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Adobe Photoshop Basics
Lesson 2f: Crop Tool

In Photoshop 5.x, the crop tool is hidden under the marquee tools. In version 6 it has its own toolbar button. But the crop tool has a very easy keyboard shortcut to remember, so you'll rarely need to bother with selecting it from the toolbox. The shortcut for activating the crop tool is C. The crop tool in Photoshop can actually do much more than crop your images. As I mentioned in the last section, the crop tool can be used to increase your canvas size. It can also be used to rotate and resample images, and in Photoshop 6 it can be used to quickly correct the perspective of an image. (Continued below...)

Adobe Photoshop Basics
Read This First!
Course Outline
Canvas Size
• Crop Tool
Cropping Practice [all]
Cropping Practice v6.x

Interactive Classroom
Visit the forum to post your questions and comments.
-Get Help with Lesson 2

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Let's start by exploring the most common use of the crop tool... cropping, of course! Open any image and select the Crop tool. To select an area to be cropped, just click and drag in your image and when you let go, the crop marquee will appear. There's no need to be precise when making the first selection, because you can edit your selection before committing to the crop. You can always save some time if you get it right the first time; however, the default crop cursor makes it somewhat difficult to see exactly where your selection begins and ends.

The selection point actually begins and ends at the very center of the crop tool, approximately where I've placed a red dot in the screen shot here. If you want exact precision however, you will want to switch to a crosshair cursor. At any time, you can switch from standard to precise cursors by enabling the Caps Lock key. This works with the painting tools as well. Try it out. You may find that the precise cursor is hard to see in some backgrounds, but it's nice to have the option when you need it.

OK, now pick which ever cursor preference you like and drag out a crop selection on your image. Notice the hollow boxes in the corners and on each side of the selection marquee? These are called handles because you can grab onto them to manipulate the selection.

Move your cursor over each of these handles and you'll notice it changes to a double pointing arrow to indicate that you can resize the selection border. Make some adjustments to your crop selection now using the handles. You'll notice if you drag a corner handle you can adjust the width and height at the same time. If you hold the shift key down while dragging a corner handle it constrains the height and width proportions.

You'll find if you try to move the selection border to just a few pixels from any of the document edges, the border automatically snaps to the document edge. This makes it nearly impossible to trim just a few pixels from an image, but you can disable this snapping behavior by holding down the Ctrl (Windows only) key when you get close to an edge. On Windows or Macintosh, you can toggle snapping on and off by pressing Ctrl/Command-; or from the View menu.

Notes for Version 6.0

In Photoshop 6, the cropped area is shielded with a gray screen. This makes it easier to visualize how the cropping affects the overall composition. You can change the shielded area color and opacity from the options bar after you make a crop selection. You can also disable the shading, by unchecking the "Shield cropped area" checkbox.

Now move your cursor inside the selection marquee. The cursor changes to a solid black arrow indicating that you can move the selection. Holding the shift key while you move the selection constrains your movements.

But that's not all... move your cursor to just outside one of the corner handles and you'll see it change to a double pointing curved arrow. When the curved arrow cursor is active you can rotate the selection marquee. This allows you to crop and straighten a crooked image at the same time. Just align one of the crop edges to a portion of the image that should be horizontal or vertical, and when you invoke the crop, it will rotate the image to conform to your selection. The center point on the crop marquee determines the center point to which the marquee is rotated. You can move this center point to change the center of rotation by clicking on it and dragging.

Notes for Version 6.0

In Photoshop 6, after you draw the crop selection, you have a checkbox on the options bar to adjust the perspective. This is useful for photos of buildings where there is some distortion. When you select the perspective check box, you can move your cursor over any of the corner handles and it will change to a shaded arrow. Then you can click and drag each corner of the crop marquee independently. To correct perspective distortion, move the top corners of the selection marquee inward, so that the sides of the selection are aligned with the edges of the building you want to correct.

Notes for Version 6.0

In version 6 you can also use the check mark button on the options bar to commit to the crop, or the X button to cancel the crop.

If you change your mind after you've made a crop selection, you can back out of it by pressing Esc. To commit to your selection and make the crop permanent, you can press Enter or Return, or simply double click inside the selection marquee.

Notes for Version 6.0

In Photoshop 6, if you are cropping a layered image, you can choose whether you want to delete the cropped area permanently, or just hide the area outside of the crop marquee. These options will appear on the options bar. The hide option retains those pixels, but resizes the canvas so they are not visible. This area outside the visible canvas is called "big data" and you can make it visible again by choosing Image > Reveal all. The delete/hide options will be dimmed when cropping a background layer or when using the perspective option. Keep in mind that the hide option requires more memory and disk space when you save the file.

Take a few moments now to practice cropping and manipulating the crop selection using all the methods we've discussed so far. You can return your image to its original state at any time by going to File > Revert.

I also mentioned that you could resample an image via the crop tool. To do this you'll need to use the crop options palette (or the options bar in Photoshop 6). The options palette for any tool can be accessed by double clicking on the toolbar button.

Notes for Version 6.0

In version 6, there is no check box; however, typing numbers into the width, height and resolution fields alters the image resolution rather than cropping.

In the crop tool options, there is a check box for Fixed Target size. When this checkbox is activated, you can alter the image resolution. The Front Image button fills in the fields with the current image size and resolution, otherwise, the last used numbers will be remembered. Resampling with the crop tool is a bit difficult to describe; I suggest you read about it on page 59 of the Photoshop 5.0 User Guide (or look up Fixed Target Size Option in the online Help) and experiment with it to get a feel for how it works.

Next > Cropping Practice

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