How to Crop an Image in Mac OS X with Preview

Jun 16, 2014 - 22 Comments

Crop an image on Mac OS X with the Preview app

Cropping is an essential image editing function, helping to improve composition of a photo, to emphasize the focus of an image, or to reduce unnecessary parts of a picture. While many Mac users use third party tools to perform image cropping, no additional apps are needed to perform the task in OS X, because the bundled and under-appreciated Preview tool has crop functionality built right in to its editing toolset.

To try this yourself, you’ll want to have an image handy that you can crop down, and just about any version of Mac OS X. The rest of the process is very simple and can be done quite fast, particularly once you learn how to use the tools and master some keyboard shortcuts.

Cropping a Picture with Preview in Mac OS X

  1. Open the image file you want to crop into the Preview app in Mac OS X
  2. Click the “Editor Toolbar” button, it’s located on the right side of the general image toolbar and looks like a toolbox or a little pencil
  3. Show the editing tools in Preview

  4. Now choose the “Rectangular Selection” tool, it’s usually set by default but you can double-check this by choosing it from the left-most pulldown menu of the Editor Toolbar
  5. Choose the rectangular crop tool

  6. Draw the desired rectangle on the image to the region of the picture you wish to crop
  7. Select the region to crop and then choose the "Crop" function

  8. Press Command + K keys to crop the picture, or go to the “Tools” menu and click the “Crop” option to complete the crop, the image will immediately crop down to the section that was drawn within the rectangular selector tool
  9. Go to the “File” menu and choose “Save” or “Save As” as desired to save the cropped version of the image

See, that was easy right? You now have a cropped image. You can draw the rectangular selector to whatever size you want and the crop function will take care of the rest.

Cropping images in Mac OS X Preview

The video walkthrough below demonstrates cropping an image from this wallpaper post:

Remember that by doing this you’re also indirectly resizing an image by reducing the total amount of pixels contained in the image file, but unlike the bulk resize functions you can not crop in a similar bulk fashion with groups of images in Preview because it requires a unique selection.

Cropping Images Faster in Preview with Keyboard Shortcuts

You can even speed up the cropping process by using keyboard shortcuts throughout the task, here is basically the same process as started from the Finder. This is an efficient trick to use if you plan on using the crop function often and want to speed things up:

  1. Select the image to crop in the Finder then hit Command+O to open it in Preview (assuming Preview is the default image viewer application)
  2. The selector tool should be immediately active and visible by default with a picture open, so draw the rectangular selection around the region to crop down as usual
  3. Now hit Command+K to crop the image
  4. Finally, hit Command+S to save the cropped picture

Memorizing the simple keyboard shortcuts used in this task can make the cropping process extremely fast, and combined with the general speed and efficiency of Preview app it’s usually much faster to go this route than opening images in Photoshop or Pixelmator.

Preview icon in Mac OS X The Preview app of OS X includes a myriad of image editing functions, markup tools, and conversion functions that are largely overlooked and underused, so if you’re just learning to use the Preview app for simple photo modifications and editing, crop is a great place to start.

Of course this is limited to the Mac, but for users on the mobile side of things there is no Preview application to be found on the iPhone or iPad, so instead users can find the Photos app supports cropping photos in iOS very easily with a similar selector tool, or use third party tools as well.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Adinda says:

    i am newbie in MacOS this tutorial really helps me

    but it needs updates since MacOS Mojave has different UI

  2. Nicholas Reid says:

    In High Sierra, Apple has cunningly hidden the cropping toolbar. Once you have opened the photograph in ‘Preview’, you need to click on the right most icon, which looks like the top of a baby’s bottle inside a circle. It will then show you the ‘mark up toolbar’. And that’s another half hour of my life I will never get back.

    • David says:

      Just found this article and found the problems in High Sierra that everyone else had. Yup – bad system development, testing and management.

      But – cropping Images with Keyboard Shortcuts works in High Sierra. All said, 30 minutes of my time.

  3. Dorothy says:

    Open the image file you want to crop into the Preview app in Mac OS X
    Where do I find this?

  4. Terry Masri says:

    Is there a way to define the final cropped image size by entering the size of the intended cropped image without having to drag the handles on the dotted lines? I don’t have a mouse and dragging the handles on the dotted lines using the track pad on MacBook Pro to get a precise image size is finicky at best if not impossible. What’s wrong the Apple people? Are they intentionally trying to drive customers away from purchasing their products? Or is this designed in contrived and unworkable functions intentionally built-in to force clients to give-up and purchase extravagantly over-priced professional editing software that ONLY professionals need?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated if there is such a workaround… though I highly doubt it!
    This philosophy of built-in obsolescence so notorious of Apple is continuously driving customers away and they’re not “smart” enough to realize this inevitability. I purchased my MacBook Pro in 2011 and vowed soon after that this is the last Apple product I’ll ever purchase. I feel sorry for the saps who regard Apple as some type of divine manifestation and will defend its’ products from a place of ignorant bias in oppose to using reasonable assessment of the functionality of the products.

  5. Brian Blackwell says:

    On my iMac running OS X Yosemite, you drag to crop, then click Tools, Crop, to crop it.

  6. James says:

    Patrick Hecking – The crop feature is available in the very latest version of preview, you just need to click the toolbox icon next to the search bar instead of the pencil in the photos.

    Worked perfectly for me to crop a jpg.

  7. patrick hecking says:

    I don’t see the crop command anywhere

    but never mind this is the last MAC computer I will ever own

    the next one will be a PC….

  8. Susan Grodsky says:

    Instructions don’t work at all. There is no “Save As” option and the Save option just saves the original image.

    Very frustrating.

  9. Pat says:

    I don’t see “crop” anywhere in the latest version. There’s a comment above that says it’s been “hidden” – is it still available? And I completely agree – it shouldn’t be this hard just to crop an image.

    • Paul says:

      Yes the Crop option is in all versions of Preview for Mac.

      Try using the select tool and then hitting Command + K keyboard shortcut to crop instantly, otherwise you can select “Crop” under the Tools menu

  10. Domino says:

    from a novice perspective the instructions get lame on step 2 because my “toolbox or a little pencil” is greyed out and not functional when I open the image as described in step 1

    • gasno says:

      If your toolbox is greyed out it’s because the picture file is locked and you can’t edit the file. Copy the image and create a new file with the image to edit it.

      • Mellie says:

        I have the same issue with a group of pictures I am trying to edit – photos which I personally took – and the image shows as unlocked. If the images are unlocked, why is the edit icon greyed?

  11. Sendy says:

    How do I edit or crop out stuff from an image?

  12. Craig says:

    I have a new Mac Air and “my” Preview doesn’t have that toolbar. It shouldn’t be so difficult to simply edit a photo. I have to go through another app to crop a pic as everything I’ve read and tried does not work for me.

  13. P Minz says:

    It used to be easier in OS preview until after OS 10.6 Apple decided to hide the “Crop” away from the Menu Bar. GIF animation has not been supported since OS10.5 It gets worse every generation of Preview.

  14. JimGramze says:

    Why not just double click to open?

    Preview has been my quick and dirty image editor for years. And for PDFs.

    My understanding is that there will be a Preview app in the upcoming iOS 8. ‘that would be awesome!

  15. dm10003 says:

    To restrict it to square hold command-shift to start from corner, hold command-option to start from center. To get pre-programmed proportions you have to use iPhoto.

    Do not save the new cropping if you need to keep an original. Unlike an earlier preview you should command-s before cropping to keep an original version. I slide the photo size to max size when saving the command-s version.

    The new preview version has a quirky way of viewing a full screen slide show. You select multiple files, open them, hit command-f for slide show, then WAIT for all the visible files to show up in the thumbnails along the left column. If you don’t wait the program may open a picture halfway into the show, not the first image. THEN you have to immediately stop the slide show autoplay if you don’t want the slide show to play. All very counterintuitive and bothersome compared to the earlier versions.

  16. jeff n says:

    if you’re cropping to save size, don’t forget that an unadulterated modern version os osx will keep the old copy as a version.

Leave a Reply


Shop on and help support OSXDaily!

Subscribe to OSXDaily

Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Twitter Feed Follow on Facebook Subscribe to eMail Updates

Tips & Tricks


iPhone / iPad



Shop on Amazon to help support this site