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Crop an image to an exact size in Photoshop, easy to follow Photoshop cropping tutorial and tips

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In this tutorial, I’m going to simplify cropping, whether you want to crop to an aspect ratio or you want to crop to a specific size for printing, you don’t have to do any math, Photoshop will do it all for you. I’ll show you how. Hey, everyone, Colin Smith here from, let’s jump in and look at cropping.

First thing, grab the crop tool, which you’ll see in the toolbar on the left.

crop tool in photoshop

There are two different ways of working.

First is aspect ratio and one is resize.

Cropping to an Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio doesn’t care about the size, just the shape.

Think of this as a pizza and we’re going to cut it into a different shape. It doesn’t cause the pizza to change size, we are just cutting off a smaller slice.

To demonstrate, let’s make a square crop. Choose 1×1 aspect ratio. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 2×2, 4×4, these are all square and will produce the same result, because its only the shape we are concerned about for aspect ratio.

crop for printing

Tip: If you hold the alt/option, you can drag from the center, rather than the edge.

overlay in crop

When you apply the crop (Enter key, or click the checkbox) It’s not going to resize anything, all it’s going to do, is simply crop it into that shape.

crop for social media

Maybe, you want a 4×5 crop for Instagram? (The first number on the left is always the width and the second number is always the height.) As you resize the crop, this is like cutting off a slice of pizza, it will cut off the area you choose without resizing anything.

change shape of a photo

crop for instagram what size is instagram

Common aspect ratios are:

  • 4×5 for Instagram,
  • 8×10 for print
  • 1×1 square
  • 16×9, which is used for HD video sizes for title screens etc.

In fact, you’ll see these under the Presets.

Crop a photo to a specific size

The next option is to crop an image to a specific size for screen resolution or print. So here’s the important thing. We no longer want to use ratio. We want to do W x H X Resolution. (Width, height and resolution.)

crop presets

You’re now going to see an additional box for your target resolution. This is VERY important, if you want to crop to certain size. Without adding resolution, it won’t know what size to make it.

resolution cropping

Unless you are working in pixels, then it will use the entered pixel sizes.

But say you tell it 5 inches by 5 inches and don’t enter a resolution, it doesn’t know if those are screen sized inches or print, that’s why you need to enter something into the resolution field. You enter your target resolution. If you don’t know, a general rule of thumb is 72 for screen and 300 for print.

If you specifically know the resolution, use 360ppi for Epson Printers, 219 for retina etc. But this could easily make this simple explanation complex, which is NOT my goal.

(See explanation of Resolution here).


Enter 5×5, notice it uses pixels by default (The default unit of measurement, that can easily be changed from the rules). All we need to do is just type “in” to change the measurement to inches. You can enter (cm) centimeters, (mm) millimeters, whatever you want. For resolution, enter 360.

aspect ratio for cropping

Photoshop creates a crop window. We can resize this window to the crop you want. When you apply it, the image will crop to that shape AND resize the cropped area to the Width, Height and Resolution you have chosen. In this case, it will become 5 inches by 5 inches and 300ppi.

resize photo

Photoshop Cropping Tips

If you prefer, the old behavior just hit this little gear and choose classic mode. In Classic mode you move the crop area, the new way, you move the image.

crop tool options


When you want to output the new sized image and don’t want to change your original image, file>save a copy and make a copy so you don’t overwrite the original. I really recommend doing that.

where is save a copy photoshop

Tap the X key, to change the aspect ratio from portrait to landscape.

There is an overlay guide to help you crop: we can change it. Tap the O key. Each time you tap it, it goes through a different type of overlay.

crop to a square

If you want to enlarge the crop larger than the image, we’ll usually get a transparent area. Turn on Content Aware and when you apply the crop, Photoshop will synthesize the pixels and fill the transparent areas with Content Aware Fill.

content aware crop

crop size cropped photo

Delete pixels. If we turn on delete cropped pixels and apply a crop, it will crop it to that size, which means that those pixels are now removed. If you turn the Delete Cropped Pixels off, nothing is deleted. A window is created at out crop size, but we can reposition the image underneath using the move tool. (V key).

what does delete cropped pixels mean in photoshop?

I attempted to make the crop tool easy for you. Let me know in the comments underneath if you learned anything new and what was the most useful part of this tutorial.

And by the way, if you’re your new, welcome to Great to have you with us. Consider joining our mailing list, and you won’t miss any tutorials from me.

And until next time, I’ll see you at the cafe.

(Ive been posting some fun Instagram and Facebook Stories lately)


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So anyway, guys, until next time, I’ll see you at the cafe.

PS Don’t forget to follow us on Social Media for more tips.. (I've been posting some fun Instagram and Facebook Stories lately)
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11 responses to “Crop an image to an exact size in Photoshop, easy to follow Photoshop cropping tutorial and tips”

  1. Thx Colin! I didn’t realize I could set resolution when using the crop tool & didn’t know I could choose b/wn Classic & new approaches to cropping. All useful to know. Good refresher on the other info too.

  2. For artwork submissions I crop to what looks good then need to resize to1920 pixels longest side at 300 dpi but I don’t know what the shorter side will be-it varies depending on the crop. CS5 on resample did it for me. What do I do now. Or I need to reduce size for website but don’t care what the ratio of the two sides are, so choose usually the size of the longest side but don’t know what or care what the shorter side will be. So what number do I put in the shorter side blank. I find myself gravitating back to CS5 but now it won’t work with the upgraded Mohave operating system.

  3. I get what I want from crop – but I do it, not quite understanding what it does, or if it will do it the next time. This makes it so clear. Thanks!

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