Photoshop: How to Resize Image in 4 Quick Ways (Updated 2022)

photoshop how to resize

If you’ve fiddled with Adobe Photoshop for a few minutes, you may realize that it is a magic wand itself. There’s just no one way of doing things. Same with how to resize an image in Photoshop, there are 4 ways you can use to do this quickly.

From here you may find the best ways that bring about the best results for you. In other words, the methods and tools depend on what you want to achieve, hence you’ve got to try them all out.

With this in mind, we will now explore different options with simple steps on how to resize images in Photoshop.

Quick Ways on How to Resize Image in Photoshop

1. Resize an Image to Exact Size

There are varying requirements when resizing images. There may be times when you want to resize an image in Photoshop to an exact size. In this case, you may have a set of specific measurements such as pixel width and length that you want your image dimensions to be changed to. With the Image Size option, you are able to change the pixel dimensions as precisely as you want them to be. Here’s what you do.

Step 1: Open up the Image Size dialogue box

With your image in Photoshop, go to the top menu bar at the top of the screen and click Image. Then, scroll down the dropdown menu and click Image Size, or Image > Image Size.

photoshop how to resize image

You can also use the keyboard shortcut using the Option, Command, and the letter I key, hold down all three of them at the same time.

After that, the Image Size dialogue box pops up.

photoshop how to resize image by changing dimensions in image size options
Image Size dialogue box

Next, go to the Dimensions options, and click the button with the arrow pointing downwards. That’s where you select your specific dimensions. Currently, there are seven unit options: Percent, Pixels, Inches, Centimeters, Millimeters, Points, and Picas. Note that this setting is for viewing only and doesn’t affect your image.

photoshop how to resize image by changing dimensions in pixels

In this example, we will select pixels as the unit measurement. You can select any unit measurement you desire. If you can’t click on the drop-down arrow in the section that says Dimensions, chances are the Resample check box has not been selected.

Make sure there is a check mark next to the Resample option. If there isn’t, select the box beside Resample and keep the default option as Automatic. Once it’s selected, you will see that you can click on the arrow next to Dimensions to pick your desired unit.

photoshop how to resize image select resample image size option
Check Resample

Step 2: Change the size of the image

Next, you will see the Width and Height fields. That is where you add in the number of pixels you’d like it to be resized to.

Add in the exact dimensions to the Width and Height fields
Add in the exact dimensions to the Width and Height fields

For this example, the units will remain as pixels. You can click on it to see all options and select Pixels or other units you desire.

Make sure the icon of a chain link (constrain proportions) is selected so that your image will be resized proportionately or the ratio of its width and height (aspect ratio) of the image will stay the same. In this way, when you change the width, you will notice that the height will also change together. If it’s not selected, any changes to the width or height only will cause it to be distorted.

Check that chain link icon is highlighted
Check that chain link icon is highlighted

As for resolution, if you are not looking to print the image and only need it for web purposes, 72 pixels per inch or DPI is the minimum resolution you can go to have it sharp enough to view on screen.

Set Resolution to a minimum of 72 pixels per inch or DPI
Set Resolution to a minimum of 72 pixels per inch or DPI

Once you’ve decided on the specifications, edit the width or height, then press OK or hit the return or enter key on the keyboard. You will see your image in the new dimensions.

This is all there is to resize the image to a specific size using the Image Size option.

2. Drag an image layer to resize

This method is usually used when you don’t wish to resize the entire image or canvas. In this case, you’d only wish to resize the individual layer inside the canvas. If you wish to quickly scale an image in photoshop, this is a shortcut to do it.

If you were to use the Image Size option, all layers will be resized together. Here’s how to resize an image in photoshop by dragging it so as to keep the canvas size unchanged:

Step 1: Select and unlock the image layer

This is required if the selected layer you want to resize happens to be a background layer or a locked layer. Unlock it first by going to the Layers Panel. Double-click on the background layer, or right-click and select Layer From Background.

Right-click on background layer and select Layer from Background
Right-click on the background layer and select Layer from Background

A New Layer dialogue box appears where you can change the layer’s name. Put in any name you desire, then click the OK button or press enter or return key.

Name your layer in the New Layer dialogue box
Name your layer in the New Layer dialogue box

You can also unlock the layer by clicking on the lock icon on the right side of the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Panel. Once the lock icon disappears, the image layer is ready to be resized.

Click on lock icon to unlock the background layer
Click on the lock icon to unlock the background layer

Step 2: Change the image’s size

Next, select the Move Tool from the Toolbar. Then, click on the layer to select it. You will see a bounding box surrounding the layer. If you don’t, select the option Show Transform Controls in the options bar just below the top menu bar.

Check Show Transform Controls
Check Show Transform Controls

Click and drag any corner handle or side handle on the bounding box to resize the layer.

Resize image by dragging the bounding box handle
Resize image by dragging the bounding box handle

Note: If you want to resize your layer proportionately in the latest Photoshop version, there’s no need to hold down the shift key while dragging the handle of the layer.

Step 3: Commit to change in size

Once you’ve confirmed the new size of your layer, make sure it truly changes by double clicking on the image in the canvas. You can also press the enter or return key on the keyboard. Or click on the check mark (tick) button on the options bar just below the top menu bar. This is to let Photoshop know you would like to commit to the transformation.

Click the checkmark to complete the process of resizing the image
Click the checkmark to complete the process of resizing the image

3. Resize Image with Free Transform

This option allows you to resize your image layer with percentage % values. Let’s say you want to resize the layer by 37%. Instead of adding an extra step of doing math calculations to derive the final size, just use this method to quickly resize it by exactly 37%.

Step 1: Select and unlock the image layer

This is required if the selected layer you want to resize happens to be a background layer or a locked layer. Unlock it first by going to the Layers Panel. Double-click on the background layer, or right-click and select Layer From Background.

Right-click on background layer and select Layer from Background
Right-click on the background layer and select Layer from Background

A New Layer dialogue box appears where you can change the layer’s name. Put in any name you desire, then click the OK button or press enter or return key.

Name your layer in the New Layer dialogue box
Name your layer in the New Layer dialogue box

You can also unlock the layer by clicking on the lock icon on the right side of the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Panel. Once the lock icon disappears, the image layer is ready to be resized.

Click on lock icon to unlock the background layer
Click on lock icon to unlock the background layer

Step 2: Change the image’s size

Go to the top menu bar, and click on Edit. Then scroll down the drop-down menu and choose Free Transform (Edit > Free Transform).

Resize image in photoshop with Free Transform
Resize image in photoshop with Free Transform

You can change the percentage % values in the options bar just below the top menu bar to change the layer’s size. Or you can drag the handles of the bounding box of the layer.

Change size percentages % with Free Transform
Change size percentages % with Free Transform

Step 3: Commit to change in size

Commit to the transformation by double clicking on the image on the canvas. You can also press the enter or return key on the keyboard. Or click on the check mark (tick) button on the options bar just below the top menu bar.

4. Resize an image without distorting or stretching it to fit canvas

There are times when you need the entire image to be of a specific size but part of the artwork or photo has to be cropped away to fit the canvas.

For example, let’s say I want to change the canvas size to a longer width. After changing canvas size, there is some empty space that I’d like to fill up to look better.

How to resize image in Photoshop without cropping to fill canvas space
How to resize image in Photoshop without cropping to fill canvas space

It wouldn’t look good if I simply fill that space with a solid colour.

Neither would it be quick enough if I clone part of the image onto that space pixel by pixel. It will take too long to do a perfect job.

If I were to proportionately expand the image, it can fill the space, but parts of it will be cropped away. The challenge here is I don’t want any part of the image to be cropped off.

Parts that are cropped away when resized to fit canvas
Parts that are cropped away when resized to fit canvas

If I were to stretch the image sideways by holding down the shift key and dragging the side handle, it will be able to fit the canvas and fill up the space. But the woman and cat will not be scaled or resized proportionately. This makes it look distorted and maybe even ugly.

Stretching one side to fill up canvas space distorts the image
Stretching one side to fill up canvas space distorts the image

The good news is Photoshop has a way.

How to Resize an Image Without Stretching it in Photoshop

In this case, the workaround would be to stretch the background without distorting the subject images (the woman and cat). Stretching the background wouldn’t make the image look awful since it’s blurred out and generic anyway.

To achieve this, you can use a tool called the Content Aware Scale in Photoshop.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Select the area you don’t want to distort

First, select the layer you want to resize in the Layers Panel. Make sure it’s an unlocked layer.

Then, open the Properties Panel by clicking Windows on the top menu bar and clicking on Properties in the dropdown menu (Windows > Properties). Then, in the Properties Panel, scroll to where it says Quick Actions and click on it to expand the options. Click the button that says Select Subject. You will see marching ants around the subject of your image. In this case, it is around the woman and cat.

Click Select Subject in the Properties Panel
Click Select Subject in the Properties Panel

If your image is of great quality, the selection will be more precise and close to perfection. Otherwise, don’t worry about this.

Next, click Select on the top menu bar and scroll down to click Save Selection (Select > Save Selection).

Save selected subject of the image
Save selected subject of the image

The Save Selection dialogue box opens up. Fill in the name of your selection, in this case, let’s call it “Woman and Cat”.

Name your subject
Name your subject

Step 2: Resize image with Content Aware Scale in Photoshop

Click Edit on the top menu bar and scroll down to click Content-Aware Scale (Edit > Content-Aware Scale). You can also use keyboard shortcuts by holding down the keys; Shift Command Option C, at the same time.

Content Aware Scale in Photoshop
Content Aware Scale in Photoshop

Once that’s selected, go to the options bar below the top menu bar and click on the dropdown for Protect. Then, select Woman and Cat.

Select subject to protect
Select subject to protect

If you have people in your images like this example, selected the icon of the human. That’s to protect the skin tones while you resize.

Protect skin tones
Protect skin tones

Next, hold down the shift key and drag the middle right handle all the way to the edge of the canvas.

Use Content Aware Scale to resize image without distoring or stretching image subject
Use Content Aware Scale to resize image without distoring or stretching image subject

You will see that while the background has been distorted and stretched, the subject images still stay quite the same as before.

The Best Resizing Method

Each of these methods provides different advantages to help you resize any image quickly. What would be most important is to be able to maintain the quality and resolution of your image as you resize it. But if I have to choose, the winner would be resizing an image with Content Aware Scale. It provides the most flexibility to scale an image and make it look great too.

Now it’s your turn to try them out.

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