How to Use 8.5x11" Digital Papers to make Square Images without Distortion

This is just a quick post addressing the issue of image distortion. Image distortion happens when we stretch or shrink an image, changing its original aspect ratio (i.e. original width x original height). If this ratio is maintained despite enlarging or shrinking an image, then the image will appear normal - just bigger or smaller.

So, when you resize an 8.5x11" image by holding the shift key and dragging its corner larger or smaller, its original aspect ratio will be maintained, and the image will still "look right."
But what about when you need to resize an image and can't maintain its original aspect ratio? What if you have a hundred 8.5x11" digital papers that you'd like to use in square images?
Most of us would try to insert the 8.5x11"image into the 10x10" artboard (or in this case, Powerpoint slide), then stretch the image to fill the white space.
This looks pretty bad.
It does.
Here's a simple (I hope) way to use those portrait- or landscape-orientation (8.5x11") digital papers to make square images without ending up with an image that looks stretched. (It will work best with abstract patterns.)
As a preface to these instructions, I want to add that I'm not sure if these instructions will fall under the umbrella of "altering clipart." For my papers, feel free to alter their size so that they're usable for your project. Just don't stretch them. THAT'S the thing that makes images look bad!

**This tips 'n tricks post is for Microsoft Powerpoint users.**

I made this festive, golden bubbly paper inspired by New Year's Eve...
Golden Bubbly Paper - Grab this FREEBIE Here

but it's 8.5x11". (I did this on purpose because I needed this size for another project.)
BUT, I'm concerned that it won't be usable if the end-user needs it for square images.

So I found a way, and want to share that way with you.
Commence instructions (in Powerpoint 2007):

1. Start a new Powerpoint and resize the slide to desired square size - I like 10x10.
Design Tab-->Page Setup-->Width: 10, Height: 10

2. Insert image --> Search your computer for the desired image, and select Open.

3. Here's my 8.5x11 Landscape orientation bubbles image on a square slide:

Boo. Sad. It doesn't fit.

Here's what it looks like when I try to drag the top and bottom of the image to fit the slide:

Boo. Sad, too, because the bubbles are obviously stretched.
This stretched-looking image is actually not half bad, but not ideal. The aspect ratio has been changed (since I didn't hold down the shift key when I dragged the edges to fit). But some end-users might be peeved by this distortion since they paid good money for gold papers for their New Year's Eve-themed projects. 
Grr. I don't like buying something that I can't use!
So here's a solution that might be pleasing to end-users.

1. Hold down the shift key and drag a corner (any corner) outward to resize it larger. 
In the image below, I'm holding the shift key while dragging the bottom-right corner outward from the image to make it bigger. Holding the shift key maintains the aspect ratio... which is what we want. I didn't fill the slide completely in the image below so you could see how much bigger than the slide that the image will get. 
The image being way bigger than the slide is OK for now. We'll deal with it soon. (And now I'm going to go and fill the rest of the slide.)

2. Now that your square slide is completely filled (or way overfilled I should say), it's time to drag your image to the slide's center. In this particular bubble image, it'll be important to keep the center of the image in the center of the slide, simply because its focus is on this center cluster of bubbles. The grouping of center bubbles should stay in the center, unless you like the off-center look, which is just personal preference. 
If you look closely, you can see the image guide at the top-center of the image aligns with the 0" on the ruler above. This is how I can tell that my image is centered. (Good 'nuff!) 

***EDITED NOTE: At this point, you can save this image as a PDF and the sides will be shaved off automatically. If, however, you're trying to end up with a .png or .jpg image for, say, a sales ad, or a blog image, keep reading for the cropping instructions.********

3. Next we're ready to crop the right and left sides so this image becomes the perfect square that we want. It won't look the same as the original, and that's OK with me as long as the bubbles are not stretched, oblong, and therefore distorted. 
So right-click on the image and choose "Size and Position" like below.
Then you'll get this dialog box where you can play with the cropping of the left, right, top, and bottom sides.
"Size and Position" Dialog Box
I was able to shave off 1.8 " from each of the right and left sides to fill my 10x10" slide perfectly. I had to press the up arrows in the Crop section to achieve this. 
And now my new image, which was once 8.5x11", is now 10x10" and looks like this:

10x10" Square Image After Cropping Sides

Original 8.5x11" Image Before Cropping Sides

The square image looks nice, but is zoomed in (larger) with sides shaved off. This strategy definitely opens doors to the end-user, finally letting them put those abstract patterned, landscape/portrait-oriented digital papers to work in their square sales images, blog images, or what have you. 

I hope this is helpful!

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you run into the issue of needing an image for a project that distorts it? I'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for handling this problem.


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