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Photoshop CS6 New Features – The Perspective Crop Tool

Written by Steve Patterson.
Not only does Photoshop CS6 bring with it a greatly improved and enhanced Crop Tool, it also introduces the Perspective Crop Tool, a brand new crop tool designed to easily fix common distortion and perspective problems in an image. In this tutorial, we’ll learn how it works!

Here’s a photo I’ve opened that has some issues with perspective. If you look closely, you’ll notice that instead of appearing vertically straight as it does in real life, the hotel seems to be tilting in on itself as it rises upward, making the top appear more narrow than the bottom. The smaller building to the left of the hotel also looks like it’s leaning inward. In fact, everything in the photo seems to be tilting towards some imaginary center point high above the image:

The Golden North Hotel in Alaska. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Photos of buildings often suffer from perspective distortion.
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The New Perspective Crop Tool

Let’s see how the new Perspective Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6 can fix this problem. You’ll find the Perspective Crop Tool nested in behind the standard Crop Tool in the Tools panel. To get to it, click on the Crop Tool’s icon and hold your mouse button down until a fly-out menu appears showing the other tools also available in that spot, then select the Perspective Crop Tool from the list:

Selecting the Perspective Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Click and hold on the standard Crop Tool to access the Perspective Crop Tool.

Unlike the standard Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6 which we looked at in a previous tutorial, the Perspective Crop Tool does not automatically place a crop box and handles around the image, so the first thing we need to do is click and drag out an initial crop box. To do that, I’ll click in the top left corner of the photo and, with my mouse button held down, I’ll drag diagonally down to the bottom right corner of the photo:

Dragging out a crop box with the Perspective Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Click and drag out an initial crop box around the image.

I’ll release my mouse button, and Photoshop adds my crop box around the image, with crop handles (the little squares) in each of the four corners of the box as well as one at the top, bottom, left, and right, similar to what we’d see with the standard Crop Tool. Notice that a grid also appears inside the crop box. The grid is very important because it’s what’s going to allow us to fix our perspective problem, as we’ll see in a moment:

An initial crop box and handles drawn with the Perspective Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The grid in the crop box will be used to fix the perspective.

If you’re not seeing the grid, make sure you have the Show Grid option selected (checked) in the Options Bar along the top of the screen:

The Show Grid option for the Perspective Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Make sure “Show Grid” is selected.

To fix the perspective problem, all we need to do is drag the corner crop handles left or right until the vertical (up and down) lines of the grid line up with something in the image that should be vertically straight. For example, with my photo, the sides of the hotel should be vertically straight, so to correct the problem, I’ll drag one or more of the corner handles inward until the grid lines and the sides of the building appear to be tilting at the same angle.

I’ll start by clicking on the handle in the top left corner of the crop box and, with my mouse button held down, I’ll drag it towards the right until the vertical grid line closest to the left side of the hotel lines up with the angle of that side of the building. As I drag the handle, I’ll also hold down my Shift key, which will make it easier to drag the handle in a straight horizontal line as I move it to the right:

Dragging the top left crop handle to adjust the perspective grid. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Clicking and dragging the top left handle towards the right to align the grid with the left side of the building.

Next, I’ll click on the handle in the top right corner of the crop box and, again with my mouse button held down, I’ll drag it towards the left until the vertical grid line closest to the right side of the hotel looks like it’s tilting at the same angle as that side of the building. As before, I’ll hold my Shift key down as I move the handle so it’s easier to drag it straight across:

Dragging the top right crop handle to adjust the perspective grid. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Clicking and dragging the top right handle towards the left to align the grid with the right side of the building.

You’ll most likely find that you need to go back and forth a bit with the two handles, since adjusting the angle of one side of the grid may throw off the other side, but after a bit of fine-tuning, you should have both sides of the grid lined up with something that should be vertically straight. You can also drag the handles in the bottom left and right corners of the crop box if you need to, but in my case it wasn’t necessary. Notice that part of my image on the far left and right sides now falls outside of the crop box and appears shaded. This area will be cropped away once I apply my perspective crop:

The image after adjusting the angle of the perspective grid. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The shaded areas outside the crop box will be tossed away to fix the perspective problem.

Once you’ve adjusted the angle of the grid lines to fix the perspective, you can further reshape and resize the crop box as needed by dragging the handles at the top, bottom, left or right. Here, I’m dragging the right handle inward towards the left to crop away some of the unwanted area on the right side of the photo:

Dragging one of the side handles of the crop box. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Drag the top, bottom, left or right handles to further adjust the crop box.

When you’re done adjusting the handles, you can apply the crop either by clicking on the checkmark in the Options Bar or by pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard:

Clicking the checkmark to apply the perspective crop in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Clicking the checkmark in the Options Bar to apply the perspective crop.

Photoshop instantly crops away the area outside the crop box and fixes the perspective problem in one shot. The hotel in my photo, as well as everything else that was tilted, now appears vertically straight.

The image after correcting the perspective problem in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The hotel now appears vertically straight thanks to the Perspective Crop Tool.

One problem with the Perspective Crop Tool is that it’s not what you’d call an exact science. You may find, after you’ve applied the crop, that your image still looks a bit “wonky” (technical term), and that’s because the angles of your grid lines didn’t quite match up with your subject. If that happens, simply press Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) on your keyboard to undo the changes you made with the Perspective Crop Tool and then try again. It may take a couple of tries, but stick with it and you’ll get it right.

Fixing The “Squished” Look With Free Transform

Another problem you may run into with the Perspective Crop Tool is that after you’ve corrected the perspective, everything in your image may look a bit vertically “squished”. In my case, the hotel no longer looks as tall as it did originally, and the people walking in front of it all look shorter than they did before. We can easily fix this problem by stretching the image using Photoshop’s Free Transform command.

Before we do that, though, we first need to look at the Layers panel where we see that my photo is currently sitting on the Background layer:

The Background layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The photo is sitting on the Background layer in the Layers panel.

Photoshop won’t let us use the Free Transform command on a Background layer, but fortunately, all we need to do is rename the layer to, well, anything other than “Background”, and the easiest way to do that is to hold down your Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and double-click on the layer in the Layers panel. This will instantly rename the layer to Layer 0:

The Background layer has been renamed Layer 0. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The Background layer has been renamed “Layer 0″.

With the layer renamed, we can now access the Free Transform command by going up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen and choosing Free Transform, or we can just press Ctrl+T (Win) / Command+T (Mac) on the keyboard:

Selecting the Free Transform command in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Go to Edit > Free Transform.

Either way places the Free Transform box and handles around the image. To stretch the image, I’ll click on the top handle and, with my mouse button held down, I’ll drag the handle straight upward. Again, this isn’t an exact science so all we can really do is eyeball it, but I’ll drag the handle upward until the hotel and the people in the photo all look roughly as tall as they did initially:

Stretching the image using Free Transform in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Click and drag the top Free Transform handle until the photo no longer looks squished.

When you’re happy with the results, apply the transformation either by clicking on the checkmark in the Options Bar or by pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard:

Clicking the checkmark to apply the Free Transform command. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
Clicking the checkmark in the Options Bar to apply the Free Transform command.

And with that, we’re done! Here for comparison is my original image once again:

The Golden North Hotel in Alaska. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The original photo.

And here, after cropping and fixing the perspective problem, then correcting the “squished” look with Free Transform, is my final result:

Photoshop CS6 Perspective Crop Tool image. Image © 2012 Steve Patterson
The final result.

And there we have it! That’s how to use the new Perspective Crop Tool in Photoshop CS6!

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