The crop tool is stuck in a fixed shape. How can I make it work properly?

Fixing Problems with Photoshop's Crop Tool

Photoshop Crop Options
Clear the crop tool settings from the options bar to allow free-form cropping in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. © S. Chastain

Question: The crop tool is stuck in a fixed shape. How can I make it work properly?

I've been seeing variations of this question a lot recently: "Can you tell me why I don't have side handles to use in Adobe Photoshop with the Crop Tool?"

Answer: Sometimes you may find that the crop tool won't let you define the area you want or it resamples your image after using it. This happens if you have numbers in the height, width, or resolution fields of the options bar (below the menu bar).

Here's how to fix it:
After selecting the crop tool, but before dragging out a crop rectangle, click the clear button on the options bar and the tool will behave normally again.

Editor's Note:

There is a lot more you can do with the Crop Tool in Photoshop CC 2015:

  • There are a series of preset ratios in the Crop Tool's Option bar. You can select one to crop an image to one of those ratios or even create a custom ratio and add it to the presets list. If you select the Front Image setting you will not only see the image's dimensions but also its resolution. If you move the crop handles in both the size and resolution will be maintained.
  • If the image is tilted - off axis - choose the straighten tool while the image is still in crop mode and you can define the line for the straighten and Photoshop will automatically rotate the image to the line.
  • New to Photoshop CC is the Content Aware Crop feature. This one is a god send and if you want to learn how to use it, check out this "How To".
  • If you deselect Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options and return to the Crop Tool you will see the original crop handles reappear. This is because Adobe noticed a lot of people were constantly refining crops. This feature allows you to edit the crop.
  • You can add content to a cropped image. For example, if you have a blue sky in the background but there is an area of transparency above the crop, you can fill that transparent area with sky. You accomplish this by moving the crop area over the transparent area and selecting Delete Cropped Pixels. Then you flatten the image and use the Magic Wand or Quick Selection Tool to select the blank area. Select Modify>Expand to grow the selection. Press the Delete key and select Content Aware from the Contents pop down and you have created a new image.

    Updated by Tom Green