How To Crop Images in GIMP {Complete Guide}

large featured crop image

Storytelling in photography is an art form in and of itself. Once you’ve mastered painting with light and have studied composition rules, your images will be at a level most photographers only dream of. That doesn’t mean all your images will be perfect straight out of the camera.

Sometimes, the composition wasn’t perfect at the time of capture. Or maybe something or someone snuck in at the edge of the frame as you hit the shutter. For those instances and others, you can crop the image for perfection. It’s easy to do in GIMP.

This guide includes everything you need to know about cropping in GIMP. If you’re ready… let’s do it!

Table of Contents

GIMP Crop Tool Options

crop tool options

Before we get into cropping your image with GIMP, let’s first explore the Tool Options. You’ll first need to activate the Crop tool to see its options. This can be done by finding the tool via the toolbar or with its keyboard shortcut, which is Shift + C. If you’re Tool Options panel is not visible, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tool Options.

How To Use the Crop Tool In GIMP

Here are the step-by-step instructions to crop an image.

Step 1: Open Your Image in GIMP

step 1 open image

For this tutorial, I downloaded this image by Daria Shevtsova. Download and open the file in GIMP. Or use your own if you prefer.

Step 2: Grab the Crop Tool

step 2 crop settings

In the toolbar, select the Crop Tool or use the following keys: Shift + C. Next, left-click anywhere on your image and drag it out to create a frame. The outside of the frame will be grayed out, and its content will be “cropped.

To adjust the cropped area’s size, hover your mouse inside the frame next to one of the four edges. 

Click and drag the edge of the side as needed. You can also grab a corner to resize two sides simultaneously.

If the crop frame is not in the right location, you can move it. To reposition it, click inside and drag it to a new location.

Step 3: Crop It

step 3 crop image

Once you’re happy with the crop size and position, hit your Enter (pc) or Return (Mac) key. Your image has now been cropped!

Non-Destructive Image Cropping

After following the above steps, you have one small problem. All the pixels you cropped out of the image are gone… forever. That is, if you’re using a version of GIMP older than 2.10.20. The recommended solution is to upgrade to the latest version.

If you’re using the latest version of GIMP, then the pixels are still there. They’re just not visible since you cropped it. However, if you go to View > Show Layer Boundary, the yellow dotted line shows the image layer’s size. And that its pixels are still intact.

To verify this, click on the image (with your Move tool) and drag it around. This is perfect for those situations when your original crop wasn’t what you intended. You could even scale the image to better fit in the crop!

If you wish to permanently remove the cropped pixels from the image, select “Delete Cropped Pixels” in the Tool Options.

Crop An Image Creatively

Composition plays a vital role in your images. In fact, using composition rules can vastly improve them. Let’s explore three different ways to add some creativity to your cropped image.

Creative Crop 1

rule of thirds crop

A tried and true composition rule is the “Rule of Thirds.” According to this rule, essential elements of your image should be strategically placed along a grid of 3 columns and 3 rows. To use this rule, we can use the guides in the Tool Options.

Click on the “Guide” drop-down menu and select “Rule of Thirds.” Also, select “Fixed” and set it to Aspect Ratio. This way, the crop will conform to your image’s aspect at the time of capture.

For this image, I placed the main subjects along the intersecting lines of the last row and column.

Creative Crop 2

panoramic crop

Rules are meant to be broken. Are they not? In our photography world, I’d say yes. Let’s break the rules with a creative crop. Often, I’ll want to eliminate the tops or sides of an image to focus more on the main subject. 

In these situations, I’ll create a tight crop that gives a panoramic type view for horizontal images.

What's Next?

Cropping in GIMP is only one of many things you can do to make your images better. Check out these tutorials to help you elevate your editing skills. If you’re looking for more advanced tutorials, check out these.

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