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How to Use Preview App on Mac

Oct 21, 2020• Proven solutions

The Preview app is a built-in program in macOS, and works as a default viewer for the image and PDF files that your Mac computer has. Because Preview is also an editing software, you don’t need to look for any other third-party tool for basic photo and PDF manipulations.

That said, the sections below explain how to use Preview on Mac for elementary picture editing like rotating, cropping, adding annotations, etc.

Part 1: How to Use Preview to Edit Images [Complete Guide]

Being the default image editor for Mac, Apple tried to make the Preview app as simple as possible. Therefore, modifying the photos in the program isn’t much complicated as compared to its competitors from different vendors.

The instructions given in the following sections explain how to edit pictures with the Preview app for Mac:

How to View and Edit Photos in Preview on Mac

As mentioned earlier, the Preview app is a default photo viewer on Mac that also has many editing tools. Therefore:

To view an image in Preview:

  • Double-click the photo, or
  • Right-click the photo, go to Open With on the context menu, and click Preview (default) from the submenu that appears

To edit an image in Preview:

  • Use the tools present on the standard toolbar at the top of the interface
  • Alternatively, click Tools from the top, and choose your preferred editing option from the menu

How to Show Markup Tools in Preview on Mac

Markup Tools gives easy access to the editing tools the Preview app has. By default, Markup Tools is kept hidden, but automatically becomes visible when you make some changes to the image. However, you can follow the process given below to manually show Markup Tools in Preview:

Step 1: Show Markup Tools

Click the Show Markup Toolbar icon present at the upper-right area to reveal the editing tools right under the standard toolbar.

Step 2: Hide Markup Tools

Click the Hide Markup Tools icon from the upper-right area to hide Markup Toolbar.

Note: Throughout this demonstration, the Markup Toolbar is kept visible to access the editing tools easily.

How to Crop in Preview

In order to crop a photo in the Preview app:

Step 1: Open the Image

Use the method explained earlier to open the photo you want to edit in Preview.

Step 2: Select the Area of Interest

Drag the mouse pointer over the area of the photo you want to keep. If need be, click anywhere between the marked region and drag to reposition the selection. In addition, you can use any of the available side handles to adjust the area of interest on the image.

Step 3: Crop the Photo

Keeping the area of interest on the photo selected, click Crop from the Markup Toolbar at the top to crop the image.

How to Rotate Image in Preview

Rotating an image in the Preview app is fairly simple. To do so:

Step 1: Open the Target Image

Use the method explained above to open the photo in Preview.

Step 2: Rotate the Image

Click the Rotate Left icon from the upper-right area of the standard toolbar to rotate the image anticlockwise. Alternatively, you can also click Tools from the top, and choose your preferred rotation direction or flipping orientation from the menu that comes down next.

How to Add Text to Image in Preview

The Preview app even lets you annotate the images with ease. To add text to a photo:

Step1: Insert Text Frame

Click the Text icon from the Markup Toolbar, drag the side handles to adjust the width of the text frame, and use the mouse to drag and reposition the entire frame to your preferred location on the photo.

Step 2: Add Text

Click inside the frame, delete the existing placeholder text, and type a new caption/annotation for the picture.

Step 3: Format the Text

Select the text, click the Text Style icon from the Markup Toolbar, and change font, size, color, etc. using the available options.

How to Remove Background in Preview

As it is with some of the advanced image manipulation programs, even the Preview app allows you to remove background from a photo, and that too pretty easily. To get this done:

Step 1: Select Unwanted Parts of the Image

Click the Instant Alpha icon from the left area of the Markup Toolbar, click anywhere on the unwanted background on the image, and slowly drag the mouse. Notice the red colored coating that the image starts getting covered with. This is the portion that Preview will consider background and will remove. While dragging the mouse, if any section of the image that you want to keep gets red, drag the pointer to the opposite direction to deselect the area.

Step 2: Remove the Background

Once the background portion of the image gets selected (colored in red), without releasing the mouse button, press Delete on the keyboard.

Note: Removing background requires the image to be in PNG format. If the photo you are working on is JPG, Preview prompts with a confirmation box asking your permission to convert the photo from JPG to PNG. You must allow this conversion in order to proceed with the background removal process.

Note: Usually, not entire background could be selected in a single go, especially when there are multiple objects in the photo. In such a situation, you must repeat the process multiple times to get rid of all the unwanted objects/areas.

How to Combine Images into One

This process is generally used to place an object present in one image over the background of the other photo. A good example could be to place a picture of a fish on to a second photo that has a sea or river. The Preview app lets you do this easily using the following steps:

Step 1: Open Both the Images

Drag mouse over both the images you want to participate in the process, right-click any one of the selected photos, go to Open With, and click Preview (default) from the submenu.

Step 2: Remove Background from the First Image

Ensure that Preview opens with both the images listed in the sidebar in the left. From the sidebar, select first image, and use the Instant Alpha tool as explained earlier to remove the background.

Step 3: Combine the Images

After removing the background, press Command + A to select all the remaining elements, and then press Command + C to copy them. Next, select the second photo from the sidebar, and press Command + V to paste the object to combine the pictures. Additionally, you can drag the pasted object or move its side handles to reposition or resize it respectively.

How to Save Images in Different Formats

The Preview app has a built-in image converter as well. To convert an image to a different format with Preview, you must:

Step 1: Get to the Export Box

After opening an image, click File from the menu bar at the top, and click Export from the menu that appears next.

Step 2: Choose Output Format and Export

Choose a destination folder in the Where field, select your preferred format from the Format drop-down list, and click Save to convert the image.

Part 2: FAQs About Preview App on Mac

What is the Preview App?

  1. Preview is a built-in program in macOS that works as a default image and PDF viewer, and is also equipped with some elementary editing tools.

Where to find the Preview App on Mac?

  1. Usually, when you double-click an image or a PDF document, the Preview app is automatically initialized displaying the contents of the file. If you want to manually open the program, you can find it in the Applications folder on your Mac.

What formats does Preview support?

  1. At the time of this writing, the Preview app supports HEIC, JPEG, JPEG-2000, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG, and TIFF

Can you convert images in Preview?

  1. Yes, you can. In addition to the process explained in Section 8 of Part 1, the Preview app for Mac also supports batch conversion. To do so, you must:
  • Select all the images you want to convert
  • Drag the selected photos to the Preview icon on the Dock
  • Confirm that all the images you selected are present in the sidebar of the Preview app. You can drag and drop more images from your Mac to this sidebar to add them to the list
  • Press Command + A on the keyboard to select all the images in the sidebar
  • Click File from the menu bar at the top
  • Click Export Selected Images from the menu that comes down

Note: Make sure that all the images you selected are of the same format. Preview doesn’t allow batch conversion of varied photo types.

  • Pick a destination folder from the navigation bar in the left
  • Click Options from the bottom
  • Select your preferred output format for all the images from the Format drop-down list
  • Click Choose to convert all the images in a single go
Liza Brown
Liza Brown is a writer and a lover of all things video.