Graphic Design Shorties: Selecting and Cropping

In the Graphic Design Shorties series I attempt to make image manipulation and graphic design concepts more accessible to the non-initiated (like me). If you are in a small company where you wear many hats or just want to take charge and handle small image needs yourself, this series is aimed at you. If you have almost no budget for this sort of thing, even better.

As with all articles in this series, we will utilize GIMP. Don’t have it or don’t know what that is? Have a quick read of this older article and come back when you are all set!

This article in the Graphic Design Shorties (GDS) series, I will cover one of the more basic image edits you can make: the crop. A crop is really just cutting out the undesired portions of an image while leaving the rest intact. This little edit is a crucial base for many of our image needs and can sometimes lead to frustration if you are unfamiliar with a tool. Let’s remedy that!

Fire up your installed copy of GIMP and open the image you wish to edit by clicking “File” in the main menu and then selecting the “Open File…” option and choosing a file from your local drive(s).

GIMP File -> OpenThis example image (with more to follow) is taken from my Mac, but GIMP menus are highly consistent between platforms.



Once the image loads, we are ready to size up our cut. Look for the selecting tools (see image below with orange highlight).

GIMP Selection ToolsThe dotted-rectangle icon represents a rectangular selection tool that, as the name implies, allows you to select a rectangular portion of your image. Selected areas of the image can then be manipulated with the various features of the software — including cropping.

The dotted-ellipse icon represents an elliptical selection tool allowing a circular portion of the image to be selected in much the same way the rectangular selection tool does.

The lasso icon provides a free-form or polygonal selection method that is great when trying to cut out or select areas that require some precision.

The magic wand icon represents a fuzzy selection tool that attempts to ascertain your desired selection based on the context of the image area you select using it. It also has some controls that allow you to dictate the threshold for it to use in calculating breaks in regions.

The hand pointing to the 3 vertically-stacked color squares represents the color selection tool. This tool allows, within a threshold that you can control, the selection of an area based on the color. This is very helpful when attempting to find segments that may need cleared to support various colored backgrounds.

It may be worth noting here that graphic storage formats are all based on a rectangular canvas. As such, cropping an image to a non-rectangular shape may not have the desired effect if the background of the image isn’t transparent.

GIMP Rectangle Selection OptionsFor this example, let’s use the basic rectangular selection tool. After you click on the tool, you will notice the Tool Options window/tab provides some options to help us with a precision selection.

Most of these tool options are self-explanatory and let you fine-tune the selection both before placing the selection onto the image and even after.

The option that I use the most when cropping is the ability to set a fixed aspect ratio. By enabling this option, you can set the width/height ratio you wish to use. For instance, if you are cropping to an 8×10 paper, you can force that aspect ratio an ensure a snug fit.

Once you set a ratio (or don’t, it’s up to you!), simply click-drag from one corner of your desired selection area to the opposite corner and then release the mouse. You now have a selection that we can crop to!

GIMP Crop 2From the “Image” menu option select “Crop to Selection” and watch as GIMP renders your image with anything outside of your box removed.

Don’t forget to save your work by going to “File” and then “Save” in the menu!

Have fun with one more quick edit skill in your tool belt and look for more to come!

Next up: Working with layers. See you soon!

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