Creative Mac

How to Edit Photos on Mac Using the Preview App

Akshata Shanbhag Updated 05-12-2018

Did you know that your Mac’s Preview app can double up as a photo editor? It’s sure to save you the hassle of using more complex programs like Photoshop or even Apple Photos for basic editing tasks.


Let’s see how you can use Preview to edit photos. Keep in mind that the edits your make with Preview are destructive. So if you want to retain the original photo for future use, you should make a copy before editing it with Preview.

How to Crop Photos With Preview on Mac


To crop a photo, you’ll first need to select the part of it you want to keep. That’s where the rectangular marquee selection tool comes in.

The tool is active by default; all you have to do is click and drag the mouse over the relevant area to select it. It’s convenient that you can see the dimensions of the selected area at the edge of the cursor.

Want to move the marquee selection to a different part of the photo? Click and drag the selection to where you want it to show up.


If you want to limit the selection to a perfect square, hold down the Shift key during selection. Hold down the Option key if you’d like to scale the selected area up and down from the center.

Once you’re satisfied with the selection, click on Tools > Crop to crop the photo. If you want to crop out the area you selected and keep the rest instead, click on Edit > Invert Selection.

Selecting Specific Areas of a Photo

Want to select irregularly shaped portions of a photo before editing? The rectangular marquee selection tool isn’t much help for that.

But the Lasso Selection and Smart Lasso tools are. They let you manually draw a selection marquee around any object in a photo. You can access them via the Markup toolbar, which we’ll get to later on.


How to Resize or Rotate Photos With Preview on Mac


If you want to resize a photo instead of cropping it, you’ll need to click on Tools > Adjust Size. (Of course, you don’t need to select any part of the photo first.)

In the tool window that shows up, you’ll see that you can resize the photo to various preset dimensions or choose custom values. The tool also displays the file size pre- and post-resizing.

By default, the resize tool scales your image proportionally and resamples it too. If you don’t want that to happen, you can deselect the relevant checkboxes. After the resize settings are in place, click the OK button to trigger the resize action.


As for the rotate and flip actions, you’ll see them in the Tools menu. You’ll also find a Rotate button in the primary toolbar.

Preview also lets you add shapes and text to your photos. Look for the annotation tools under Tools > Annotate. On that note, you might want to go through our simple guide to annotations The Simple Guide to Annotations: How to Annotate PDFs, Ebooks, Images, and Websites What exactly is annotation all about? And how should you annotate what you read? Here are the best tools for common document types. Read More to make the best use of them.

How to Adjust Image Colors in Preview on Mac


If you want to, say, sharpen a photo or change its brightness or saturation, you can do so with Preview’s light and color adjustment tool. It’s nothing fancy, but it does the job. To bring up this tool, click on Tools > Adjust Color.


The color tool comes with sliders to adjust various parameters such as exposure, contrast, and saturation. You can use them to create:

  • Grayscale images: Drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left.
  • Sepia-toned images: Adjust the Sepia slider.
  • Warmer or cooler- looking images: Drag the Temperature slider to the left (cooler) or to the right (warmer).

As you adjust the sliders, you’ll see that the image updates itself in the background. If you’re not happy with the changes you see, you can trace your way back one change at a time with the undo shortcut, Cmd + Z.

If you’d rather revert to the original photo, click the Reset All button at the bottom in the tool window.

You might need to play around with the sliders a bit to get a realistic, better-looking photo. The shortest route to a somewhat improved image is the Auto Levels button. It fixes a few basic color and exposure problems for you.

How to Batch Resize Photos in Preview on Mac


If you want to resize multiple photos to specific dimensions, you can do so with Preview.

Select the relevant photos in Finder and drag them onto the Preview app’s Dock icon to open them. You’ll now see the thumbnails of all selected photos in Preview’s sidebar. Select them all by clicking on Edit > Select All or by hitting Cmd + A.

Now use the resize tool to set common image dimensions. Once you hit the OK button in the tool window, Preview resizes all the images for you. The app might be unresponsive for a while if you selected many photos to get through.

You can also use this batch-editing trick to export images to a common format.

Get Familiar With the Markup Toolbar


While you can access the edit functions above from the menu bar, it’s more convenient to do so from the Markup toolbar.

This special toolbar stays hidden by default. To reveal it, click on the Show Markup Toolbar button to the left of the search box in the primary toolbar.

The Markup toolbar gives you access to most of the important editing actions like Crop, Adjust Size, and Adjust Color. It also displays selection and annotation tools.

You can edit images, take screenshots, split and merge PDFs, and do a lot more with Preview on your Mac, which is why it’s one of the default Mac apps you don’t need to replace.

If you’ve used the app only for viewing PDFs and images, it’s time you took a closer look at it. Start by testing out our essential Preview tips and tricks 10 Essential Tips and Tricks for Preview on the Mac Preview is an unassuming app that can do the job of half a dozen standalone utilities. Read More .

Image Credit: tomeversley/Depositphotos

Related topics: Image Editing Tips, Image Editor, Mac Tips, Preview App.

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  1. Julie
    July 20, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Does anyone know if you can search JPEG photos by annotation keyword?

  2. Mac?
    July 15, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Been on PCs for a few decades. Mac for about an hour.

    El Capitan 10.11.5. This is how I cropped a photo.

    1) Make a duplicate of the original image
    2) Select the portion that you want to keep
    3) "Invert Selection," which will cause everything to be selected except the portion you selected
    4) "Delete," which deletes everything except the portion you originally selected

  3. ingrid
    June 9, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    you can use your mouse to copy sections and then open them up in new files. you can also drag your mouse over parts of the image to delete them.

  4. PJ
    December 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I use Preview frequently. Especially for jpeg images I am putting on Facebook for fun for instance.

    But a problem has cropped up. WHen I make a sepia image, it isn't saved in sepia, it returns to
    B/W...what's up with this?

  5. MOLLY
    March 13, 2010 at 10:23 am


  6. MOLLY
    March 13, 2010 at 10:23 am