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 the tool lacks the side handles that lets you resize it, so the crop tool won't let you define the area you want or it re-samples your image after using it. This problem occurs if you put numbers in the height, width or resolution fields of the options bar (below the menu bar).

Fixing the Tool

After you select the crop tool, but before you drag out a crop rectangle, click the clear button on the option bar and the tool will behave normally again.

Considerations

There is a lot more you can do with the crop tool in Photoshop:

  • There are a series of preset ratios in the crop tool's option bar. Select one to crop an image to one of those ratios or even create a custom ratio and add it to the presets list. If you select the Front Image setting you will not only see the image's dimensions but also its resolution. If you move the crop handles in both the size and resolution will be maintained.
  • If the image is tilted—off-axis—choose the straighten tool while the image is still in crop mode and you can define the line for the straighten and Photoshop will automatically rotate the image to the line.
  • New to Photoshop CC is the Content Aware Crop feature. This new capability one is a godsend for fixing common image problems.
  • If you deselect Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options and return to the Crop Tool you will see the original crop handles reappear. This is because Adobe noticed a lot of people were constantly refining crops. This feature allows you to edit the crop.
  • Add content to a cropped image. For example, if you have a blue sky in the background but there is an area of transparency above the crop, you can fill that transparent area with sky. You accomplish this fill by moving the crop area over the transparent area and selecting Delete Cropped Pixels. Then you flatten the image and use the Magic Wand or Quick Selection Tool to select the blank area. Select Modify | Expand to grow the selection. Press the Delete key and select Content Aware from the Contents pop down and you have created a new image.
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