How to Resize a Selection in GIMP

Selections are one of the most useful tools in your image editing toolbox. They let you define the exact area that you want to edit with pixel-perfect precision – as long as you position them properly! 

Sometimes you’ll create a selection and then realize it’s not quite right, but you don’t want to redraw it. If you’re lucky, a quick resize of the selection can save you from starting over. 

This technique is also useful when creating custom shadows or other tasks that use a selection marquee as a template for creating a repeated shape. 

The Quick Guide to Resizing A Selection In GIMP

It’s important to point out that this tutorial covers how to resize your selection area in GIMP, not the actual image content (although the processes are almost identical, except for Step 2 below).

  • Step 1: Once you’ve made your selection, switch to the Scale tool.
  • Step 2: In the Tool Options panel, find the Transform: section and click the Selection icon. 
  • Step 3: Click on your selection in the main image window and resize to the desired size using the handles.
  • Step 4: Click the Scale button to finalize the changes. 

That’s all there is to it! Your newly-resized selection will be ready for your next edit. 

If you’re already familiar with GIMP and just needed a refresher, then you’ve probably got enough information to move ahead on your project. If you’re new to GIMP or you want a bit more details about how this process works, read on to learn more!

The Detailed Guide to Resizing Selection Areas

I’m going to assume that you’ve already made your selection using any of the selection tools available in GIMP. No matter which tool you used to make your selection, they all resize the exact same way. 

Step 1: The Scale Tool

This step is pretty self-explanatory: to resize your selection, you’ll need to use the Scale tool. Find it in the toolbox nested under the Unified Transform tool, or switch to it using the keyboard shortcut Shift + S

Many tools are nested or stacked together in the toolbox to streamline the interface

You could also use the Unified Transform tool if you want to perform additional transforms to your selection, but I find it a bit too easy to accidentally apply an unwanted transformation. Whichever tool you use, the most important step is next! 

Step 2: Selections Only, Please

All of GIMP’s transform tools share some similar basic options found in the Tool Options panel, shown below using the Scale tool. These let you choose which part of your image is going to be modified by the transform process: Layer, Selection, Path, or Image

The section that we need is located right at the top, which somehow has the unintended effect of making it less noticeable (or maybe that’s just me). 

Left to right, the four icons are Layer, Selection, Path, and Image

By default, all of the transform tools are set to Layer, which will transform the currently selected layer or the actual image content within your selected area. 

Click the Selection button to transform your selection area instead of the image content. 

Step 3: Setting Your Resize

Next, click on your selection in the main image window. You should see handles appear around the edges of your selection, and the Scale overlay window should appear in the upper right corner of the image window. 

Selection handles let you do manual resizing adjustments

You can either click and drag one of the handles to perform an adjustment or enter your new pixel dimensions in the Scale overlay window if you already have a specific set of dimensions in mind. 

Step 4: Finalize!

You’ll see a preview of the newly-resized selection while you’re still working on it, to help you do a visual confirmation of the new size. Once you’re happy with everything, click the Scale button in the Scale overlay window, and you’re done! 

Help, I’ve Lost My Selection

Selection areas are indicated by an animated black and white dashed line, often known as a “selection marquee”. If you’re trying to make a selection and you can’t see the dashed outline around your selection area, there’s a quick fix to make it visible again.

Open the View menu, and click View Selection. You can also use the shortcut Ctrl (Command on Mac) + T to show or hide the selection marquee. 

For reasons that I can’t begin to imagine, GIMP also uses a black and yellow dashed line effect to indicate the size of a given layer. This used to confuse me quite a bit, but you can keep your image from getting covered in dashed lines by opening the View menu again and clicking Show Layer Boundary to toggle the visible boundaries off and on. 

A Final Word

That’s everything there is to know about how to resize a selection in GIMP, plus a couple of extra tips to make sure your selections are helpful instead of frustrating. It can seem like a tedious waste of time at first, but making good selections is essential for any good editor.

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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  • Sathish Kumar G

    Did not work for me. I have an image with a transparent background. I did all that’s mentioned here but nothing happened.

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Sathish, this article is just about changing the size of the selection border itself, not changing the actual contents of your selection.

      If you want to resize the image contents, you can simply change the setting to Layer in Step 2 instead of choosing Selection.

      Hope that helps!

    • Thomas Boldt

      You’re welcome, Max!

  • Nathan Anderson

    I don’t understand, this doesn’t work for me. My selection stays the same size and in the same place, and it just creates a resized, “invisible” cutout the same shape as the original selection.

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Nathan, are you trying to resize the actual image contents or the selection area itself? This guide is specifically about resizing the selection itself, not the image contents.

      If you want to resize the image contents, you can simply change the setting to Layer in Step 2 instead of choosing Selection.

      Hope that helps!

      • Asif

        That reply was what I needed! This article comes up in Google in response to “resizing a selection in Gimp” and I am sure most people mean the content. Thanks!