Graphics - Cropping and trimming

In the old days of photo editing, the terms crop and trim meant to cut down a photo with a pair of scissors or a blade. Unfortunately, if you made a mistake there was no going back.

Computers can now perform cropping with the greatest of ease and have the magical Undo command, but there are a few tricks to watch. Note that the terms crop and trim are used interchangeably, so don't get too concerned about their usage.

WHY TRIM AN IMAGE?

There are a host of reasons for cropping - you may want to reduce a photo to fit into a certain space, remove ugly backgrounds, improve the framing of a picture or cut ex-lovers from a photo. You should understand that, like the old paper cutting method, cropping will delete the outside edge(s) of your image. If all you want to do is shrink an image without discarding the edges, then use the resize command. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, also consider using the select tool with the Delete key (this was covered in the April 2001 Here's How, page 157).

ADJUSTING THE TRIM AREA

Cropping can be a tricky operation. It involves selecting a start point, dragging the mouse to fill out the desired area, and then releasing. Most programs will then require you to click another button to perform the actual crop operation. This process may seem straightforward, but selecting the exact area you want can take many attempts, and even then it may still be a few pixels out of kilter.

If your current program does not let you resize a selection with the crop tool (sadly, this includes a long-time favourite of this column, IrfanView, and Windows Imaging) then you may want to look at another program. A free program with a good adjustable crop tool is Adobe ActiveShare.

ACTIVESHARE

The trim function in ActiveShare is elegant and simple. First, load your image into the program, then click on the Fix My Photo button on the bottom left. You will now be presented with five options, one of which will be Trim. Drag the cursor over the area you want to trim. You can make fine adjustments by holding the mouse over the white selection line - it will turn into a two-way arrow, just left-click and drag the border. For finer control, use the zoom option on the right. Once you are satisfied with the selection, click the Trim button on the left.

PHOTOSHOP

The latest version of Photoshop has made trimming even easier. It now darkens the area to be discarded - in effect, you can now preview the image before cropping (to turn off this feature, uncheck Shield cropped area in the top toolbar). Its icon looks like this: . Simply click the icon, drag out the area you want to trim and release the mouse button. Small handles will appear for fine adjustments. When you are satisfied with the position of the crop lines, hit the key.

PAINT SHOP PRO

There are two ways to crop an image in Paint Shop Pro. One is to use the Crop tool, which is situated on the Toolbar on the right side of the program. The crop tool is identical to the icon in Photoshop (pictured left). After clicking on the icon, drag the cursor over the area you want to trim. As in ActiveShare, you can make fine adjustments by holding the mouse over the selection line - it will turn into a two-way arrow. You can also move the entire selection box by clicking in the middle of it and dragging the box to a new position. If you are still having problems, then you can set exact numerical values in the Tool Options-Crop floating menu. Click the Crop Settings box to enter your choices.

The second way of trimming an image is to highlight the area you want to keep by using the select tool. Then from the Image menu, click Crop to selection. Don't use this option for any advanced selection tools such as the ellipse - in these circumstances, Paint Shop Pro will just guess the rectangular equivalent of what you have selected.

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