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One of Photoshop strengths is the way that it handles how images are resized. What we need to do is define one of our preferences in order to do this in a way that makes sense to our own workflow. So let's go ahead and open up our Preferences dialog. This time let's do this by way of a shortcut. On the Mac, the shortcut is Command+K. On a PC, the shortcut is Ctrl+K. That will then open up our Preferences and highlight the General tab over here. What we need to do is we need to find an appropriate image interpolation.
There are three options. When we click on this pulldown menu, you can see that Photoshop tells us which options are best for different situations. Bicubic, the default setting is best for smooth gradients, Smoother is best for enlargement, and then Sharper is best for reduction. Now, in my experience as a photographer, typically I work with big files and then I make them smaller. If I ever need to increase the file size, typically I am using a plug-in in order to do that. So in my case, I want to set my preference to Bicubic Sharper (best for reduction).
One of the reasons that I want to do this is that if I am ever resizing either with Free Transform or with the Crop tool, it will then default to this Bicubic Sharper setting. Let me explain. Well, let's go ahead and make that selection and then click OK in order to accept that preference. I am going to go ahead and choose the Crop tool by clicking on it in the Tools panel. Now, let's say that I decide I want to size this image down to 500 px or pixels wide by let's say 300 px or pixels tall, a resolution of 72 pixels/inch.
Well, now I can click and drag across the image. Then to apply the crop, I can either double- click inside of it or press Enter, or Return. Well, now that I have resized this image, it's resized it with the Bicubic Image Interpolation that I defined in my Preferences dialog. I am going to undo what I just did here. I am going to undo this by pressing Command+Z on a Mac. That's Ctrl+Z on a PC. Now, in other scenarios, this is really helpful if we are resizing an image that's on a layer.
So let's go ahead and duplicate our layer. We can do so by clicking in the Background layer and then clicking and dragging to the New layer icon. Well, now I have a copy of my Background layer. On this copy layer, I want to free transform it. To do so, I will navigate to Edit and choose Free Transform. Now that I have entered the Free Transform dialog, what I can do is hold down the Shift key and then click and drag in order to constrain the proportions and to make this image smaller.
Here you can see I have a smaller version of the photograph on top of a bigger version in the background. Now, if I double-click inside of this or press Enter or Return, once again, this image on this particular layer has been resized with whatever Bicubic Image Interpolation we have set up in our Preferences. So as you can see, in these two scenarios, typically when I am cropping or when I am changing the size of an image, I am doing so in a way that the image goes from something that's big to something that's smaller.
Therefore, going back to our Preferences, we can do so on a Mac by going to Photoshop > Preferences and then General. On a PC, you can find the same thing from your Edit pulldown menu. So in summary, because in my workflow I typically work with big images, high-res files that I then size down, I choose this Image Interpolation option of Bicubic Sharper, which is best for reduction. Now, you are going to need to determine which particular setting is best for you. Yet in my own case and in most photographers' situations, Bicubic Sharper will typically work best.
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