Preparing your images for print may require you to learn how to change the aspect ratio. In Photoshop, you can use the crop tool to resize your images to the exact specifications you need. This enables you to easily fit your images into the frame you have chosen, as the crop tool will help you change the aspect ratio in a few simple steps.

To change the aspect ratio of an image in Photoshop, select the Crop Tool (C) and set the Crop Preset to “Ratio.” Next, type in the desired ratio values in the upper setting bar to change the ratio of the crop overlay. Once positioned, press the checkmark to crop and update the aspect ratio.

Rather than struggling with the ruler tool and trying to resize your images using millimeters, inches, or pixels, the aspect ratio allows you to correct the image’s dimensions. This method is also used when you want to remove unwanted elements to focus on the focal point of your image.

So let’s start by learning the ratio feature of the crop tool!

How To Change The Aspect Ratio In Photoshop

In this section, I will explain how you can set a specific aspect ratio for an image of any size. For this tutorial, I will be using the 16:9 aspect ratio. Depending on the current dimensions of your image, you may lose some of the background or foreground. However, you will have a correctly sized image for print or an image focusing on the right objects.

Step 1: Access The Crop Tool

To start, simply select the crop tool. You can find it on your toolbar on the left-hand side of your Photoshop screen. Alternatively, you can simply press C on your keyboard. 

Once the crop tool has been selected, your previous settings used when using this tool will be applied. This will need to be changed to match the aspect ratio we want to use, which in this case is 16:9.

Step 2: Change The Crop Preset To “Ratio”

The next step is to select the drop-down menu directly next to the crop tool icon on the top options bar. Changing the settings to “Ratio” allows you to set your image to any aspect ratio, which is great for printing images for specific frame sizes.

Here you will notice the previous crop settings are still selected. In this case, the “4 x 5 in 300 PPI” option is still selected.

Next, select “Ratio” at the top of the drop-down menu, as this will enable you to choose a ratio as desired. For our example, you will now type in “16” and “9” to the two blocks to the right of the drop-down menu.

Your image will now have the crop block based on your set ratio. You can move this block to make sure you keep the relevant parts of your image and crop the edges outside of the block as usual.  Simply use the navigation arrows on your keyboard to move the block around the image, and hit enter to crop.

Can You Change The Aspect Ratio Without Cropping?

Changing the aspect ratio may crop out parts of the image you wish to keep. This is especially true if you are using this feature to resize an image for print.

Unfortunately, if your image was not originally the aspect ratio that you require, you will likely need to crop certain elements of the image.

If you want to avoid cropping elements out of your image, there are two tricks you can use to manipulate the image. Unfortunately, one method will lead to some distortion, so it may not look aesthetically pleasing if you try to save too much of the image. 

The first method is done by reducing the image size to fit inside the new aspect ratio before slightly stretching the sides of the image to reach the aspect ratio.

To stretch the image, make sure the “Delete Cropped Pixels” box is unticked after choosing your ratio and press enter or the checkmark in the options bar to finish the crop.

Next, select the image option on the menu bar and select “Canvas Size.” To use a shortcut press Control + Alt + C (Windows) or Command + Option + C (Mac).

Increase the canvas size in the width and height boxes, but be sure to keep them in multiples of the aspect ratio you have chosen. The width should be related to the first number of the aspect ratio, and the height is the second number.

Once the canvas size has increased, go to Edit > Free Transform or use the shortcut Control + T (Windows) or Command + T (Mac).

Then simply drag the sides of the image to the end of the canvas. It will stretch your image slightly, so be aware of the distortion.

If you prefer not to stretch the image, increase the canvas size in line with your chosen aspect ratio before decreasing the image size to fit your canvas. Then simply create a white background around the image.

How To Save An Aspect Ratio As A Crop Preset 

If you have a specific aspect ratio you want to use for multiple images, you can save your chosen aspect ratio as a preset. This will enable you to easily select this chosen aspect ratio from the drop-down menu. 

Start by following the steps to change the aspect ratio, and once you have entered your chosen aspect ratio into the blocks, select the drop-down menu again and choose the “New Crop Preset” option. 

A box will appear where you can enter a name for your new preset. In this case, I have chosen “My Aspect Ratio.”

Once you enter your name and click “OK,” the new preset will appear in the drop-down list for you to quickly access it when needed.

Your preset will remain in the drop-down list until you choose to delete it. You can also add as many presets as you need.

Following these steps enables you to easily crop and resize your images to the correct dimensions for any frame size. This means you won’t have to worry about printing photographs that don’t fit your frames anymore. Try out the extra tips to avoid losing too much of your image, but be careful not to distort it too much.

Now, this tutorial covered how to crop the entire canvas, but what if you want to only crop a single layer? Luckily you can learn how here!

Happy Cropping!