5 Secrets of the Photoshop Crop Tool

5 Secrets of the Photoshop Crop Tool

If you’re used to clicking the crop tool dragging the tool over your image and pressing Enter, it may surprise you to know that there are other options that you can use when cropping in Photoshop.

Here are my five “best-kept secrets” of the Photoshop crop tool.


1. Rotate as you Crop

When you drag the crop marquee over an image, you can rotate it by letting go the mouse button and drag on one of the corners of the marquee to rotate it. When you double click you will rotate and crop the image at the one time.


2. Perspective Crop

You can fix perspective at the same time as cropping by first dragging a crop marquee over the image. Let go the mouse button and click the Perspective checkbox on the toolbar. Now when you drag on a corner of the marquee the corners move independently of each other allowing you to position the marquee along the lines you want to crop to in the image. When you crop the image it is cropped and distorted to create a rectangular image. You can use this to fix distorted perspective in your images.


3. The Crop that’s not a Crop

Once you have selected an area to crop, you do not actually have to crop it, and you can, instead, simply hide the cropped area rather than permanently deleting it.


To do this, you need to be working on an image layer and not the background layer so double-click the background layer and convert it to a regular layer. Drag a crop rectangle over the image and from the tool options bar, select the Hide option. When you double click the cropped area will be hidden but still accessible.


You can now select the Move tool and reposition the image inside the area that you have cropped it to. This is useful when you want to crop an image to 4 x 6 in size and you want to experiment with different ways to compose the image within this area.

4 Create and Use Crop Presets


When you click the Crop tool you can choose from various presets by clicking the dropdown list to the immediate right of the tool in the tool options bar. Click a preset and drag on the image to create the crop marquee. You can turn a portrait crop to a landscape one (or vice versa) by selecting the preset, drag over the image and then rotate the marquee ninety degrees by holding the Shift key as you do so to constrain the rotation to multiples of 15 degrees.


To create your own preset, set the width, height and resolution in the tool options bar and then click the fly-out menu for the crop tool and select New Tool Preset. Give your preset a name and click Ok. It will appear at the foot of the presets list and you can select and use it anytime in the future.


5 Crop to the Same Size


To crop two images to the same size, select the Crop tool and make active the image you want to match the size of. Click the Front Image button on the tool options bar to configure the Crop tool with the dimensions of the front image.


Select the image you want to crop and drag a crop rectangle over that image. When you double-click to finish, the image will be cropped to the same size and resolution as the original image – in some situations this may mean that the image will have increased in size.


If the Crop tool isn’t working as expected, press Esc to exit the tool and click the Clear button to reset it – some settings are sticky and you may not remember you had set it to special crop settings earlier in an editing session.


Next time you go to crop an image, remember that there are more options for the crop tool than may initially meet the eye.

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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.

Some Older Comments

  • Benn June 14, 2013 09:15 am

    how after all of these years using PS did i miss the hide button! question though, how do you unhide if you wish to increase the size of the image after making the crop too small?

  • Kara February 27, 2013 05:23 pm

    Thank you so much for the great tips!!

  • Lisa Trocchi February 27, 2013 06:18 am

    Thank you for the tip on perspective - I had tried it before without it working - I think you just explained it more simply and hey presto!

  • Denise January 29, 2013 03:03 am

    Thank you for these really helpful tips. I have come back to this article several times. Who knew the crop could do so much!

  • Alex Smith January 19, 2013 03:10 am

    I have two comments about crop. 1. after using the crop tool where I have attempted a reverse crop, and when I save the file, It will only be saved as a tiff file. Why can't I save it as a jpeg file?
    2. When I use the crop tool, my display is presented with only the corner handles, there are no side handles displayed. Is this a problem with my photoshop program?

  • James November 28, 2012 02:49 am

    November 27, 2012 – Thank you! These ideas were a great birthday present! Very helpful and much appreciated.

  • Ellie Abney April 24, 2012 07:52 am

    I have a question - I'm cropping my photos in photoshop and trying to put them on a new page. After the image is crossed and I bring it to the new page, the image zooms in. What am I doing wrong? Thank you!

  • HolyDoom Witch November 15, 2011 10:13 am

    Guess what, Ms. Bradley... I was unable to find the dragging handle! And "Clear" was what I was looking for. Though since it came in the end, I thought I won't get a solution here!

    Cool! :D

  • Chris October 29, 2011 07:50 am

    Helen Bradley is the best.
    No filler material. RIght to the point with perfect examples.
    Now you know everything about the topic.

    Is there a way to find all articles written by her at DPS?

  • kat September 21, 2011 03:24 am

    I'm pretty good at cropping but not tried at an angle yet. I dont seem to grasp how to crop and enlage. When i try to save it it goes back to small size. Or if i blow it up nice and big it goes too grainey :(

  • Helen Bradley July 8, 2011 02:19 am

    @Donna.. you need a different tool for this job. You need the Lens Correction Filter - in Photoshop choose Filter > Lens Correction. That will let you straighten and fix the perspective issues without losing the parts of the image you want to keep.

    I'll try and knock out a post for you on it to show you how it's done. I just checked the site and I can't see we've ever talked about this tool so it's probably a good time and the feature is in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and it works the same way in each.


  • Donna July 7, 2011 07:56 am

    I just learned about using the crop tool to fix perspective but I'm frustrated that it crops my image when the correction is applied. For example, I want to "square" my entire image using a window or door as a reference but I don't want to end up with JUST a photo of a perfectly square door (or window). I want the entire house to be in perspective.

    Any idea what I'm doing wrong? Thanks in advance.


  • Swapnaa April 20, 2011 05:30 am

    Brilliant! Super useful (and usable). Thanks for taking the trouble to create such a useful document!

  • Scott April 14, 2011 05:31 pm

    There are so many images on the Web. How can you know whether an image is original or has been edited by Photoshop? Check it out using Photoshopped Image Killer. Specify your image's URL and the site will do analysis for you automatically.

  • Gunay October 22, 2010 05:35 pm

    Is there anyway of cropping an imaging without losing its sharpness? I mean when you crop the image and in a preview thumbnails you see not a nice picture, but looks nice once you open it

  • Rahul July 31, 2010 12:00 pm

    Great guide. I'm running Photoshop version 8 and I'm missing the middle little box on both sides of the "marquee" when I use the crop tool, so I cannot adjust the size of the width or height alone (they're not mutually exclusive since I can only manipulate the four corners). How do I get the middle boxes to appear?

    On a separate note, the photo of the Hindu temple deities is amazing! Do you have any more photos of that temple exterior?

  • Nick June 12, 2010 12:12 am

    Hey, great tips. What I use the crop tool for however, is not mentioned here.
    Maybe because it seems simple, but it's cropping to aspect ratio.

    It's a great way to chose an aspect ratio for the canvas and then resize at the same time.
    Cropping can be used, not only to make an image smaller, but bigger too.
    After you drag the box, you can resize your window (and zoom out) so you see the rest of the canvas, then size the crop tool so it's outside of the canvas.
    Once you crop, the canvas will be scaled to new size and aspect ratio, and the image will be filled.

    Saves you the step of changing canvas then resizing image.

  • John Deivison May 16, 2010 01:22 am

    Legal a do crop oculto !!!

  • Selva66 March 14, 2010 12:32 am

    Great stuff!

  • michael February 15, 2010 03:48 am

    Thanks Helen! - very useful, but super concise. perfect.

  • Rob Cubbon January 23, 2010 08:19 pm

    Wow! Front Image button is so useful. I can NOT believe I didn't know that. Thank you.
    Thank you.Thank you.Thank you.Thank you.

  • Leah Q January 18, 2010 12:22 pm

    nice tips you share here - many thanks! - will certainly be stopping on back!

  • Itsashirt T shirts January 16, 2010 06:01 am

    @sean: Corel is not better than photoshop, learn to work with it :)

  • MiL November 22, 2009 12:29 am

    Yeah, great article...and very simple =)

  • Sean October 9, 2009 12:29 am

    the crop tool is rubbish, what if i want to set it to 300px width what do i have to do? and why cant i set my measurements after i dragged the crop out its so stupid, Corel Paint Shop Pro is better!

  • Grlafraid October 1, 2009 02:55 am

    I'm trying to do #4, creating and using the cop preset sizes. I am using CS4 on a Mac. I can get it create the preset, but when I click and drag over the image, nothing happens. Any ideas as to why?


  • Jack Fussell September 14, 2009 02:03 am

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Reggie Thomson September 11, 2009 09:42 am

    I couldn't find a solution to my problem here - how to constrain the crop to a ratio (3:2) but without resizing. I found a solution here. Just put the image size to 100% or larger, make an initial selection with the crop tool of a small number of pixels (e.g. 300x200), then press SHIFT while dragging the corner control handles.

  • Marie France Boisvert August 22, 2009 05:37 am

    Thank you so much , for this information. So many useful tips
    Must have taken you lots of time

  • zarith August 13, 2009 08:53 pm

    thank you for the tips ;)

  • Don Reeves August 12, 2009 11:37 am

    It's the simplest things that get over looked are usually the most important to creativity.
    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    Of all the things in the thick book that comes with photoshop software this is one of the must read sections, along with layering.

  • Venus August 11, 2009 10:18 am

    I use this crop tool a lot but I didn't know that there are still many ways on how to use it effectively. Thanks for the tips :-)

  • My Truth August 11, 2009 08:06 am

    I appreciate your taking the time to put this together. It looks like you spent quite a bit of time, screenshots and everything! Thanks for the info, it was very helpful.

  • Alex Ramsay August 11, 2009 01:33 am

    Dear Michael,

    Assuming you're using CS3 or better, go to Filter/Distort/Lens Correction/transform horizontal perspective (and do it in 16-bit)


  • Michael Padnos August 9, 2009 11:02 am

    Very good post, but it doesn't address a problem that I find devilish in cropping, which is what to do with the little "perspective" star in the middle of the picture.
    More specifically, when I shoot a picture from an angle -a building, for example -- and want to crop it to appear as if it was shot from directly in front of the building, I am easily able, using the "perspective" tool, to give the building perfect vertical and horizontal lines. But I am often left, particularly when I have shot from a sharply acute angle (as in a narrow street) with a messed-up perspective; i.e., with a situation in which the far side of the picture is disproportionately large. I assume this can be corrected with the little star: if not, how CAN this problem be fixed?

    Many thanks,

  • Maree Jamieson August 8, 2009 05:34 pm

    Thanks so much for these tips. I can't believe that I've never found this out before and I'm an avid Photosahop user. I always use the selection tool. Now I know.

  • James August 8, 2009 05:33 pm

    Cool tips.. Thanks.. !!!!

  • robby August 8, 2009 02:36 pm

    more ways to crop "annoying" parts :) thanks

  • Matt Barnes August 8, 2009 06:55 am

    If you want to use the 'Front Image' option without resampling your image, just change your units from pixels to inches and leave the 'Resolution' field blank. The cropped image will maintain the proper proportions and will have proportionately fewer pixels per inch, but will not be resampled.

  • Parris August 8, 2009 04:32 am

    Sometimes I think I know everything. Normally doesn't last too long. At least three times in the article above I went "Ohhh..!" Thanks!

  • Santhosh August 8, 2009 02:35 am

    I never knew about this options. Thanks for sharing the tips, cropping will be more fun now. Thank you.

  • Peter Read August 8, 2009 02:30 am

    There is surely a sixth use for the Crop tool viz. increase the canvas size. This is done by dragging the Crop tool over the whole image. Then grab a corner box and you will find it can be dragged beyond the image. Do this for other sides and when you click the tick canvas is made to the colour of the background colour. Clearly you need to maximise the image beforehand by clicking on the small square at the top right of the image.

  • Wallace August 8, 2009 12:30 am

    Such great tips, even for an old pro!!! Thank you!

  • Jason August 8, 2009 12:26 am

    My favorite crop tip is this:
    1. Expand your current window to be larger than the current canvas size (you'll see the grey border around your canvas)
    2. Use the crop tool
    3. Drag one of the sides of your crop marquee outside the canvas (into the grey area) to increase your canvas size.

  • Bridget Casas August 8, 2009 12:13 am

    Thank you Helen. There are a few things here I was not aware of!

  • Les Schonbrun August 7, 2009 10:39 pm

    I would love to have information like this for each of the PS tools!

  • Jeff August 7, 2009 09:58 pm

    One more to add to the list: I often need to have a bigger artspace when working on web images. A quick way to make your palette larger is hit the F key twice to go to full screen mode (This is better for many other things too like zooming) Now, if you crop, you can crop larger than your image and it will expand the palette and fill with whatever background color.

  • Brandon Mulnix August 7, 2009 08:49 pm

    I have been using Photoshop for 6 years to edit Senior portraitsand I never knew about the perspective tool. That rocks! Thanks so much for sharing this article.

  • Frank West August 7, 2009 08:27 pm

    I use crop more often than I probably should and yet I didn't know all 5 of these points, thanks for saving me time!

  • atomiku August 7, 2009 08:21 pm

    Thank you very much :)

  • tbSMITH August 7, 2009 08:10 pm

    Having been using photoshop for +10 years, I can count the number of times I've used the crop tool on one hand -- usually selecting the area (M), then Image --> Crop instead. Now I feel dumb knowing that it is actually a powerful tool. thanks! :)

  • Sheldon (Marketing Consultant, Tauranga) August 7, 2009 12:43 pm

    Freaking marvelous. Thanks very much!

  • Pssequimages August 7, 2009 05:00 am

    Thank you---wonderful Crop tool secrets. #3 (Crop that's not a Crop) is really slick! Love how that worked, even though I almost always work in camera raw when I crop a photo.

  • Anne-Mie August 7, 2009 03:48 am

    I got a 6th tip. You can use also the crop tool to add canvas. First drag a box with the crop tool. When you move your marque outside the picture, and crop it will add extra pixels.

  • Helen Bradley August 7, 2009 01:53 am

    @Chuck: The crop tool will have to resample when it resizes to a different size image. For example you can make the crop tool upsize an image (as mentioned in the text) or downsize it by setting the crop size and resolution. In this case it is my understanding that the resampling algorithm used is the one you have configured in your preferences. Choose Edit > Preferences > General and check the Image Interpolation setting to see what it is set to.

    @Bryce - I still do!

    @Michelle/@zack.. good catch, yes, they are all from Singapore.

  • Laura Higgins August 7, 2009 01:49 am

    Awesome tips being new to photo shop I aprreciate them!

  • RJ August 7, 2009 01:45 am

    Hi?it's a good article.
    Is the picture in Tip 2 from Singapore? Or maybe all of them?

  • Chuck August 7, 2009 12:08 am

    Anybody know if the crop tool re-samples when it resizes?

  • Ed August 6, 2009 11:50 pm

    @tyler - no, there's nothing. I can do everything as normal in crop, except change the stuff on the toolbar. So I can make a crop box in the image, resize it, even actually crop - but I cannot change the options such as "no restrictions" or "8x10" or "photo ratio."

    I posted this on the Adobe forums, and someone said this is a common problem. She recommended to use the rectangular marquee selection and then use Image>Crop as a workaround.

  • Bryce Roney August 6, 2009 05:02 pm

    Gosh, I hadn't heard of Helen Bradley since she used to write for PC User Magazine in Australia.

  • Erin August 6, 2009 02:59 pm

    Great tips...wish they worked in PSE7. :(

  • Michelle August 6, 2009 02:57 pm

    This was useful, thanks - I'll especially try out tip 3. And I'm pretty sure the photos are from Singapore!

  • Benjamin Solah August 6, 2009 02:39 pm

    I love the crop tool. It's one of the things that has improved my photography massively over the past year or so. These tips should help to enhance them.

  • Redd Dyver August 6, 2009 01:57 pm

    i you use the preset sizes, easiest way to rotate 90º is to just click the lil button between the two dimensions.

  • art August 6, 2009 12:00 pm

    thanks! presets are cool

    but sometimes I crop with rotate but it rotate not working. why?

  • Amandalynn August 6, 2009 11:33 am

    Very nice. I'm pretty proficient with photoshop, but I was unaware of the perspective crop!

  • af August 6, 2009 10:33 am

    This was really useful, thanks

  • Zack August 6, 2009 07:30 am

    Very helpful tips as always! The example photos look really familiar. I wonder if they were taken in Singapore.

  • Mike B August 6, 2009 07:24 am


    A very nice post. Very concise and well written. I learned something new in a very short time. I'm looking forward to more. One thing I always do before cropping in Photoshop is make a copy of the image for later if needed. Also, if you're working in camera raw, cropping there first will allow you to go back and recover the original image later by clicking the crop button again.

  • Tyler August 6, 2009 06:04 am

    @Ed: Is there any tick in the toolbar, this may be required to finish the crop. It may also happen if you try to transform any shapes or layers. Just checking - you may or may not know this. If not - I have never had this problem. Hope I helped.

  • Stephen Bateman August 6, 2009 05:00 am

    That was ridiculously useful. Thanks!

  • Manuel Casanova August 6, 2009 03:42 am

    Excellent!!. It's god to learn some new tricks a day

  • Ed August 6, 2009 02:55 am

    Thanks for the tips! I do have a strange question, though, wondering if anyone has experienced this.

    I use Photoshop Elements 7 on Vista. Every now and then, my Crop functionality locks up. That is, when I try to click in the toolbar -- say, to change the ratio of the crop from "no restrictions" to "8x10" -- nothing happens. The little drop-down menu changes color from gray to lighter gray, but no drop-down menu appears. Hitting Reset does nothing; I have to completely close the Editor and re-launch it for it to be like normal.

    I've only noticed this on Crop -- not on any other tool. Any thoughts?

  • dee August 6, 2009 02:50 am

    Thanks, these are great tips!

  • Teresa August 6, 2009 02:07 am

    Thanks for sharing that useful information!