Photoshop Crop Tool Tips and Tricks

Photoshop Crop Tool Tips and Tricks

Written by Steve Patterson.

In this tutorial, I cover the essential tips and tricks you can use with the Crop Tool to speed up your workflow when cropping images in Photoshop! You'll learn time-saving keyboard shortcuts, a few ways to customize the Crop Tool, and even how to use the Crop Tool to quickly add a border around your image!

If you're new to Photoshop and not sure how to crop images, be sure to check out my previous tutorial where I cover the basics. I'll be using Photoshop CC but everything here is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6. Let's get started!

Here's the image I'll be using. I downloaded this one from Adobe Stock:

The original image. Photo credit: Adobe Stock
The original image. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

The Crop Tool keyboard shortcuts

Let's start with the Crop Tool's keyboard shortcuts.

How to select the Crop Tool

To select the Crop Tool, rather than grabbing it from the Toolbar, just tap the letter C on your keyboard.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Select the Crop Tool by pressing C
Press "C" to select the Crop Tool.

How to lock the aspect ratio of the crop border

As you're resizing the crop border, you can lock the aspect ratio by holding down your Shift key as you drag a corner handle.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Locking the aspect ratio of the crop border
Shift + drag a corner handle to lock the aspect ratio.

How to resize the crop border from its center

To resize the border from its center, press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key while dragging a handle.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Resizing the crop border from its center
Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) + drag a handle to resize the border from its center.

How to lock the aspect ratio and resize from center

And to both lock the aspect ratio and resize the border from its center, hold Shift+Alt (Win) / Shift+Option (Mac) and drag one of the corners.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Resizing the crop border from its center
Shift + Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) + drag a corner handle to lock the aspect ratio and resize from center.

How to swap the orientation of the crop border

To swap the orientation of the crop border between portrait and landscape, press the letter X.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press X to swap the crop border orientation
Tap "X" to swap the orientation.

Show or hide the cropped area

If you want to hide the area outside the crop border to get a better sense of what the cropped version will look like, press H.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press H to hide the cropped area
Press "H" to hide the area outside the crop border.

Then press H again to bring the cropped area back.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press H again to show the cropped area
Press "H" again to show the cropped area.

How to move the crop border, not the image

By default, when we click and drag inside the crop border, we move the image around inside it while the border stays in place. To move the border, not the image, you can switch to "Classic Mode" by pressing the letter P. Then drag to move the border around inside the image. Press P again to return to the default mode.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press P to toggle Classic Mode on and off
Press "P" to toggle Classic Mode on and off.

Temporarily select the Straighten Tool

If you need to straighten your image, you can temporarily access the Straighten Tool by pressing and holding your Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key while the Crop Tool is active.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Temporarily switching to the Straighten Tool
Hold Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) to temporarily access the Straighten Tool.

Drag across something that should be straight, either vertically or horizontally, and then release your mouse button to rotate the image.

Straightening an image with the Straighten Tool in Photoshop
Dragging across the horizon line with the Straighten Tool.

Once you've straightened the image, release the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key to switch back to the Crop Tool.

Switching from the Straighten Tool back to the Crop Tool in Photoshop
Release Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) to return to the Crop Tool.

Cancel the crop

To cancel the crop, press the Esc key on your keyboard.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press Esc to cancel the crop
Cancel the crop to return to the original image.

Cycle through the crop overlays

Let's look at a couple of tips to use with the crop overlay that appears inside the border. By default, Photoshop displays the Rule of Thirds overlay, which can help with our composition.

The Rule of Thirds overlay for the Crop Tool in Photoshop
The Rule of Thirds overlay appears by default.

But if you click the Overlay icon in the Options Bar:

Clicking the Overlay icon in the Options Bar in Photoshop
Clicking the Overlay icon.

You'll see that there are other overlays we can choose from:

Photoshop includes 6 different crop overlays
Photoshop includes 6 different crop overlays.

To quickly cycle through them from your keyboard, press the letter O.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press O to cycle through the crop overlays
Tap "O" to cycle through the crop overlays.

Showing and hiding the crop overlay

Also by default, Photoshop displays the overlay at all times, even when you're not resizing the crop border. But if you click the Overlay icon in the Options Bar:

Clicking the Overlay icon in the Options Bar in Photoshop
Clicking the Overlay icon.

You'll find a couple of other options to choose from. If you choose Auto Show Overlay, then Photoshop will only display the overlay while you're actually resizing the border, which makes it easier to see your image. And choosing Never Show Overlay prevents the overlay from appearing at all. To switch back to the default mode, choose Always Show Overlay from the list:

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: The crop overlay display options
The overlay display options.

Crop the image

To crop the image, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard. Or, just double-click inside the crop border.

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to crop the image
Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to commit the crop.

Undo the crop

And if you need to undo the crop, press Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac).

Photoshop Crop Tool tips: Press Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) to undo the crop
Press Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) to undo the crop.

How to add more canvas space with the Crop Tool

Finally, the Crop Tool isn't just for cropping images. It can also be used to add more canvas space around the image, giving us an easy way to add a border.

If we look in the Layers panel, we see my image sitting on the Background layer:

Photoshop Layers panel showing the image on the Background layer
The Layers panel.

Step 1: Duplicate the Background layer

To keep the border separate from the image, it's a good idea to duplicate the image first. To do that from your keyboard, press Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac). A copy of the image appears above the original:

Photoshop Layers panel showing the copy of the image above the Background layer
Press Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) to duplicate the image.

Step 2: Set your background color

Photoshop will fill the new canvas space with your current Background color, which by default is white:

Photoshop Background color swatch in the Toolbar
The Background color swatch in the Toolbar.

Step 3: Select the Crop Tool

Select the Crop Tool, either from the Toolbar or by pressing the letter C:

Selecting the Crop Tool in Photoshop
Press "C" to select the Crop Tool.

Step 4: Turn on "Delete Cropped Pixels"

And in the Options Bar, make sure that the Delete Cropped Pixels option is turned on:

The Delete Cropped Pixels option in Photoshop
Make sure "Delete Cropped Pixels" is checked.

Step 5: Drag the crop handles away from the image

Then drag the handles away from the image to add more canvas space. Hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) as you drag to resize the canvas from its center. As you do, you'll see Photoshop filling the extra space with your Background color:

How to add more canvas space with the Crop Tool in Photoshop
Drag the crop handles to add more canvas space around the image.

Step 6: Crop the image

To accept it, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac):

Photoshop Crop Tool Tips: Add a border around the image
The Crop Tool makes it easy to add a border around your image.

And there we have it! That's some tips and tricks you can use when cropping images with the Crop Tool in Photoshop! Be sure to check out my previous tutorial to learn more about how to crop images, including how to crop your photos non-destructively. Or for something more creative, learn how to crop images as a circle! Visit our Photo Retouching section for more tutorials!