How to Crop a Circle (PhotoShop Tutorial)


The first step is to select the Marquee Tool on the PhotoShop toolbar.

In all the versions of PhotoShop that I’ve used, this toolbar appears on the left side of the screen.

The Marquee Tool is the second button on the toolbar.

The two most common options are the Rectangular Marquee Tool and the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

We’ll first try a rectangular crop, since that’s more common. Don’t worry, we’ll apply a circular crop soon.

Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Left-click at one point in the picture that you would like to be one of the four corners of the rectangle.

As you drag your cursor, a dotted rectangle will appear.

It will tell you the width and height of the rectangle as you drag.

When you are happy with your rectangular selection, let go of the mouse button.

If you make a mistake and wish to try again, press Ctrl + Alt + Z. Each time you press Ctrl + Alt + Z, PhotoShop goes back one step.

Once you’re happy with your selection…

Select Image at the top menu (the one that starts File, Edit, Image, Layer, etc.).

Choose Crop.

Remember, you can press Ctrl + Alt + Z repeatedly to undo one step at a time.

Now we’ll make a circle crop instead.

Grab the Marquee Tool again from the left toolbar.

This time, choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

First just visualize in your mind the circle (or oval) that you wish to make.

To get the circle in the neighborhood of where I want it to be…

I focus on the point that will be the top left corner of the circle, and then I pick a spot even higher and further left than that.

(It may take a little trial and error to get good at selecting the initial point for your circle or oval. It may not work as you intuitively expect.)

Left-click on this point and drag the Elliptical Marquee Tool. I drag down to the right.

If you want a perfect circle, keep your eye on the width ( W ) and height ( H ) of your ellipse.

Position your mouse just right so that the width and height are equal in order to carve a perfect circle.

Press Ctrl + Alt + Z if you need to undo your selection. You can press this repeatedly to go back multiple steps. (Note that Alt in there. If you only press Ctrl + Z, you can only go back one step, whereas Ctrl + Alt + Z lets you go back multiple steps.)

Once you’re happy with your selection…

You could go to Image and select Crop…

But I prefer to go to Edit and select Cut.

Then I go to File and open a New Document.

I choose the option for the New Document to match the clipboard selection.

Then I go to Edit and select Paste.

This pastes my circular crop into a new file, as shown below.

Sometimes, the Quick Selection Tool on the toolbar can help you make a quick selection.

It’s worth trying, but this tool isn’t always quite as “magical” as one might hope.

For simple shapes where PhotoShop sees the image you want clearly against the background, the Quick Selection Tool can make crops easy.

In that case, once you have it selected properly, you can get it with a quick cut and paste.

However, when that doesn’t work, you can use the Marquee Tool as we have done here, or your can try the Lasso Tool for a freehand selection.

If you need to get into the finer details of Photoshop, you may want to Google how to create paths and masks, for example.

(There is a Crop Tool, but I’m not a big fan of using it to make crops. Though it is handy if you need to rotate the picture and make a rectangular crop.)

PhotoShop happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

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3 comments on “How to Crop a Circle (PhotoShop Tutorial)

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