Photoshop Top 40
Illustration by John Hersey

27. The Crop tool


Photoshop Top 40

with Deke McClelland

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Video: 27. The Crop tool

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #27 is the Crop tool. The Crop tool allows you to do a few things. First of all, you can clip away the edges of an image so that you can hone in on just those details you want to keep or of course you can compose an image, and post as well. You can straighten an image that's crooked. That's the thing number two you can do. And then finally, if you take a little bit of time upfront, you can rather than cutting away the edges, getting rid of the stuff that you don't want.
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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop Top 40
7h 13m Intermediate Dec 21, 2009

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There's nothing people love more than lists, and Photoshop Top 40 offers a great one, highlighting the best features in Photoshop. Deke McClelland counts down to #1, detailing one great feature after another in this popular digital imaging application. The videos cover tools, commands, and concepts, emphasizing what's really important in Photoshop.

Topics include:
  • Assembling multiple pieces of artwork with layer comps
  • Creating a black-and-white image from a color photograph
  • Merging multiple channels to create an alpha channel with calculations
  • Selecting images with the Pen tool
  • Masking images using the Brush tool
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

27. The Crop tool

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #27 is the Crop tool. The Crop tool allows you to do a few things. First of all, you can clip away the edges of an image so that you can hone in on just those details you want to keep or of course you can compose an image, and post as well. You can straighten an image that's crooked. That's the thing number two you can do. And then finally, if you take a little bit of time upfront, you can rather than cutting away the edges, getting rid of the stuff that you don't want.

You can merely hide it so that you can bring it back later if you so desire. Very flexible way to work as you'll soon see. I'm working inside of a photograph from George Alexander and I don't know what it is about images like this. I love them so much. This woman pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I just think that's such a fantastic concept that it's old school image editing is what it is. It's real. She is actually there holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa and my only problem with the image and this is so funny I was looking for an image on Fotolia of Pisa, of the Leaning Tower, because it's such a great thing to crop and straighten for obvious reasons.

What I was amazed by is how many of the images were legitimately crooked, because either they have the Basilica leaning and that makes the tower look like it's leaning not much more or in this case, the tower isn't leaning enough. Notice that the world is sloping away from this woman. So if this image was actually straight, you notice this thing right here, this little column is sort of leaning over to the left. If everything was straight, the Leaning Tower of Pisa would actually be leaning that much more and this woman's physical exertion would make that much more sense.

So we're going to straighten the image and we're going to crop it and we're going to do that using the Crop tool right here. So I'm going to go ahead and grab the Crop tool. Now you enter specific Width and Height values, Resolution values as well. If you want to, you can even match a different image. If you have another image open, you want to match it, bring that image to the front. Click on Front Image, switch back to this image, crop as desired. The two images will then match each other exactly. However, I'm going to perform a freeform crop and I'm going to do that by zooming out just a little bit here and dragging around the image with the Crop tool, just to establish a base crop boundary at this point.

We can still edit it of course. Now by default the Shield value is way too high. So you can see that there is black outside the crop boundary and that black can be modified to your heart's content. You can change how much blackness you're seeing, and I prefer to reduce this opacity value quite a bit. Actually in case of this image, I'm going to take it down to 25% so that we have just a little bit of the so-called Shield. You don't have to have it at all. You can turn it off if you don't need it. Anyway, let's leave it on but a lower opacity. And then, I also want to go ahead and straighten the image. Right now, I would just crop it but I want to straighten it.

So what I need to do is I need to match one of these edges either horizontal or vertical edge with something that should be horizontal or vertical inside the image. I'll go ahead and zoom in here and the easiest thing to match is the horizon line in most images. In this image, that's exactly what we want to match. Notice look at that. The ground is sloping up like crazy. We don't want that. All right, so to rotate a crop boundary, you move your cursor outside the boundary like so and then you go ahead and drag and you can tell that you're going to rotate because you see this little rotate cursor.

Then I'm going to drag this edge upward and I'm just going to keep rotating the boundary until it exactly matches or more or less matches. Getting an exact match is little bit difficult, but you can keep working on it until it seems to be right. So notice, this is not the final edge I want. I'm just trying to match the edge against the land there and I'll go ahead and zoom out once again. Take this boundary down a little bit, and make sure that it matching the vertical edge to this column, so that everything straight, so that I'm just doing a second check at this point. All right, now I'm going to drag this corner out to this location here.

Now, one of the things I got to tell you, those of you who are photographing images, which I imagine is virtually all of you. Watch the appendages. You do not want to be cropping feet and hands and anything. If you're going to avoid it, there is no excuse for having to crop a single thing about this woman here except that we're too close to the edge. So we're going to have to take out that foot, but if we just had a little bit more expansion, if I could have grab the photographer and nudged him over to the right just ever so slightly, a little bit down as well. We didn't need all this guy. Then we would have had a better image to work with.

So when in doubt, by the way this is a really great technique. When in doubt, go ahead and compose your shot there inside the camera and then take a step back. Just step one step back and you will open up the shot just little bit. You could always crop and post but you can't make up detail that you cropped inside the shot. All right, anyway, but I am going to have to crop away your foot. Now notice something about this. I can move this boundary down like so and I can move it out as well if I wanted to. But anything that's appearing inside this gray pasteboard, once I've applied the crop is going to appear in the background color, which is going to be white.

So we'll have these wedges of white in the background. We're not going to miraculously make up detail in other words. All right, I'll drag this edge in. Now notice how the snapping is working. Photoshop is going to go ahead and snap your dragged handle which doesn't really done you much good. That is the side handle doesn't do you much good because you're leaving a wedge down here at the bottom. So when you're trying to snap to the edge of the image because you're trying to keep as much of it as possible. You want to drag the corner handles in order to get the proper snapping there. All right, so I'll go ahead and move it down to this location here. A certain amount of cropping of this foot is required.

So I might as well get rid of the toes, seems to be the best way. I don't want to keep some toes and leave others. I hate to get rid of any of the toes but it's going to make it hard for this woman to walk later on. But anyway, this is looking pretty good. I'll drag this over a little bit, this edge and once you've composed the shot the way that you want it, go ahead and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to go ahead and apply the Crop. You can also click that checkmark that we saw just a moment ago, up there on the right-hand side of the Options Bar. We now have a straight shot. Now part of the problem at this point, I mean I think it's composed about as well it's going to be, but I did perform a permanent crop.

So all of that stuff that I cropped away is now totally gone. What if I want to keep the shot more flexible? Well, I go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo the crop, to restore the original version of the image. Let's go ahead and convert it to a layer upfront. When you're working with a flat image that just has a Background layer like this one right here, then you're going to crop away pixels permanently. But if you work with a floating layer, you can crop away the pixels temporarily, which is a great way to work. You can convert this Background layer to an independent floating layer just by double-clicking on it and then we'll just go ahead and call it image or something along those lines.

Click OK and now it's a floating layer inside of Photoshop. Go ahead and redraw your crop boundary. You have to draw it from scratch. There is no way to save that crop boundary for later, not using the Crop tool anyway. We'll go ahead and move this around a little bit. We need to match the angle of the image. So I'm going to have to go through those same steps once again. Let's go and zoom in, so we can see what we're doing. I want to do a good job after all. Go ahead and drag this outside the boundary until we get it rotated properly in place. Go ahead and zoom out once again, couple of clicks here actually and let's make sure that we're matching the angle of our column with the vertical edge.

We are, let's drag by the corner handle because otherwise we're not going to get a good snap to the edge of the image and we're going to reveal some nasty empty areas in the background there. Once you've drawn the crop boundary the way that you want it, come up to the Options Bar. This is a very important step and turned on Hide. You've got to turn on Hide otherwise you're going to completely delete those pixels. And this is one of the things I don't like about the Crop tool. Why they do that? Why do they restore this to a perpendicular crop boundary? So anyway, I guess it's a tip. Isn't it? In the future, you'll know to go ahead and turn on Hide before you rotate your crop boundary.

If for no other reason than because you saw me demonstrate the opposite here. All right, so let's go ahead and make sure that we're matching everything that we need to match. I love performing steps multiple times. It's always a fun. Let's go ahead and drag this crop boundary out to the edge here, that corner handle that is. So that we get the crop that we're looking for. Excellent and maybe move it down. Actually, let's move this in a little bit. Now I'll show what I mean by recomposing the shot afterwards. Thanks to the fact that we're working with a layered image. All right, so Hide is turned on. So we're just going to hide those pixels.

Press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac. We've straighten the image, but now I can go ahead and select the Move tool and I can drag the image inside the crop frame in order to recompose it ever so slightly if I so desire. And if I want to change the size of my crop boundary at this point, I can do so, by going up to the Image menu and choosing the Canvas Size command. With Canvas Size, you can say you know what, I want to take off 20 pixels from the Width of the image and I want to take off 50 pixels from the Height of the image.

Assuming that Relative is turned on, you will be deleting these pixels but of course, it have to have negative values, not positive values. We should see all arrows moving in on the chiclet to show that we are going to reduce the size of the canvas, which is the crop boundary. I'll click OK. Now Photoshop is going to say Hey! The new canvas size is smaller than the current canvas size. Some clipping will occur implying that we're going to lose some pixels. That turns out not to be the case. Proceed is not a problem because we have no Background layer to clip. This layer, the image layer is not going to be affected and you can see that's the case because I can still drag it around and reveal portions of the image that I thought I'd crop away.

So this is a very flexible way to work. First, convert your image to an independent layer and then apply the Crop tool. Turn on the Hide option up there in the Options Bar and then rotate your crop boundary and you will get this. A picture perfect version of a woman holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa here inside Photoshop.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop Top 40 .

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Q: Is there a way to batch convert an entire folder of photos from the RBG color mode to the CMYK color mode without having to open and convert each individual image?
A: In the Actions panel in Photoshop, create an action that converts an image from RGB to CMYK. Then link to that action from File > Automate > Batch inside Photoshop.
Next, in the Bridge, select a folder of images. Choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch. Select the action inside the ensuing dialog box.
Or, in Photoshop, select File > Automate > Batch, and select the action and the folder inside the dialog box.
See also: Photoshop CS2 Actions & Automation, Chapter 2 “Action Essentials.”
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