How to Circle Crop in Photoshop

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Even if you edit your images and add filters during the post-processing phase, a wrong composition can make viewers miss the main subject. Knowing how to circle crop in Photoshop helps remove irrelevant details from your images, enhancing the photo’s overall composition.

How to Circle Crop in Photoshop

Photoshop is a complex photo editing and graphic designing software that provides various shape tools for drawing and designing various geometric shapes. Creating circle crops allows you to get rid of unwanted pixels, create a point of focus on your image and draw the viewer’s eye to the primary subject.

A woman using a silver laptop wearing a black and white striped long-sleeve shirt is seated on a gray couch in the living room

Unlike standard cropping, cropping your images into a circle can help you create aesthetically pleasing images featuring objects such as kitchen appliances without a clattering background. Regardless of the complexity of your photo, you can use the following tips to circle crop in Photoshop.

Open the Image in Photoshop

Launch Photoshop, navigate to File on the menu bar, and choose Open. Typically, this will open the Mac Finder if you are using Mac or File explorer using a Windows computer.

Go to the hard drive folder that contains the photos, and then open the image you want to crop by double-clicking it. Alternatively, click on the image once to highlight it and click on the Open button in the lower right corner of the dialog box.

Unlock the Background Layer

The image you opened in Photoshop will appear as a locked background layer in your layers panel. Usually, the background layer is locked and uneditable, and you will need to convert the background layer to a regular layer before you start cropping the photo.

You can convert the background layer to an editable layer by clicking on the Lock icon. Usually, this will change the layer name from Background to Layer 0, and your image will be ready for cropping.

If the lock icon does not disappear even after clicking on it, press and hold the Option key if you are using Mac or Alt using a Windows computer, and then double-click on your Background layer.

Choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool

The Elliptical Marquee tool is one of Photoshop’s selection tools that allows you to create oval and circular selections. By default, this tool is located behind the Rectangular Marquee Tool, and you can access it by clicking on the Rectangular Marquee Tool and then holding down your mouse button until a drop-down menu showing all the tools nested behind it appears.

Choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool from the drop-down menu to pick it. Alternatively, press the M key on your keyboard to locate the Rectangular Marquee Tool and then press Shift+M to switch to the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

Create a Circular Selection

With the Elliptical Marquee Tool highlighted, click on the image and drag it to create a circular selection around the portion of the image you need to crop. Hold the Shift key on your keyboard while dragging the mouse to make your crop a perfect circle.

A man using a silver laptop and a white plate on a wooden table while drinking coffee in a white ceramic mug

Before releasing the mouse button, ensure your circle is big enough to cover the portion you want to maintain. Once through, release the mouse button first and then the Shift key. Remember that releasing the Shift key before the mouse button makes the selection outline snap back to an irregular elliptical shape.

Reposition the Outline

Click inside the circular selection and drag it to your desired position. Alternatively, press and hold the spacebar key on your keyboard to reposition the whole selection. You can also take advantage of Photoshop’s smart guides to help you position the image vertically at the center.

Although these guides should be on by default, you can enable them if they don’t appear by navigating to the View, choosing Show, and then selecting Smart guides. Usually, a line will appear running through the image from top to bottom, indicating that the circular selection is at the center.

Note that the smart guides will disappear when you release the mouse button. If the framing is incorrect, deselect the selection and start again by pressing Control + D if you are using a Windows computer or Command + D if using Mac.

Inverse the Selection

Since what you have highlighted within the elliptical frame is the area you want to retain, you have to invert the selection to highlight the region outside the circle so you can delete it. Navigate to Select on the menu bar and choose Inverse to highlight everything outside the circle.

Press the Delete key on your keyboard if using a Mac or Backspace if you use a Windows computer to eliminate the inverted selection. Usually, Photoshop will replace the deleted region with a checkerboard pattern indicating the transparency.

If the Fill dialog box opens or the deleted region turns white instead of transparent, there are higher chances that you did not unlock the background layer. Since you don’t require the selection outline, you can get rid of it by navigating to Select and choosing Deselect.

Crop the Transparent Pixels

To eliminate the excess space surrounding the circle, navigate to Image and select Trim. From the dialog box that appears, select Transparent Pixels, select all the options at the bottom panel click OK to close the dialog box.

Photoshop will trim away the transparent region leaving your photo in a circular shape. Keep in mind that you will have transparent corners, and whatever background, color, or pattern you position your photo onto, the background will be visible. The photo will remain visible at the center.

Save the Image

Considering that some formats do not support transparency, you need to ensure that the format you save your image into supports transparency so that the image remains in the circular crop and the transparent corners remain untouched.

A woman in a black and white polka dot blouse using a silver laptop seated on a chair in the shop

Note that the transparent background will change into a solid state if the format does not support transparency, such as the JPEG format.

  1. Navigate to File on the menu bar and then choose Save As. If you are using the latest Photoshop versions, you need to specify whether you want to save the file as a Cloud document or on your computer.
  2. In the Save As dialog box that appears, change your format option to PNG so that you export your circular cropped photo with a transparent background.
  3. Name the file, specify the destination folder and then click on Save.
  4. In the PNG Format Options dialog box, select the smallest file size and click OK to save your photo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Crop an Irregular Shape in Photoshop?

Yes, you can crop an irregular shape in Photoshop by pressing the F7 key to launch Photoshop’s layers panel. Double-click on the lock icon to unlock the layer, right-click on the Lasso icon on the tools panel, and then click the polygonal lasso tool.

Outline the shape and then double-click on it to select it. Press the Shift + F7 key to choose the inverse of the shape. Press Backspace to make the selected area transparent while cropping the photo to an irregular shape.

Does Cropping in Photoshop Affect the Image Quality?

Cropping doesn’t affect the image quality as you only take away the image pixels. That means the image will be the same quality if you display or print it in the resulting size. However, it will be lower quality if you force it to be the same size as the original image before cropping.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to circle cropping your images can help you eliminate unwanted background and visual information, emphasizing the main subject. Unlike a rectangular crop, circle cropping makes images ideal for posting on social platforms as profile pictures or adding to posters.