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5 Crop tool tips you must know

Added on Friday 3rd of June 2011 05:32 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Many people think the Crop tool is one of Photoshop’s more mundane, ordinary tools, but don’t be fooled! You’ll be surprised at what you can do when you unlock it’s full potential. So here are five tips to help you get the most out of the Crop tool.


Many people think the Crop tool has one function—to crop. Although this is a useful function, the Crop tool can do much more. We thought outside the Crop tool’s bounding box and compiled the tips that are sure to expand the ways you use the Crop tool, make using the tool easier, and enable you to work more efficiently.


Note: An alternative to cropping an image using the Crop tool is to create a selection, then choose Image > Crop.


1. Change perspective

Besides allowing the Crop tool’s bounding box to rotate, scale, and move around, Photoshop has a unique ability to crop with perspective. This feature is useful for straightening crooked images and fixing keystoning (we’ll explain later) and other distortions in images. To see how it works, let’s take a look at a couple of our slightly skewed examples.


Square up horizon lines

Our example in Figure A is an image of the Toronto skyline where the horizon line is slightly higher on the right side than the left side. Here’s how to fix it using the Crop tool’s perspective adjustment feature.

CN Tower Toronto Canada



Crop tool tidbit: The Crop tool may not correct keystoning on all images and/or may not fix perspective distortion if it’s applied to an image that was already cropped for size.


To fix the perspective in an image using the Crop tool:

1.  Choose the Crop tool and drag a marquee over the image area you want to keep.

2.  Release the mouse and the tool options bar changes.

3.  Select the Perspective check box.

4.  Move the four points of the crop selection independently.

5.  Press [enter] to commit to the crop selection.

In Figure B, we selected the top-left corner and slightly moved it down vertically and moved the lower-right corner up vertically. This gives us what appears to be a crooked selection. As soon as you double-click on the crop selection, the Crop command stretches and changes the image to get it to fit the area. You can see our squared-up results in Figure C.


CN Tower Toronto Canada



Straighten buildings

A common problem when taking images of buildings is keystoning, where the lines of perspective converge as you photograph a building. This is illustrated in Figure D. The only way to capture a completely straight shot of a building is to be directly centered and parallel to it. However, you can also correct this problem after the fact using the Crop tool’s perspective option. When cropping the image, pull the top handles inward to make the crop boundaries parallel to the building, as shown in Figure E. Once straightened and color corrected, our building looks much more regal, as shown in Figure F.





2. Crop the canvas, not the image

If you find yourself wanting to change the cropped area long after you’ve cropped your image, it’s not too late. The Crop tool has a feature that allows you to choose what happens to the cropped data if that data exists on a layer.


To avoid permanently deleting the cropped out area:

1.  Display the Layers panel by choosing Window > Layers.

2.  Duplicate the Background layer by dragging it onto the Create A New Layer button at the base of the Layers panel.

3.  Use the Crop tool to crop the image to your liking.

4.  Go to the tool options bar and select Hide.


Crop tool tidbit: If the Perspective option is selected in the tool options bar, deselect it. Otherwise, ...