crop frame to change the composition of your image.
Dave Johnson

Draw your own crop border

Rather than using the border handles to drag and arrange your crop, you might prefer to simply “draw” the drop with your mouse pointer.

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette on the left side of the screen.

2. Move your cursor into the image, inside the crop frame. You should see the cursor is shaped like a crop frame.

3. Click and drag the cursor. You should see it starts to draw a rectangle. When you release the mouse pointer, the rectangle should turn into a crop frame. You can now resize and reposition the crop frame using the crop handles as explained in the previous section. 

Crop by aspect ratio

This is the most often-used cropping technique, especially among photographers and designers who need to make sure an image precisely matches a specific aspect ratio, such as 4×5 or 16×9. 

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette. You should see the crop box appear in your image.

2. Specify the aspect ratio you want in the Tools Options at the top of the screen. Click the Ratio drop-down and choose the aspect ratio you want. Alternatively, you can enter the aspect ratio in the two fields to the right of the Ratio drop-down. 

3. If you want to flip the aspect ratio (for example, you want 9×16 instead of 16×9), click the arrows between the aspect ratio fields. 

4. You can now resize and reposition the crop frame using the crop handles as explained in the previous section.

Use the Tool Options bar to set the aspect ratio of your crop.
Dave Johnson

Use the crop overlay

Any of the cropping methods we’ve discussed can make use of the crop overlay, which superimposes a grid over the crop frame. The crop overlay is designed to assist you in achieving an artful, artistic, or otherwise aesthetic composition when reframing your image. The overlay is only there to help you compose your crop and isn’t a part of the final image. 

Photoshop offers a half-dozen overlays, and you can use the one that is most relevant to your photo or design. For example, the Rule of Thirds overlay might help you position your subject along a line of thirds within the image, while the Golden Spiral overlay — similar to a Fibonacci Spiral — can help you arrange the crop so the most important parts of the photo align with the mathematical curve.  

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette. You should see the crop box appear in your image.

2. In the Tool Options at the top of the image, click the Crop Overlay button and make sure Always Show Overlay is checked. 

3. In the Crop Overlay menu, choose the kind of overlay you want to use. 

The crop overlay is a handy tool to help you frame and compose your crop.
Dave Johnson

4. Crop and complete your image as you ordinarily would. 

Crop to a selection boundary

You can define the size and aspect of your crop with selection tools as well. 

1. In the Tool Palette, choose any selection tool. For example, you can click the Rectangular Marquee tool in the second cubby from the top. 

2. Click and drag to define a rectangular selection in your image.

3. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette. The crop frame should automatically match the selection. If you used a tool like the lasso to make an irregular selection, it’ll make a rectangle that includes the entire selection.

4. You can now resize, reposition, and complete the crop frame as you ordinarily would.

The Crop tool can snap to any selection you make in an image.
Dave Johnson

Use content-aware fill on crop

When you use the crop tool, you have the option to enable a content-aware fill. That means you can let Photoshop’s artificial intelligence smartly fill in missing information if your crop extends beyond the edge of the photo, such as if you make the crop bigger than the photo or you rotate the crop frame so the corners extend outside the image. Using this feature requires just toggling it on in the crop tool’s options.

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette. You should see the crop box appear in your image.

2. In the Tool Options at the top of the image, click the checkbox for Content Aware

3. Size and position the crop frame however you like. With this feature turned on, you can set the crop frame in a way that extends beyond the original extent of the picture. 

Turn on Content-aware to fill in blank spots in your photos after a crop.
Dave Johnson

4. When you’re satisfied, click the check mark in the Tool Options bar to apply this crop to your photo. You should see the missing parts of the picture fill in. 

Photoshop’s content-aware fill did an excellent job filling in missing details from the crop operation.
Dave Johnson

Use the Perspective crop tool

You can use a variation of the crop tool to correct a photo with a distorted perspective. For example, suppose you take a photo of a tall building; it will look distorted, but you can use the perspective crop tool to restore its appearance. 

1. Click the Perspective Crop tool. You can find it in the same cubby as the crop tool — to get it, click and hold the cubby to select Perspective Crop from the tools located there. 

2. Click and drag to define a rectangular selection in your image.

3. Click and drag the corners of the crop frame to modify its shape. If you want to correct an object’s perspective, you might want to make the crop frame parallel to its sides. 

Drag the corners of the Perspective Crop tool to help straighten an image.
Dave Johnson

4. When you’re satisfied, click the check mark in the Tool Options bar to apply this crop to your photo. You should see its perspective change when the crop is applied. 

Photoshop’s Perspective Crop tool has corrected the perspective in this photo.
Dave Johnson

How to straighten a cropped image in Photoshop

You can use the crop tool to straighten a crooked image. In fact, straightening images is a common part of the workflow a photographer typically employs at the same time as cropping. 

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette on the left side of the screen.

2. Resize and reposition the crop frame using the crop handles in the corners and sides of the frame. 

3. When you want to straighten the image, move the cursor outside the picture canvas, into the Photoshop work area background. You should see the cursor change into a curve with arrows at both ends.

4. Click and drag the cursor. You should see the picture rotate. Spin the picture in small increments until it is straightened. It can be helpful to turn on a grid overlay (see the section earlier in the article on grid overlays) so you can line up the gridlines with the horizon or some other level line in the photo.

5. When you’re satisfied, click the check mark in the Tool Options bar to apply this crop to your photo. 

You can rotate a crop frame to straighten an image that was taken at an angle.
Dave Johnson

How to resize a canvas in Photoshop

While you want to crop a photo to recompose the shot, change the aspect ratio, or put better focus on a subject, you might also need to resize the canvas. That means making the workspace that the image sits on larger (or smaller). When you make the canvas bigger, it’s usually filled with the currently selected background color. You can use it as a frame or vignette, or paste in images from another file in the new canvas space.

1. Click Image, then Canvas Size.

2. In the Canvas Size dialog box, you can specify the size of the canvas. Typically, for example, you might make it larger to accommodate a frame or another image. To make the canvas twice as wide but keep the height the same, click the Pixels drop-down and choose Percent. Then change Width to 200.

You can add extra working space to a picture’s canvas with the Canvas Size tool.
Dave Johnson

3. Decide how the new canvas should be oriented. The Anchor indicates where the current image is located on the canvas. To make the new canvas appear on the right, click the center left grid position so the arrows point to the left. 

4. Click OK

How to get back deleted pixels when cropping in Photoshop

Generally when you crop, the parts of the photo you have cropped out are simply discarded — the pixels are deleted. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. If you prefer, cropped pixels can simply be hidden from view. 

The advantage of this approach is that if you want to experiment with cropping, you can apply the crop and if you don’t like the result, immediately reselect the crop tool and try it again. As soon as you grab and move one of the crop frame’s handles, the deleted pixels will immediately reappear and you can try again as many times as you like.

1. Click the Crop tool in the Tools Palette on the left side of the screen.

2. In the Tool Options toolbar at the top of the screen, clear the checkbox for Delete Cropped Pixels

The Delete Cropped Pixels setting is on by default but you might want to disable it.
Dave Johnson

3. Now proceed to crop as usual. Anytime to apply the crop and return to the crop tool, the removed pixels will reappear and you can re-crop the original image. 

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