Understanding Photoshop is a biweekly column that takes an in-depth look at how digital photographs are built and manipulated. It is a college-level course in plain English for free at Photofocus. To learn more see this article.

Don’t skip column 15

It is possible to crop and resize an image at the same time. I refer to this technique as a power crop, and it is a huge time-saver. Before cropping, you can choose the desired size of your final image in the Options bar. When you drag to crop the image, your box will constrain to the proper aspect ratio. Cropping will change the aspect ratio and the resolution setting, allowing you to resize and crop in one step.

TIP: Straighten and Crop

In the Options bar for the Crop tool is a Straighten button. Clicking this button switches to a measuring tool. Just find a straight line in the image (or choose your own reference), and then drag to rotate the image into a better orientation and remove any unwanted rotation.

Let’s crop an image to a 5-inch by 7-inch shape at 300 ppi:

1. Open the file Power Crop.tif.

2. In the Options bar, click the Aspect Ratio menu and choose W x H x Resolution.

3. Enter a width of 5 inches, a height of 7 inches, and a resolution of 300 ppi.

Fig 04_14 Power Crop

4. Drag a the photo and set the crop to a better composition for the elephant on the left. Use the figure as a guide.

Fig 04_15 Power Crop

5. Make sure that the Delete Cropped Pixels option is unchecked.

6. Click the Commit button or press Return (Enter). When you’re finished cropping, you may want to click Clear to reset the tool’s default settings.

7. Press the V key to switch to the Move tool. You can drag the image within the canvas freely to reposition the crop as needed (as long as you didn’t delete cropped pixels earlier).

Fig 04_15 Power Crop2

TIP: Reduce motion

In the Additional Options controls for the Crop tool (click the gear icon) you can toggle Auto Center Preview off. This disables the “image moving while resizing” behavior that attempts to keep the crop box centered.

Tool presets save time

If you have a specific image size that you use often, harness the power of Photoshop’s Preset Manager. You can create tool presets that already have the values for a tool loaded:

  1. In the Options bar, click the Aspect Ratio menu and choose Size & Resolution.
  2. Enter a desired size and resolution into the dialog box.
  3. Select the Save as Crop Preset check box at the bottom of the dialog box and click OK.
  4. When the Crop tool is selected, you’ll see its icon in the upper-left corner of the Options bar. Click the triangle to access the menu.
  5. You’ll see several preset sizes that are stored in Photoshop. Select the Current Tool Only check box to narrow the presets. Photoshop stores the preset crop size in a temporary preferences file.
  6. To permanently save cropping sizes, click the submenu icon in the menu (the small gear in the right corner of the panel) and choose Save Tool Presets to save them in a desired location.

TIP: Pixel restoration

Because the cropped pixels were hidden (instead of deleted), details were preserved outside the cropped area. This allows for the image to be restored. You can choose Image > Reveal All to restore all hidden pixels after a crop (provided you left the Delete Cropped Pixels option deselected).