The Digital Art Studio: Quick Fixes #4 (Exactly Correcting Proportion)

The most common request I get from colleagues is for help with prepping photos of their work for promotional purposes and portfolio submissions. This Quick Fixes mini-series evolved from breaking down many of those common steps. The previous posts in the series used a square format image to minimize steps needed to correct distortions. This final post provides a workflow to correct proportional distortion in non-square images, and can be used to tweak even carefully composed professional photos.

For this iPhone snapshot of one of my 12″×16″ my fabric collages I would need to both correct the height-to-width proportion, and to square off the image to the document edges. In this instance I’ll set the correct document proportions first, then square off the image to the corrected document. Because previous posts covered cropping and squaring off an image to the document edges, the focus here will be on the proportional corrections. If any of the other steps move too quickly for you, you can fill in the details by reviewing the #1 post in the series (posts #2 and #3 will also add tools to your arsenal). If you’re following along with your own image, you’ll need to know the target height and width dimensions of your actual image. With photos that are properly shot, you’ll not need the squaring-off steps.

To ensure maximum flexibility as I work, I generally disable the Delete Cropped Pixels option before cropping an image. Visible in the Control panel when the Crop tool is selected, disabling Delete Cropped Pixels allows you to easily recover portions of the image that existed beyond a current crop.

After converting my image into a Smart Object I renamed it.

I next cropped the document close to the edges of the image.

From Image > Image Size, I first disabled Resample. Disabling Resample also locks the proportions, so if you change height or width, the other will adjust accordingly. With Resample disabled, your image literally remains unchanged, with the same number of pixels—you’re merely changing the size of your image relative to how many pixels per inch (ppi) your image will contain when printed or placed into apps like InDesign.

This means that a 4″×6″ image at 150ppi adjusted to 2″×3″ image will have 300ppi. Here’s the document info before and after this kind of adjustment on my image.

Once one of the dimensions is corrected (in my case Width), you’ll be able to check to see if the other dimension needs adjustment to correct the proportion. It’s generally always better to reduce a dimension rather than to enlarge in Photoshop (Photoshop is always going to be a bit better at throwing out pixels than creating more). Once I determined that the relative width was slightly larger than it should be, I decided to reduce the width rather than increase the height. With my Height set correctly, I next enabled Resample, and also disabled the Constrain Aspect Ratio. With these settings I could then enter the corrected Width of 12. Note that you don’t have to use the same units of measurement (in my case Inches). As long as both units of measurement are the same, you can achieve the same results as long as the ratio of Height to Width matches that of the target image ratio.

Although the document proportions were now spot on, in this instance my image still required a bit of adjustment in order to be correctly squared off. Using the edges of the document corrected for width and height, I used Free Transform (Command-T/CTRL-T) holding Command/CTRL to adjust each corner of the image to fit the document edges (find more details on these steps in post #1 of this mini-series).

Once properly sized, squared-off, cropped and saved, because I had initially disabled Delete Cropped Pixels, I was able to create a variation of the portfolio shot that includes the wall and shadow by merely enlarging the visible canvas using the Crop tool.

Posted on: December 11, 2017

Sharon Steuer

Sharon Steuer has been creating, writing about, and teaching workshops on digital art since the early 1980s. The current edition of her Illustrator WOW! book, The Adobe Illustrator WOW! Book for CS6 and CC, is the fourteenth book in the series, and her "Artistic Painting in Illustrator" online video courses are available from Sharon is also the author of Creative Thinking in Photoshop: A New Approach to Digital Art, and is a regular contributor to Her digital paintings and illustrations have appeared in numerous books and magazines and have been exhibited nationally. Find Sharon via,, and @SharonSteuer (Twitter).

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