Keep those .PNGs neat: How to safely trim away empty pixels.



Anita Richards Designs | Digiscrap 1173 | How to Safely Trim Away Excess PixelsEmpty space in the transparent backgrounds of the .PNG files of embellishments for Digital Scrapbooking can chew up a LOT of hard drive space. Literally for nothing! It can also make placement of embellishments difficult in some programs. Excessive empty transparent space can also be a hiding ground for stray pixels, causing issues on layouts, particularly by playing havoc with Drop Shadows and other Layer Styles. In today’s blog, we delve into what to look for, and how to fix it, when checking the embellishments in your digi-stash.


For the folks who prefer listening to podcasts rather than reading blog posts I have included the sound byte here for you too, just scroll to the bottom of the page to listen in.Sound Byte


One of the very first things I like to do when I download a new kit to my hard drive is check if the embellishment .PNG files have been safely trimmed to remove excess empty pixels.

Many designers routinely trim excess empty space from their designs with transparent backgrounds. However, some designers don’t for whatever reason.

At first glance it seems simple to just go ahead and hit the Trim command in Photoshop, but doing that always results in rounded embellishments ending up with flat spots from the trimming process. I didn’t know this for a very long time and was just hitting trim on everything … big mistake!

There is an easy solution that is a breeze to follow to get the job done safely that leaves the beautiful rounding on your rounded embellishments nicely round.


anita-richards-tutorial-saving-an-adobe-photoshop-custom-workspaceThe following tutorial was written whilst using Adobe Photoshop CS4. However, the basic interface commands are pretty much the same across all versions of Photoshop® Creative Cloud® as well as very similar in Photoshop® Elements from version 2 upwards. The workspace that you see on screen looks a little different to the Adobe® out-of-the-box workspace because I tweaked and customised it to help my "visual thinking" ~ you can customise and save yours too. 8D

If you use Photoshop® Elements despair not! The commands in Elements are very similar. PLUS … There is a little surprise at the end of this tutorial for you too.


Step 1: Open Your File

The first step is obvious … open the file of the embellishment that you would like to trim.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 01


Step 2: Select the Layer in the Layers Palette

Make sure that the layer the embellishment is located on is selected as active in the Layers palette.

This will change the colour of the background of the active layer within the Layers Palette if it was not already selected as the active layer.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 02


Step 3: Apply a Stroke Layer Style

On the Photoshop Menu Bar, click on Layer > Layer Style > Stroke.

This will bring up the Layer Styles dialogue box so that you can apply a simple Stroke Layer Style to the embellishment.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 03


Step 4: Set the Style Options

Set the Stroke options to 3 pixels wide and choose any colour so that you are able to see that it has been applied to the embellishments.

This will create a 3px stroke outlining all the opaque areas of the embellishment. Essentially the embellie has now been made 6px wider and taller than it was before we applied the layer style.

Now is also a good time to zoom in on the image to see if you can spot any stray pixels and, if you find any, delete them from the file.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 04


Step 5: Open the Trim Command

On the Photoshop Menu Bar, click on Image > Trim.

This will open up the Trim command’s dialogue box.

After trimming is another good opportunity to check for any stray pixels.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 05


Step 6: Trim the Background

Set the Trim > Based On command options to Transparent Pixels and ensure that ALL the Trim Away check boxes are ticked as selected.

This will ensure that all sides and all the areas with empty pixels will be trimmed away within a four-sided / rectangular perimeter.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 06


Step 7: Clear Layer Style

Right click on the active embellishment layer in the Layers palette and click on Clear Layer Style.

This will remove the stroke from the embellishment, leaving a gap around the embellie of approximately 3px on each side. The gap is not precisely 3px because Photoshop always trims a little more than it should …. which is why we are safely trimming our rounded embellishment in the first place!

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 07


Step 8: Check Point

Pause to admire your beautifully trimmed embellishment.

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 08


Step 8A: RE-Check Point

If your image is trimmed in a skewed way, ie there is still an excess transparent area remaining after running the Trim Command then there may still be a stray pixel hiding in the image that was missed earlier.

Simply re-apply the stroke layer style and go hunting until you find the little blighter (or plural) and then delete it.


Step 9: Resave the File

On the Photoshop Menu Bar, click on File > Save to over-right the file or alternatively click on File > Save As to re-save your newly trimmed .PNG file with a different name or in a different folder. DONE!

Tutorial 1173 Trimming .PNG Files image 09


Pretty easy really!

To make things even easier I have created a quick and simple action to do the grunt work of trimming .PNGs for you.

There are two versions in this download: one with an automatic Save/Close command and one without so that you can retain full control over where and how the trimmed files save.

Also included in the download are instructions for both Photoshop® Creative Cloud as well as for Photoshop® Elements. Elements users can also refer to this great post at for more information specific to the version of Elements that you are using.


Anita Richards Designs | Actions | Trim .PNG Files


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So there we have it: a brief explanation of the why and how-to process of trimming the transparent and empty pixels from .PNG files to optimise files sizes. Please let us know how you are going with it. Did it work as expected? Need help? Did this action work in Photoshop® Elements too? I would love to know: please post in the comments below or message via the Contact page.

This post is part of our Digital Scrapbooking FAQ Series, the complete index for which can be found on the Start Here: Frequently Asked Questions page.

Enjoy! i Heart u


Related Posts:

Anita Richards Designs | Digiscrap 1173 | How to Safely Trim Away Excess Pixels
Empty space in the transparent backgrounds of .PNG files can chew up a LOT of hard drive space, literally for nothing as well as make placement of embellishments difficult in some programs. This blog looks at a non-destructive way of fixing them.

Anita Richards Designs | Digiscrap 1173 | How to Safely Trim Away Excess Pixels

Anita Richards Designs | Digiscrap 1173 | How to Safely Trim Away Excess Pixels




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