How to Crop to Fixed Ratio in Photoshop - Digital Photography School

How to Crop to Fixed Ratio in Photoshop

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_before_after.jpg

If you’ve ever tried to crop an image to a fixed ratio in Photoshop you may have run up against an issue. There is, it appears, no option for cropping to a fixed ratio such as 4 x 6, 5 x 7 or even 1 x 1. You can crop to fixed sizes like 4in x 6in and you can set a resolution for the image but you can’t on the face of it just crop to a simple 1 x 1 without specifying a unit of measure. Here I’ll show you how to do this, but first things first…

The risk you run if you don’t watch how your settings are configured and if you don’t watch what you enter in the dialogs, is that Photoshop will not only crop, but also determine the units of measure and resample the image for you.

Default Settings
The default units of measure and the default resampling method are set in the program preferences which you can locate by choosing Edit > Preferences > General (Photoshop > Preferences > General) and then read the image interpolation method being used. In this set up it is set to Bicubic:

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_1.jpg

The default units of measure are set in the Units & Rulers options or the Panel options for the Info Palette as the ruler measurements:

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_2.jpg

If you type a number in the Width and Height boxes when you select the Crop tool in Photoshop then the default units of measure are used unless you also type the desired units of measure. This might not sound like it is a problem but if the default units of measure are pixels and you type 6 x 4 and have the Resolution set to 300 dpi you might end up with a very small size image indeed!

It is not possible to type a number in the Width or Height box for the Crop tool without a unit of measure being applied to it. So, what do you do if you want a 1 x 1 ratio crop not a 1 in x 1 in image?

The solution is to type 1in or 1cm in each the Width and Height boxes and ignore the units of measure. Then, remove anything from the Resolution box. When Photoshop is told to crop to a fixed size/ratio and is not told the Resolution to use it crops to the size requested, it doesn’t resample the image, and it simply adjusts the Resolution of the final image to suit the image. It might sound weird but it works to let you crop to a fixed ratio. The problem is of course, that the resulting resolution can be very large indeed.

Here I cropped this image to 1 in x 1 in with no resolution set:

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_3.jpg

Here are the final image dimensions – the size is 1 x 1 but the resolution is very large:

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_4.jpg

Change Resolution but not Size
If the resolution of the image is important to you then you can change it by choosing Image > Image Size, disable the Resample checkbox and set the desired Resolution and click Ok to adjust this. This resizes the image to the chosen resolution but does not resample it in the process.

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_5.jpg

Crop and Resample
On the other hand, if you set a width and height for the image in the Crop tool options and if you set a resolution, Photoshop will crop the image to that size and resolution.

If the image is very large and the desired size is comparatively small then Photoshop will downsize the image and in the process resample the image. If there are insufficient pixels in the image to crop to the desired size and resolution, Photoshop will upsize the image resampling it as it does so.

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_6.jpg

An Alternate Method
There is an alternative method that lets you crop to a fixed ratio without altering image resolution. It is a little longer but it works well and is bypasses the crop tool entirely. Instead, target the Rectangular Marquee tool and select Fixed Ratio from the Style list and then set the Width and Height as values without measurements. Select the area to keep – if necessary, hold the Space Bar as you are drawing the shape to move it to a new position.

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_7.jpg

When you ‘re done choose Image > Crop to crop it.

Photoshop_crop_image_to_fixed_ratio_8.jpg

Next time you need to crop to a fixed aspect ratio, one of these methods will ensure you get the result you expect.

Read more from our Post Production category.

Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • http://www.genkin.org Travel and Landscape Photography

    Really strange to read about issues with croppting to a fixed ratio in Photoshop. There are no issues at all. The last so-called “alternative method” is the simplest and logical way to do that. This is actually not an alternative method but the first and simplest one.

  • http://yngvethoresen.com Yngve Thoresen

    I normally do the crop in ACR. It is as simple as choosing the Crop Tool, right click and choose a predefined format or custom ratio. If custom is chosen, it is simply a matter of punching in the numbers. And less data for PS to work with.

    If I want to crop on a later stage, after edits in have been done in PS, I most often use the crop tool. I have never seen a default value in the field for resolution on my pc, so that have never really been a concern. In general I ignore everything that has to do with DPI, because it seldom has any real importance and can be a source of confusion for many.

    I always crop and resize in separate operations as this gives me much more control over the end result. And lets me do these things without a calculator. :)

    When I first started reading this post I wasn’t to sure what the post was about, as I never had any issues with cropping or resampling. But I can understand many having issues with the field for resolution filled.

  • http://www.shinyphoto.co.uk/ Tim

    Yup, I’d go with the marquee method as well. I appear to have Cmd-Ctrl-C shortcut mapped to image/crop, too; wallopping this while I have a selection enabled crops to the current selection fine.

    If the desired aspect-ratio is square, hold shift whilst dragging the crop tool. Even easier still.

  • Someone

    Thanks a lot Helen. I’ve been wondering how to do this. Everytime I wanted to crop in PS, I had to do so specifying the crop size, rather than the ratio. Hopefully I remember how to do this next time I need to do some cropping

  • http://www.cassdphotography.com cass

    Thank you Helen! I always find your posts really helpful and well written/illustrated. And you always seem to post on a subject that has recently been on my mind. Again: thank you!

    @ Travel & Landscape Photography: obviously, if you already know the solution to a problem, it is no longer a problem. Helen’s piece is clearly aimed at illuminating those in search of the solution, like me!

  • http://www.jaygunn.com Jay

    I’ve always been less than impressed with the crop tool in Photoshop. I don’t remember exactly when they added it, but prior to it, the method was always marquee selection > image > crop and to this day that’s still my preferred method. I would much rather see them give the marquee tool some overlay options, like dimming the outside of the selection area, and rule of 3rd grids.

  • http://picturesoftweetybirdwithwords Carroll B. Merriman

    photoshop cs5 grundlagen

  • Reema Jamal

    Thanks for this tutorial…

Some older comments

  • Reema Jamal

    August 25, 2013 02:34 am

    Thanks for this tutorial...

  • Carroll B. Merriman

    January 25, 2012 11:22 am

    photoshop cs5 grundlagen

  • Jay

    January 24, 2012 10:32 am

    I've always been less than impressed with the crop tool in Photoshop. I don't remember exactly when they added it, but prior to it, the method was always marquee selection > image > crop and to this day that's still my preferred method. I would much rather see them give the marquee tool some overlay options, like dimming the outside of the selection area, and rule of 3rd grids.

  • cass

    January 23, 2012 11:45 pm

    Thank you Helen! I always find your posts really helpful and well written/illustrated. And you always seem to post on a subject that has recently been on my mind. Again: thank you!

    @ Travel & Landscape Photography: obviously, if you already know the solution to a problem, it is no longer a problem. Helen's piece is clearly aimed at illuminating those in search of the solution, like me!

  • Someone

    January 23, 2012 02:27 pm

    Thanks a lot Helen. I've been wondering how to do this. Everytime I wanted to crop in PS, I had to do so specifying the crop size, rather than the ratio. Hopefully I remember how to do this next time I need to do some cropping

  • Tim

    January 23, 2012 12:09 pm

    Yup, I'd go with the marquee method as well. I appear to have Cmd-Ctrl-C shortcut mapped to image/crop, too; wallopping this while I have a selection enabled crops to the current selection fine.

    If the desired aspect-ratio is square, hold shift whilst dragging the crop tool. Even easier still.

  • Yngve Thoresen

    January 23, 2012 09:15 am

    I normally do the crop in ACR. It is as simple as choosing the Crop Tool, right click and choose a predefined format or custom ratio. If custom is chosen, it is simply a matter of punching in the numbers. And less data for PS to work with.

    If I want to crop on a later stage, after edits in have been done in PS, I most often use the crop tool. I have never seen a default value in the field for resolution on my pc, so that have never really been a concern. In general I ignore everything that has to do with DPI, because it seldom has any real importance and can be a source of confusion for many.

    I always crop and resize in separate operations as this gives me much more control over the end result. And lets me do these things without a calculator. :)

    When I first started reading this post I wasn't to sure what the post was about, as I never had any issues with cropping or resampling. But I can understand many having issues with the field for resolution filled.

  • Travel and Landscape Photography

    January 23, 2012 08:43 am

    Really strange to read about issues with croppting to a fixed ratio in Photoshop. There are no issues at all. The last so-called "alternative method" is the simplest and logical way to do that. This is actually not an alternative method but the first and simplest one.

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