Published on October 21, 2021

How to crop one layer in Photoshop?

Ever wondered how to crop just one (individual) layer in Adobe Photoshop, instead of the entire file? I’ll explain it to you!

If you’d rather watch the video tutorial of this process, click here or scroll down to the end of this blog. And if you want to download the image I used for this explanation, click here.

If you select the crop tool, this affects the entire file. But in some cases, you might just want to crop one layer instead of the whole file. There’s actually a really simple method to do that.

Note: To show the difference between the original layer and the cropped layer, I duplicated the background layer (CTRL+J) and converted it to black and white (CTRL+SHIFT+U).

Step 1: Smart object

The first thing you need to do is select the layer you want to crop. Right click on it and convert to a smart object. In the image below, layer 1 is the black and white layer that I converted into a smart object. As you can see, layer 1 has a smart object icon inside of the thumbnail. Double click on that smart object icon.

Step 2: Crop one layer

After double clicking the icon, your layer will open in a new tab. Select the crop tool and crop your image. Make sure you selected the correct tab, it should be the one that has the same name as your layer (Layer 1, in this case).

If you’re done cropping, click the check icon in the top bar to apply the crop.

If that’s all done, press CTRL+S to save the changes. If you go back to your original file, you can see that the layer is cropped.

As you can see, the cropped image is in the middle of the file. If you want to move it, select the layer and select the move tool. You can now pick the correct placement for your newly cropped layer.

Tip: If you want to create the same effect as I did (see image below), your black and white layer needs to be in the right place to line everything up. To do that, lower the opacity of the cropped black and white layer to around 70%. This way you can see the colored image that’s underneath it. Use the arrow keys to move the black and white layer, until it’s exactly in the same place as the colored part underneath. Now change the opacity back to 100%.


And that’s how you crop one layer in Adobe Photoshop. The video below shows the same process if you want to see how I did it. Want to learn more about Photoshop? Check out my other blogs or take a look at my YouTube channel.

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