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Resizing Just Parts of Your Image Using the Recompose Tool

We’ve all run into situations where our image is a little smaller than the area where we need it to fit. For example, if you resize a digital camera image so it fits within a traditional 8x10″ image area, you’ll have extra space either above or below your image (or both). That’s where the Recompose Tool comes in—it lets you resize one part of your image, while keeping the important parts intact (basically, it analyzes the image and stretches, or shrinks, parts of the image it thinks aren’t as important). Here’s how to use it:

Step One:

Create a new document at 8x10″ and 240 ppi. Open a digital camera image, get the Move tool (V), and drag-and-drop it onto the new document, then press Ctrl-T (Mac: Command-T) to bring up Free Transform. Press-and-hold the Shift key (or turn on the Constrain Proportions checkbox in the Tool Options Bar), then grab a corner point and drag inward to scale the image down, so it fits within the 8x10″ area (as shown here on top), and press Enter (Mac: Return). Now, in the image on top, there’s white space above and below the photo. If you want it to fill the 8x10″ space, you could use Free Transform to stretch the image to do so, but you’d get a stretched version of the bike (seen at bottom). This is where Recompose comes in.

Step Two:

Click on the Recompose tool (W) in the Toolbox. The way the tool works is you tell Elements which areas of the photo you want to make sure it preserves and which areas of the photo are okay to remove/squish/expand/get rid of. This is all done using the four tools at the left end of the Tool Options Bar (circled in red here at the bottom).

Step Three:

Click on the Mark for Protection tool (the brush with the plus sign), and paint some loose squiggly lines over the areas of the photo you want to make sure Elements protects. These are the important areas that you don’t want to see transformed in any way (here I painted over the bike and some of the ground). If you make a mistake and paint on something you didn’t want to, just use the tool’s corresponding Erase tool to the right of the Mark for Protection tool.

Step Four:

Now you have to tell Elements what parts of the photo are okay to get rid of or stretch out. Click on the Mark for Removal tool in the Tool Options Bar (the brush with the minus sign) and paint some lines over the non-essential areas of the photo. No need to go crazy here, a few quick brush strokes will do just fine.

Step Five:

Click on the top-center handle and drag it upward until it reaches the edge of your document (remember, you already set the document to 8x10). You’ll notice that Elements won’t stretch the bike now, but rather just the wall at the top. Do the same thing with the bottom-center handle. Drag it downward until it reaches the edge. It may stretch the texture in the area you’ve selected a little, but it’s not anything most people will notice. And if it is, then try going back and adjusting the areas to protect/unprotect and sometimes you’ll get better results. In this case, the bike (which is the most important part of the photo) was left alone, and only the wall and some of the ground were stretched to fit the 8x10 print that we’d like to make.

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