Correcting the Fixed Shape in Photoshop's Crop Tool

Photoshop Crop Options
Clear the crop tool settings from the options bar to allow free-form cropping in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

 S. Chastain

Photoshop's crop tool sometimes gets stuck in a fixed shape. You can tell it's stuck because it lacks the side handles that let you resize it, so you're unable to define the area you want, or your image is resampled after you use the tool. This problem occurs if you put numbers in the height, width, or resolution fields of the Options bar (below the menu bar).

Fixing the Crop Tool

The solution is fast and simple: After you select the Crop tool, but before you drag out a crop rectangle, click the clear button on the Options bar, and the tool will behave normally again.

Other Crop Tool Tricks

You can do a lot more with Photoshop's crop tool than you might realize:

Crop to preset ratios. Select from the preset ratios in the crop tool's Options bar to crop an image to one of those ratios. You can even create a custom ratio and add it to the presets list. If you select Front Image, you will not only see the image's dimensions but also its resolution. If you move the crop handles, both the size and resolution will be maintained.

Straighten an image. If the image is tilted (off-axis), choose the Straighten tool while the image is still in crop mode, then define a line to which you want Photoshop to align the image.

Photoshop CC's Content Aware Crop feature is a godsend for fixing common image problems.

Edit the crop. Deselect Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options and return to the Crop Tool. The original crop handles reappear. This came about when Adobe noticed that people were constantly refining crops.

Add content to a cropped image. Say you have a blue sky in the background with an area of transparency above the crop. You can fill that transparent area with sky:

  1. Move the crop area over the transparent area and select Delete Cropped Pixels.
  2. Flatten the image.
  3. Use the Magic Wand or Quick Selection Tool to select the blank area.
  4. Select Modify | Expand to grow the selection.
  5. Press the Delete key and select Content Aware from the Contents pop-down.