The Ultimate Guide to Using Preview for Design

• The Ultimate Guide to Using


hey hey hey! grab a cup of something nice and settle down all comfy because this is gonna be one loooong and comprehensive post… just the kind i like! (and hopefully, you do too.)

if you love doing little bits of digital design work here and there, like edits, blog graphics and such – this post is for you! i’m about to tell you exactly how to use Apple’s default Preview editing app to create some crazy epic design work. and even if you don’t love design, just read along because you’re bound to find out some really cool things about this default editing program.

oh, and just as a side note: all the graphics in this post were made in Preview! that does say a little about it’s capabilities, doesn’t it?

we’re going to tackle the different functions of Preview in a few sub-sections, so just take a scroll through and get prepared to learn loads! 😉

The Basics – Cropping, Doodling

these are the pretty basic things you can do with Preview, and if you’ve used it before (even briefly) you’d probably already be familiar with these tools.

to Crop: 

1 crop

open up a photo file, and click and drag with various shapes of Select tools to crop your file. when you’ve got the section you want, hit the “Crop” button to make the entire document become the size of the cropped section.

1 how to crop in preview

to Doodle:

2 doodle

pick a colour of your brush/pen, and start with free hand drawings.

2 how to doodle in preview

if you like, you can also click on the scribble you’ve made to transform it into a shape or arrow!

2 doodle options

Removing Backgrounds – The Magic Wand, Lasso

one of my favourite things to do with Preview! i love to remove photo backgrounds to make .png files.

3 magic wand

of course this works best on files with homogenous, pale/white backgrounds, but basically – select the Magic Wand tool and drag it across the background area of the photo.

3 background removal in preview

you’ll see the areas the program recognizes as “background” become red (like in the photo above). it’s pretty amazing how smart the Magic Wand tool is… most of the time, almost all the background areas are selected without much effort.

once you’ve got the background of the photo selected, you just need to hit delete and get rid of ’em.

3 using magic wand tool how

if you’re a little more perfectionistic, you can also touch-up the rough edges with the Lasso tool. trace out any bumps and weird edges, select them, and delete!

Adding Text – Fonts, Textboxes

to add Text:

4 text

click the “T” shaped icon to pull out a textbox. you can select the font and also change it to italic/bold/underline if you have those forms downloaded. pretty straight-forward!

4 how to add text to photos in preview

to create a “Text Background”:

5 text bgs

you might have noticed that my blog graphics have a translucent box under the text. if you’re interested in doing this, it’s really easy! just insert a shape (in this case, a rectangle), and you can add an outline and fill.

5 adding shapes to photos

(tip: create a shape before you add text, so the shape will be behind the text! more on colour choosing in the next section.)

a small limitation of Preview’s text feature though, is that all text in the same box will have the same formatting. so, if you intend to have a sentence with differently formatted words, you’ll have to break them up.

Colours – Palettes, Opacity

in Preview, you can choose the colour of shapes, outlines, lines and text. for all of these, colour choosing works the same way!

in this example, i’m going to be changing the colour of this rectangle. first, i’m choosing white, but since i want it to be slightly translucent, i’m going on to select “Show Colours” and then adjust the opacity with the slider!

6 changing opacity of shapes

and, if you like a colour you’ve chosen, you can grab the square and drag it to your saved colours. just like that, i have my blog colours all saved together for easy access!

6 adding colours to palette!

Editing – Levels

7 levels

no photo editor would be complete without levels, would it?

Preview does have limited editing capabilities on this front, though. you are only able to adjust Exposure, not Brightness, and the sliders for Highlights only make them darker, and vice versa for Shadows.

7 curves and photo editing in preview

on the bright side, however, you can control the Tint of your photo and add a Sepia effect, which some may enjoy.

still, because of it’s limitations, i would say it’s better to stick to other editing apps for actual photo editing, and leave Preview for the cool stuff mentioned above!

psst, did you enjoy the photos featured above that i edited in Preview? you can download them right here for free use anywhere – be it your blog, social media… just not commercial stuff of course. pretty cool, right? yep.

did you learn something new about that good ‘ol default editing app on your Mac? i sure hope you did 🙂 if you enjoyed this ‘Ultimate Guide’, you are SO going to love this guest post i just did for Nora Conrad! it’s all about blogging breaks, from the pros, cons and how to do them right. take a look, yeah?

don’t forget to share this post with your design loving friends, and leave a comment telling me about what your favourite part of Preview is! (i know mine is the magic wand tool.)

xx, roxanne

p.s. i’m actually a BIIIG sucker for default apps, like Reminders on iPhone. no kidding! let me tell you why.

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4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Using Preview for Design

  1. turtrox says:

    yay, have i converted you now? 😉 have fun playing around with Preview; it’s really capable of loads and i’m so happy to be able to share it with you.
    xx, Roxanne


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