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Any way to change image's aspect ratio without cropping, distorting or losing quality?

Explorer ,
May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

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Hi 

I'm wanting to sell my artwork on Etsy as printable downloads but noticed my competition is all offering their artwork downloads in at least 3 different aspect ratios, increasing the amount of frame sizes the customer can use.

 

I've been reading all day about how this might be done, without cropping/distortion. Thought I had a way by shrinking the the layer  with my art  with free transform to fit inside the new aspect ratio size and then using Generative Fill on the blank areas  but then read that free transform loses quality.

 

Then I thought I had a way by selecting the entire contents of the layer and then clicking Content Aware Scale and then dragging it to size. But that only protects part of the layer from damage, not all of it. 

 

Then I thought for sure I found a way by turning my artwork layer into a smart object, then using free transform to shrink it down into the guides I created for the aspect ratio, with generative fill to fill in blank areas. But now I read that even smart objects will lose quality when shrunk.

 

Is there any way to do this? I'm at my wits end.  How are my competitors managing it as I can't imagine they're just cropping the image...  All replies genuinely appreciated!

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correct answers 1 Correct answer

Community Expert , May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

All automatic or one-click methods of changing the aspect ratio in Photoshop will necessarily crop or distort content, except Content-Aware Scale. If you don’t like what you see from Content-Aware Scale, it has a “protect” mode to let you prevent specific content from being altered, if you haven’t tried that already. Greg Benz talks about some Content-Aware Scale strategies at the link below. I haven’t actually watched the video on that page yet, but Greg is a good teacher who knows Photoshop ve

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Community Expert ,
May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

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All automatic or one-click methods of changing the aspect ratio in Photoshop will necessarily crop or distort content, except Content-Aware Scale. If you don’t like what you see from Content-Aware Scale, it has a “protect” mode to let you prevent specific content from being altered, if you haven’t tried that already. Greg Benz talks about some Content-Aware Scale strategies at the link below. I haven’t actually watched the video on that page yet, but Greg is a good teacher who knows Photoshop very well.

 

https://gregbenzphotography.com/photography-tips/how-to-use-content-aware-scale-in-photoshop/

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Explorer ,
May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

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Thank you for your quick reply! But from what I have read about Content Aware Scale is that some of the image area will be stretched or compressed. Won't those areas print badly at large size?

 

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Community Expert ,
May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

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Yes, it’s very likely that the image will end up with some parts that aren’t quite right. If you do your best with Content-Aware Scale and it still doesn’t meet your requirements, then it may be another dead end. I am not sure if there are any automatic tools, by Adobe or someone else, that can successfully recompose content that’s already a single flattened layer.

Traditionally, the way that always preserved the most quality was having all of the important elements of the document on separate layers, set up copies of the composition on canvases or artboards with different aspect ratios, and then on each of them, push the layers around to manually recompose them within each aspect ratio so that nothing gets distorted. But that is a 100% manual method.

 

All of the Content-Aware features were added several years ago, and represent a somewhat earlier version of “magic”-like image technology. The current wave is, as you probably know, features powered by what’s called “AI,” and the “AI” generation of features is more powerful than the old “Content-Aware” generation. If Adobe decided to come up with some kind of “AI recomposition” feature, that would probably do what you want a lot better than Content-Aware Scale. But, that doesn’t exist yet.

 

Adobe InDesign has an automatic layout adjustment feature where it automatically moves and resizes objects to respond to a change in page settings, such as smaller page margins or a different aspect ratio. But naturally, that is completely dependent on each part being a separate object that can be repositioned independently of the others.

 

This all raises a big question: Do you have any knowledge of how other Etsy vendors generate their multiple aspect ratios? Given the lack of ability for Photoshop to do this, it would be really interesting to know what tool others use if it works quickly and easily. And also if what they use works on finished, single-layer artwork or if it too requires that each artwork component be its own object or layer that can be moved independently of the other elements.

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Explorer ,
May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

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That was a very informative tutorial, thank you! But I still couldn't understand how the other sellers were spending so much time perfecting their art for different aspect ratios. So I bought 1 product from each of the highest selling stores.  (They have hundreds of peices in their stores and one has over 40,000 sales.)  They are simply cropping the artwork! I didn't think an artist would do that. I got a horse painting with the horses legs chopped short in one version. Well that solves the mystery at least. Somehow they still get a zillion good reviews. I will consider doing the same, although it doesn't sit well with me. I couldn't spend the time to repaint/fix details on each peice for each ratio offered. Thanks a ton for your help today!

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Community Expert ,
May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024

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quote

So I bought 1 product from each of the highest selling stores.…They are simply cropping the artwork! I didn't think an artist would do that. I got a horse painting with the horses legs chopped short in one version.

By @Cynthia372629184fz6

 

Wow, well, that solves that mystery! I guess that’s just another example of how “good art” is not always the same as “things that sell”  🙂 There are lots of examples of people buying work that “fits their decor” or is “cute” instead of because they appreciate the hand-crafted skill in an artwork.

 

The issue of multiple aspect ratios has affected my photography. I no longer compose tightly in the camera. I back off a little and intentionally compose with more margin between the subject and all edges. This makes it a lot easier to rotate an image or crop it to different aspect ratios without cutting something off or looking awkward. 

 

If I was painting or doing designs, I might try something similar, like square compositions set up to continue to look OK if they were cropped to be vertical (for phones) or horizontal (for TVs).

 

Major design firms deal with this all the time. They get a project like a cross-media campaign for some music festival or the Olympic Games, or a corporate rebranding project. They think in terms of a “design system” where the imagery is readily adaptable to vertical/square social media, widescreen television, sides of buses and trains, clothing, and other shapes and sizes. If the main goal is to sell a variety of aspect ratios and not do things like cut off legs, then it may help to think in similar terms of “adaptable compositions.”

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Explorer ,
May 23, 2024 May 23, 2024

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"If I was painting or doing designs, I might try something similar, like square compositions set up to continue to look OK if they were cropped to be vertical (for phones) or horizontal (for TVs)" 

 

I will definetly be keeping this in mind when creating in the future. It makes the art more saleable/multi-purpose.  So many things in the business area  to learn and consider if you want to make any money creatively. 

 

You say you now compose with more space around the subject in your photography. I guess you had to learn that the hard way like me, lol.  

 

Yesterday was almost a wasted day, looking for ways to achieve something in Photoshop that can't be done. At least I learned what the competition was doing and gained insight into how to setup/personalize the download process for customers. I hope to offer the works printed on canvas and poster paper at a later time. After looking into production partners in the print-on-demand sector and how that will work with Etsy,  I've decided to join the suprisingly popular (and much less risky)  'download your art' movement first and see how that goes. 

 

I really appreciate the help yesterday and wish you well with your photography!

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