How to Crop a Circle in Photoshop

by Dec 10, 2019Free Tutorials, Resources

Cropping your images to fit in a circle can be a really useful technique. You could use the cropped image as a profile picture for your social media sites or preserve the transparency of the background and add it to another project. Luckily, it couldn’t be simpler to do!

Whilst this process is suitable for most beginners, if you wish to first learn more about the basics of Photoshop, then check out these 22 video tutorials to help you learn the program step by step. 

So, let’s get started!

PS: there is a great forum feed about the exact same subject directly on Adobe Community Website.

1: Choose File > Open to Open Your Image in Photoshop

We will of course begin with opening our image in Photoshop- the one that we want to crop into a circle. To do this, load the program and head to File > Open, and choose the relevant photo from your files.

file open photoshop

For this tutorial, we used an image by Diana Jefimova from Pexels

2: Convert the Layer From ‘Background’ to ‘Normal’ by Clicking on the Lock Icon

So, now that you have the image open within Photoshop, you’re almost ready to crop it into a circle, but before we can act on the layer in this way, we must change it from being a background layer, allowing us to work with it as we would with a normal layer. 

This can be done within seconds by clicking once on the lock icon at the end of the layer in the Layers Window, as shown below.

unlock background layer in photoshop

You should see the name of the layer change from ‘Background’ to ‘Layer 0’.

normal layer in photoshop

3: Choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool

With that sorted, we can now get started with making a circular selection of an area of the image. To do this, we’ll use the Elliptical Marquee Tool. You can select this from the toolbar down the side of the screen. 

The tool itself is usually nestled underneath the Rectangular Marquee Tool, which is shown by the icon displayed below. The Elliptical Marquee Tool can then be selected by clicking and holding on this icon, before choosing it from the list that appears as a result.

elliptical selection tool photoshop

4: Click and Drag the Mouse to Make a Circle, Holding the Shift Key for a Perfect Circle

Now that you’ve got the right tool selected, you can use it by clicking anywhere in the document window (the image that you are working with) and dragging your mouse out to create a circular selection. 

Note that to create a perfect circle, you can hold down the Shift key whilst dragging the mouse.

woman portrait with circle selection photoshop

Simply release the mouse to confirm the selection.

5: Move the Selection Using the Arrow Keys on Your Keyboard

If you’re not happy with the area of your image that you originally selected, you can move around the circle to select a different section of the image by using the respective arrow keys.

6: Head to Select > Inverse to Invert the Selection

Now that we have a circular selection that is of the right size and in the right position, we need to select the inverse- that is, everything outside of the circle, rather than on the inside, as was selected before. 

This can be done quickly and in two different ways. 

One way in which you can select the inverse of the originally selected area is by right clicking on the circular selection and choosing Select Inverse from the list that appears as a result.

select inverse option photoshop

Alternatively, you could head along the top of your screen and choose Select > Inverse from the top bar.

select inverse option in the menu photoshop

You should now see that the dotted lines surrounding the selection are now indicating that the selected area consists of the areas outside of the circle, rather than on the inside like before.

portrait woman with circle selection photoshop

7: Hit the Delete Key to Delete the Selected Areas

So now that we have selected everything in the image other than the circle itself (that we want to preserve) we need to delete the selected area, in other words, the parts that we want to get rid of. 

A way in which you can do this extremely quickly is by simply pressing the delete key on your keyboard.

woman circle cropped portrait photoshop

You should now be able to see that only the circular selection remains, and your image has effectively been cropped into a circle. This will leave you with just the selected area on top of a transparent background (indicated by grayscale checks).

8: Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to Select the Area Around the Circle and Remove the Excess Background

At this point, you’re pretty much finished! But there’s just one more thing that we can do before we save and export our image that we’ve cropped into a circle. To ensure that the image is of a higher quality once it’s been saved, we can crop the piece to be of a smaller area, making the image take up more of the whole document size. 

So, let’s go ahead and select the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the toolbar down the left side of the screen.

rectangular marquee selection tool photoshop

With the tool selected, click and drag on your document to create a rectangle or square around the circular image, again holding down the Shift key if you wish to make a perfect, square-shaped selection.

circle woman portrait photoshop

With the selection made, head along the top menu and select Image > Crop. This will crop the image to the selection that you created, trimming the irrelevant transparent pixels from the piece.

image crop menu option photoshop
circle woman portrait photoshop

9: Save the Image as a PNG File to Preserve the Transparency of the Background

To save your outcome, go to File > Save As.

file save as in photoshop

Whilst saving it, be sure to change the file format to PNG. This way, the image will be saved without a background, meaning that you can apply just the circular image to any other piece rather than a circular image on top of a coloured square background.


 And that’s about it! Want to find out more about cropping images to a circle in Photoshop? Then check out this video by Photoshop Essentials that shows the process further.

About the Author Betchphoto

Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 15 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here