To add visual interest to a photo, you can give it a border in Adobe Photoshop. If you plan to create a print for a physical frame, this can give the appearance of an interior matte.

Three framed images with narrow, medium, and wide white borders around the edges

Start with a single background layer

Open the photo in Photoshop and look at the Layers panel. If there are multiple layers (for instance, if you’ve done earlier editing), choose Layer > Flatten Image to put everything on a Background layer, indicated by a lock icon. If it’s already a Background layer, push on ahead.

Photoshop workspace with Layer > Flatten Image menu highlighted, layers to flatten are selected. Artwork shows a man surfing.

Bring the background forward

Choose Layer > New > Layer from Background and, in the dialog box that appears, click OK. This step will make it easy to adjust the border color.

Layer menu with New > Layer from Background is selected over artwork of a man surfing. Layer panel is open.

Enlarge the canvas

Choose Image > Canvas Size, make sure the Relative checkbox is selected, and type the number of pixels to add around the image. Each number is split between edges, so entering 200 pixels in each field results in a border width of 100 pixels. Also ensure that the Anchor is set to the center square, and then click OK.

Image menu with Canvas Size is selected. Width and height are 200 pixels, relative box is checked and anchor is set to center

Create a border color

To create the border, click the Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer button in the Layers panel and choose Solid Color. In the dialog box, set the color as white (if it’s not already) and click OK.

Layers panel is open, New Fill or Adjustment Layer > Solid Color is selected, color is set to white.

Send the border color to the back

Drag the new color fill layer below the image layer in the Layers panel.

Arrow in Layers panel demonstrates dragging the new color fill layer below the image layer to send border behind the artwork

Experiment with different looks

To change the border color, double-click the color swatch in the adjustment layer and select a new color. 

Color swatch in Layers panel > adjustment layer is highlighted, Color Picker box is open with black selected as border color

Also try using different values in the Width and Height fields of the Canvas Size dialog for different framed looks. For example, enlarge the border by entering positive numbers, or make the border thinner by entering negative numbers. Since the border color is a fill layer, it adapts to the new shape.

Three surfer images with white border height of 800 pixels and widths of 800, 200, and 300 pixels. Anchor position top center

Keep your options open

You probably wouldn’t permanently glue a photo into a frame, because you might change your mind. To give yourself the same freedom with your digital border, choose File > Save As to save a new version of the file. Now you can go back to the original, non-bordered version whenever you want.


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