Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 2. Cropping and Straightening

Have a question on how to fix a specific photo problem? Please ask! I'll see if I can be of assistance.

The most common complaint
I hear/see about artwork photos that artists take themselves is, 'The color's not right'. So in later tips, I will give several instructions on how to correct this issue with Photoshop.

For today, however, I'm going to start where I usually start myself, which is to crop and straighten the raw photographic image. I've seen enough uncropped, skewed images to know that not everyone knows how to do this simple fix.

The final edited image: Hibiscus with Two Skies, 30" x 30"

Crop and Straighten (using guidelines) *

NOTE TO MAC USERS: Anywhere the instructions say 'Ctrl+ ', substitute using the Command key + the letter specified. 'Apple+'.

  1. Open your original photo document. Always start with a good size photo; a .JPG that is 300 dpi and about 10" x 7" (to check the size of your photo from the toolbar, click Image/Image size).
    I like to make a layer copy of the original: Ctrl+A (select all), then Ctrl+C (copy), Ctrl + V (paste); and then save it as a .PSD. More information is saved in a PSD file. When the photo is completely edited you can save it as .JPG.

  2. Setting up guidelines: Click Ctrl+R. This will bring up the rulers on the top and left of your document (to hide the rulers, use the same command). To make a straight guideline, place your mouse on on of the rules, then hold down the key on your mouse and pull down or to the right. Put the guidelines close to the outer edge of your painting as it appears in the photo.

  3. To crop your photo, choose the crop tool from the side tool kit. Drag the crop into position, and then click enter.

  4. To straighten and align your artwork: click Ctrl + A (select all), then Ctrl + T (transform). Right click on the image and choose 'skew'.This will allow you to pull each corner outwards to correct the alignment of the image. If your image has internal 90 degree lines, as this sample does, you can add additional guidelines to help you. When it's adjusted to your satisfaction, click Enter.

    Alternately, if you image does not appears skewed but is merely rotated a bit off, you could use the Rotate function (also under Transform).

  5. To remove the guidelines, go to your top toolbar and click View/Clear Guides. Your image is now ready for color correction.


  1. Wow... what a lot of work in preparing and presenting a wonderful lesson plan. I bet you can package this and sell the CD! thank you thank you thank you R.

  2. Great info. I use Paintshop Pro but the basics are similar. You are generous for sharing your knowledge.
    OK - so I'll fess - I paint small 5x5 inches, 6x6 inshes and have a tough time getting a good photo. I paint with palette or with heavy impasto brush strokes and oil - which shines.
    So one day will you talk about taking smaller painting photos?
    (Already asking for stuff)
    Have a wonderful day!

  3. Thanks Sheila your encouragement. It's nice to be able to share. And Double Thanks for the mention on your oh-so popular blog!

  4. Hi Judy,
    Thanks for visiting and I'm glad to know that some of the concepts are similar in Paint Shop Pro, as sometimes we can find the answers ourselves if only we know what terminology to use.

    I'll see what I can do to help with your small impasto painting photographs. In the meantime, you might try photographing in a variety of light settings and see what works best for you; I'm fond of middle of day 'bright shade' to minimize glare and 'hot spots' from brush strokes.

    You might also experiment with the positioning of the canvas; lay it face up on a table of the ground, hang it on a wall, or at a angle leaning on something-- all will provide somewhat different results-- and the background gets cropped in the end anyway.

    Hope this is helpful!


Thank you for your kind comments! They always make my day.