Skip to main content

Cropping An Image

Lesson 14 from: Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

14. Cropping An Image

Lesson Info

Cropping An Image

So as we talked briefly before working non-destructively when you go to crop something you always have a choice of whether you wanna crop it in any permanent way or temporary way. And there's no easy answer. I mean if you look at a photograph and you're pretty well convinced there's no reason I'd wanna keep this information over here because it's not interesting or it's distracting and you decide to crop it and make it permanent, that's perfectly fine. If you think there's even a possibility of it being cropped in a way that you wanna change your mind that's where you might use the so-called non-destructive cropping. So when I click on the crop tool, and I've gotta be honest and say, cropping is probably one of the most potentially confusing parts of Photoshop because some folks will say, oh and I hear this all the time, with this same kind of voice, "All I wanna do is crop to an eight by ten. "Why is it so hard!" It is. It's just, it's really the cropping function in Photoshop is a li...

ttle funky and distracting and frustrating because you can put in numbers here but then sometimes what you do it doesn't work out the way you want and it's just, I'm gonna show you a method, in a moment, a method I use all the time 'cause it's so much easier than actually cropping. But just so we can continue to talk about cropping if you don't put in any numbers anywhere just leave everything blank then you're physically and visually saying "I wanna crop like this." I don't even know what size that is. So I'm just visually going "That's what I want." Then you decide again, whether we're deleting pixels or not. So that's one method. And I didn't use anything other than my eyeballs to say "I like the way that looks." And that might be fine. But if you need to crop to a particular size that's where it gets a little more challenging and I'll get to that in a second. So, because I have nothing typed in, it's just a free form, I can drag the handles around any shape that I want. I mean, square, rectangle, tall or wide, whatever, and as soon as I hit "Enter" then the crop is finalized. If you're ever in the middle of cropping and you're like, "Well, not sure." Hit "Escape" and it just says "Let me start again." Recent crop tools added this feature 'cause in the past, up until probably CC something, you always had to start by clicking and dragging your crop. Now when you click on the crop tool, if you look really closely, you'll see there's crop handles on each corner automatically. Which is really nice because now you can just start as "I just wanna crop it like this." And the other thing that throws people off a little bit with the crop tool is, in earlier versions of the crop tool you had to move the crop to reposition, now you move the photograph which actually makes better sense. To say "that's the crop area, now I can, by eye, align, So you're actually dragging the photograph once you've determined this is the crop area, I wanna drag around inside that to say "Where do I wanna actually crop this?" If you wanted to crop in a certain way. Let's say you need to follow or match a particular ratio like it has to still be a three by four or a one to one ratio. That's where we can come in here and use functions like these where I can say I want to make one by one or four by five brackets eight by ten. So this way, no matter what I do, I'm trying to drag it any other way, it's gonna just keep that ratio and either go tall or wide depending on where I drag my mouse. But it's constraining to say "If you wanna make an eight by ten "it has to stay within these constraints "or else it won't work." So that works pretty well. The challenge is though when it's like "I wanna crop and keep the right resolution "and," etc. So I'm gonna suggest to you especially when you first start out that there's an easier way, to me. It's gonna seem a little weird at first, perhaps, but, I like it better. And that is, instead of cropping this photograph, you make a new document in the size that you wanna end up with. So for example, if I want an eight by ten at 240, 'cause I know that works for my printer, I make a new document, I choose the keyboard shortcut there, and I just do it right here. I say I want a ten by eight inches at "Create". So now, my photograph looks perfectly sized. Except it's white not my photograph. So now I take this photograph and I put it on that other image. And we haven't really talked about this too much a moment ago I did Copy and Paste. I actually don't recommend doing that in the long run because any time you copy pixels they sit on the clipboard which means it takes up valuable memory so there's an easier-- There's a way that eventually will seem easier to you 'cause at first it's like "what?" Technically it's called "Drag 'n Drop" but the name is a little misleading. Because I'm in this view called Tabbed Document View which is the more common view now in Photoshop. Instead of having floating windows. See how my two windows are like these little tabs here that I click on to go back and forth? So I'm gonna take this photograph and drop it onto this photograph. The way we do that it's called "Drag 'n Drop." What you need to think of it is drag, wait, drop. Because if you just drag and drop it's not gonna work. 'Cause here's what happens to people. They take this photograph and they drag it up there and they let go and go "what? What happened?" "It didn't work." Here's why, 'cause you have to go like this. Take the "Move" tool, click and hold, drag up to the tab, wait! 'til it changes, that's the wait part, now drag down and release and now it'll be added on there. Because my destination photo is smaller than my original photo, in effect, this is how I crop. Because you can see, that's what I've got to work with now. So instead of me worrying about using the crop tool on the original photograph I'm putting it into a photo that I know is the right size. This way my original photograph I don't have to worry about that whole should I destructively crop or not. 'Cause if you're only cropping for printing then you might not want to make it a permanent crop, whereas this way, I'm gonna end up with a whole separate document just for the purpose of printing. Now you can see in this case because of resolution I've got those little white bars because this photo wasn't quite big enough compared to that one. So that's because my original photo, I'm sorry, the destination photo that I made for cropping was, these were the numbers and they were just a little bit too big. So I might have to reduce that a little bit. But what I have found myself doing is I've made blank documents like this in the size that I want and I named them eight by ten 240 dot pfd. And that file is sitting in a folder on my hard drive. Anytime I wanna crop something for printing on my printer I know it's just a whole lot easier to take the photo drag it in like I did here and then move it around and go "right there!" Now technically all the pixels are still there. They're falling off the edge of the canvas but because this is all we see, this is what prints. And as odd as it sounds to me especially when you first get started 'cause I've seen people struggle for months trying to get their head around how the crop tool works in Photoshop. It's just not as easy as it should be. So for people starting out I think this is an ultimately easier way it's a bit to get used to that whole drag 'n drop thing and you can copy and paste if that's easier, but ultimately you can just think about creating a new document that's in the size you need it to be and then when you drag the new photograph in, assuming it's bigger of course, then it will automatically be cropped. In the sense of only what's visible. Pixels technically are still there but I'm only doing this for printing anyway. In fact, what I usually do is this. I do this once. Pretend it's the right size. I hit print. Once it's finished then I delete that layer and close it because it's served its purpose which was to print that one file in that right size. And you can do that for anything. If you do a lot of postcards or whatever, make a postcard document that's the right size and then when you drag your photograph in that tells you "This is how much room I have to work with." And I found over time it's been a lot easier to explain that process to people than try and get our heads around how the crop tool and all the intricacies of how it works. I mean if you're just doing a visual crop like I did initially where you're just dragging and saying "Just crop like that," not caring about measurements it's pretty easy but as soon as you try and match measurements it's just all these numbers in the crop tool just get a little confusing sometimes.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Adobe Stock Contributor

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Quick Notes Guide
Landscape Image for Practice Edit
Senior Portrait Missing Element for Practice Edit
Senior Portrait With Element for Practice Edit

Ratings and Reviews


I really like Dave's methodical teaching style. Step by step works best for my learning processes. He also has a lovely voice to listen to during his classes, that is important if you have to listen to someone talk for any length of time. I also like the "dance" he does by explaining what he is going to do, then does it, and then comes back to explaining the choices he made and why. Very, very easy to follow him in his straight forward explanations. He increased my understanding of so many tools I use and so many I have never used. Wow! Photoshop with Dave took away a lot of "fear"! (Wish I had a "happy face" to place here!) I bought this class today because I don't think I can get along without it!

Jim Bellomo

I was so lucky to get to attend this class in person here in Seattle. I have been a fan of Dave's for years and own a number of his courses from Creative Live. When this class was announced I almost decided to skip it since it was listed as a "beginners" class but decided that it "might" be worth it. One of the reasons I wanted to take it was that I am self-taught. I had started with Photoshop 5 (not CS5 but 5) about 15 years ago (at least). I figured it I took this class I might learn a little something that would help me in my work. Well, two days later I have 18 pages of handwritten notes, a whole new way to work and it has already paid off in a huge way in my daily workflow. I bill out my hours at around $100 an hour as a graphic designer and marketing person. That means in the two days that I spent 10 hours a day taking the class and commuting to it, it cost me about $2000 in working time. But it didn't. I can guarantee that I am way ahead on this one. I l learned so much. The real world things I learned will pay off for a very long time. Within one day after the class I had already started changing my workflow to be more non-destructive and faster. Dave is an awesome teacher and I can't say enough good things about this class. Even if you think you know Photoshop, you don't. I teach it in my small world but I learned so much.


A writer and an old person (over 60), I rarely use neat exaggerations like "great" or "fantastic," and never say "awesome" in the currently fashionable manner. However, I would call this class both great and excellently planned. Cross is well-spoken and a consummate teacher with a rarely non-irritating voice. It is information packed, clearly presented, well-organized, and extremely helpful. I wish I could afford his others.

Student Work