How to Resize an Image in Photoshop

Learn one of the most common and useful Photoshop skills

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Learning how to resize an image is one of the most important skills to have under your belt as an Adobe Photoshop user. Whether it's to help reduce the file size of an image to make it easier to upload, or to expand a single detail of a picture to make it more recognizable, there are a number of ways you can resize a picture in Photoshop.

The following guide focuses on Adobe Photoshop CC version 20.0.4. Most methods will also work with older versions of Photoshop, but the methodology may not be as exact.

What Happens When You Resize a Picture?

Before you get started on learning how to resize a photo in Photoshop, it's important to understand the effect(s) that may have on your chosen image. Resizing is, in effect, changing the amount of data in a file. If you’re shrinking a picture in Photoshop, you're removing data; enlarging it adds data.

The quality of the image is reduced whenever resizing occurs, but to prevent too much of a detrimental effect on the image, Photoshop performs a task known as Resampling. Photoshop reconfigures the pixels in an image and either upsamples or downsamples it depending on whether you're enlarging or shrinking the photo.

There are a number of resample options in Photoshop, but know that when Photoshop shrinks an image, it removes selective pixels while attempting to retain as much of the original picture clarity as possible. When it enlarges, it adds new pixels and slots them in where most applicable.

Enlarging images, even with clever resampling, usually results in some obvious artifacts like pixelation — the greater the enlargement, the more prominent the artifacts. Shrinking images can lead to similar problems, especially if you shrink a complicated image down so much there isn't enough pixel space to render the same detail.

How to Resize in Photoshop Using the Crop Tool

If you want to resize an image to focus entirely on a smaller portion of it, one of the quickest and easiest methods is to use the Crop tool. It enables you to select a portion of an image and remove everything else — not just the image, but that portion of the active canvas entirely.

  1. Open Photoshop and either open or drag and drop your image into the main window to begin.

  2. Select the Crop tool from the Tools menu. It's typically the fifth tool from the top and looks like a pair of crossed T-Squares.

  3. With the Crop tool selected, click (or tap) and drag across the image to select the portion you wish to crop to.

    Alternatively, you can click or tap the image, then click or tap and drag the markers in each corner to make your selection.

  4. When you're happy with the selection, either press Enter, or double-click/tap.

If you don't see the Tools menu for whatever reason, you can active it by going to Window > Tools from the top menu bar.

How to Resize in Photoshop Using the Image Resizer

Photoshop has a built in tool designed exclusively to change the size of a picture. Select Image > Image Size in the top menu bar to open it. There are several ways to change the size of your image depending on your chosen parameters.

Fit to

This option gives you a selection of different image sizes to pick from, including specific resolutions, paper sizes, and pixel densities. If you want to make sure your picture fits into a prescribed size, this is one of the quickest and easiest options to pick from.

Width/Height

If you know the exact dimensions you want your photo to change to, you can input them manually. You have the option of adjusting them by pixels, percentage (of original size), inches, centimeters, and a number of other measurements.

If the small chain link symbol links the Width and Height, then changing one will change the other to maintain the existing aspect ratio. To undo this, select the chain link icon, but note this may end up leading to a squashed looking image.

Resolution

This lets you adjust the physical number of pixels within an image on a per-inch or per-centimeter basis. Although this will change the physical size of the image, it’s more aimed at reducing or increasing the number or density of pixels within the image.

Whatever option you pick, you can choose to have Photoshop resample the image. You can choose specific options for retaining details or smoothing jagged edges depending on whether you're enlarging or reducing an image, or let Photoshop decide automatically.

Save for Web

  1. To save a resized copy of an image without adjusting the size of the picture you're editing, press Ctrl (or CMD)+Alt+Shift+S to open the menu.

  2. Use the controls in the bottom right-hand corner to adjust the dimensions.

    Save for web
  3. Select Save to save a copy of the picture at that size. You can then go back to editing the main picture.

You can tweak the file type and compression quality of the image you're saving with the other options in the Save for Web menu.

Transform

If you want to change the size of an image within your larger canvas you can transform it.

  1. Press Ctrl (or CMD)+A to select the whole image, then either press Ctrl (or CMD)+T or go to Edit > Free Transform.

  2. Click or tap and drag the corners of the image to change its size.

    If you hold Shift while resizing, you'll maintain the same aspect ratio of the original image.

  3. When you're happy with it, press Enter or double-click/tap the image.

If, when you're done resizing, the image has a large area of white on your canvas, you can use the Crop tool to cut off the extra space around your image. Alternatively, copy and paste it into a new canvas of the right size.

Transform on a New Canvas

This is great for situations when you have a specific size you want your image to conform to and don't mind losing a little around the edges.

  1. Make a new canvas by going to File > New and input your chosen dimensions.

  2. Copy and paste your image into the new canvas.

  3. Press Ctrl (or CMD)+T or select Edit > Free Transform.

  4. Click or tap and drag the corners of the image to make it fit your canvas as best it can.

Hold Shift to maintain the aspect ratio of the original image.

Fit for Print

If you want to resize an image just before printing it, use the various options within the print menu.

  1. Select File > Print from the main menu.

  2. Scroll down to the Position and Size section.

  3. From here, you can change its position, scale (using percentage of specific dimensions), or select Scale to Fit Media to have the image automatically resized to fit on your choice of paper.