Photoshop Crop Overlay


Today’s Question: Not too long ago you addressed the crop overlay feature available in Lightroom to evaluate which aspect ratio one might want to crop to. Is there a similar feature in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is a crop overlay feature for the Crop tool in Photoshop, but it doesn’t enable you to evaluate the effect of different aspect ratios at one time.

More Detail: The overlay feature for the Crop tool in Photoshop is primarily focused on composition. The available overlays, for example, include the rule of thirds, the Golden Ratio, and the Golden Spiral.

If you want to preview a particular aspect ratio, you need to either select that ratio from the Ratio popup on the options bar, or establish your own ratio using the Width and Height fields to the right of the Ratio popup. When you establish an aspect ratio with one of these two options, you’re really just constraining the shape of the crop box for the Crop tool.

As a result, you can only effectively preview a single aspect ratio at a time with the Crop tool in Photoshop. In Lightroom it is possible to overlay multiple aspect ratios on the crop box, so that you can get a sense of which aspect ratio you might want to use. In Photoshop this process would be more challenging, because you would need to switch between different aspect ratios to change the dimensions of the crop box. This can obviously require a bit of trial and error to find the aspect ratio you want to use.

It is worth noting that while Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom share the same underlying processing engine for RAW captures, Adobe Camera Raw only has a Rule of Thirds overlay option for cropping. In other words, the other compositional overlays aren’t available, nor are the aspect ratio overlay options available. So Lightroom certainly has a bit of an advantage with regard to the overlay feature for the crop tool compared to Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw.