Edit images with Apple’s Preview

Edit images with Apple’s Preview
Mac Tip #398, 19 August 2009

Preview, installed on all new Macs, can both open and display images, and edit and resize them too.

Use Preview to open images

Adjust an image.

Adjust an image.

Preview can open and display many image formats, such as jpg, png, and even RAW.

Use the instructions in Open and Resequence PDFs with Apple Preview if you want to set Preview to always open a particular format.

Otherwise just select one or more images in the Finder and use File menu > Open With to select Preview to open them. Preview.app opens and displays all the selected images in what looks like a PDF.

Crop images

To crop unwanted material out of an image in Preview:

  1. Choose Select Tool from the Tools menu. The cursor turns into a crosshair.
  2. Use the crosshair cursor to draw a rectangle around the area of the image you wish to keep. A dotted box with ‘handles’ appears.
  3. If you wish, drag the handles to new positions to more accurately select the area of the image to keep.
  4. Choose Crop from the Tools menu. Preview crops the image.

Adjust images

It’s not immediately obvious, but Preview also provides tools that let you adjust exposure, brightness and a few other elements of an image. To access the adjustment Heads-Up Display (HUD) call up Adjust Color from the Tools menu. A dark semi-transparent window containing various sliders appears. That is the HUD.

Move the sliders to adjust your image. If you’re unhappy with what you’ve done, click the Reset All button. Reset All reverses any changes you’ve made.

Once you’re happy with the adjustments, close the HUD.

Resize an image

Photos straight out of my camera are almost 4,000 pixels wide and about 2,500 pixels tall. That’s way too big to email or put on a web page. Preview can resize images for you too.

To reszie an image choose Adjust Size… from the Tools menu. An Image Dimensions dialog box appears.

Either enter a width and height that you like or choose a preset from the Fit into drop-down menu.

Once you’re happy with your choices click the OK button. Preview resizes the image.

You may need to choose Actual Size from the View menu to see the resized image at its correct size.

Discard or Save changes

When you quit Preview a dialog box will advise you that you’ve made changes to the images. Choose to discard or save the changes.

Preview has a few other tricks you can use. A future Tip will explain more.

Remember to watch the movie (about 3.5 minutes) where I demonstrate some basic image editing:


Do you have any comments on this Tip? Add them below.


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  1. Shirley said:

    How can I change the color of just certain parts of an image on Preview, rather than adjusting the color/brightness of the entire image? Or add another shape to the image and change just the color of that? ..not sure why I’m having difficulty with something so basic.. nothing i’ve tried has worked so far

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Preview doesn’t seem able to adjust only part of an image. Keep in mind, though, that Preview’s main purpose is to handle PDFs. It’s not really an image editor.

      I use a nice little application called Acorn to edit images. There are plenty of other image editors out there too, including Photoshop if you have giant needs and a big budget.

  2. Miraz said:

    Hi Angus,

    I don’t recall the details of the previous version of Preview, and of course, can’t say what Apple are thinking when they change things.

    However, does Save As not meet your needs? I just looked at a jpg and a PDF. I had Save As options to save as TIFF, PDF, JPG and various other formats.

    What did Export give you that Save As does not?



  3. Angus MacKenzie said:

    Why was the Export option under the file menu removed from the latest version of Preview? It was a supremely simple and effective resource and I used it virtually daily for email and print purposes. It makes no sense to update software and reduce its facilities.

  4. Miraz Jordan said:

    Excellent question, thepete. I experimented and found the same thing: Preview only applies the effects to the first image, even if all are selected.

    The answer lies with Automator. Get started here:


    Once you have some photos selected in the Finder use the set of Photos actions and apply a couple of Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files actions.

    Here’s a MacTip on this — How to edit images with Automator:


  5. thepete said:

    I’m trying to raise the contrast and sharpness on a series of images that I then want to export to PDF. Is there a why to adjust the contrast and sharpness on all open images? I’ve selected them all in the sidebar, but the changes seem to only be occurring in the first image I’ve selected.

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