Transform objects

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Scale layers proportionally

Updated in Photoshop 21.0 (November 2019 release)

When transforming any layer type, dragging a corner handle now scales the layer proportionally by default, indicated by the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) in the ON state in the Options bar. To change the default transform behavior to non-proportional scaling, simply turn OFF the Maintain Aspect Ratio (Link icon) button. The Shift key, while pressed, now acts as a toggle for the Maintain Aspect Ratio button. If the Maintain Aspect Ratio button is ON, the Shift key toggles it OFF while pressed and vice versa. Photoshop remembers your last transform behavior setting—proportional or non-proportional scaling—it will be your default transform behavior when you start Photoshop the next time. 

Use the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) in the Options bar to choose the default scaling behavior
Use the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) in the Options bar to choose the default scaling behavior.

How do I switch back to the legacy transform behavior?

From the menu bar, choose Edit (Win)/Photoshop (Mac) > Preferences > General, then select Legacy Free Transform.

Apply transformations

Transforming scales, rotates, skews, stretches, or warps an image. You can apply transformations to a selection, an entire layer, multiple layers, or a layer mask. You can also apply transformations to a path, a vector shape, a vector mask, a selection border, or an alpha channel. Transforming affects image quality when you manipulate the pixels. To apply non-destructive transformations to raster images, use Smart Objects. (See Work with Smart Objects.) Transforming a vector shape or path is always non-destructive because you’re only changing the mathematical calculations producing the object.

To make a transformation, first select an item to transform and then choose a transformation command. If necessary, adjust the reference point before manipulating the transformation. You can perform several manipulations in succession before applying the cumulative transformation. For example, you can choose Scale and drag a handle to scale, and then choose Distort and drag a handle to distort. Then press Enter or Return to apply both transformations.

Photoshop uses the interpolation method selected in the General area of the Preferences dialog box to calculate the color values of pixels that are added or deleted during transformations. This interpolation setting directly affects the speed and quality of the transformation. Bicubic interpolation, the default, is slowest but yields the best results.

Note:

You can also warp and distort raster images using the Liquify filter.

Photoshop Transforming an image
Transforming an image

A. Original image B. Layer flipped C. Selection border rotated D. Part of object scaled 

Transform submenu commands

Scale

Enlarges or reduces an item relative to its reference point, the fixed point around which transformations are performed. You can scale horizontally, vertically, or both horizontally and vertically.

Rotate

Turns an item around a reference point. By default, this point is at the center of the object; however, you can move it to another location.

Skew

Slants an item vertically and horizontally.

Distort

Stretches an item in all directions.

Perspective

Applies one‑point perspective to an item.

Warp

Manipulates the shape of an item.

Rotate 180, Rotate 90 CW, Rotate 90 CCW

Rotates the item by the specified number of degrees, either clockwise or counterclockwise.

Flip

Flips the item vertically or horizontally.

Video tutorial: Tips for working with vectors in Photoshop

In this episode of The Complete Picture, Julieanne demonstrates features for working with vectors in Photoshop.

Select an item to transform

  1. Do one of the following:
    • To transform an entire layer, make the layer active, and make sure nothing is selected.
    Note:

    You cannot transform the background layer. To transform it, first convert it to a regular layer.

    • To transform part of a layer, select the layer in the Layers panel, and then select part of the image on that layer.
    • To transform multiple layers, do either of the following in the Layers panel: Link the layers together, or select multiple layers by Ctrl-clicking (Windows) or Command-clicking (Mac OS) more than one layer. In the Layers panel, you can also Shift-click to select contiguous layers. (See Select, group, and link layers.)
    • To transform a layer mask or a vector mask, unlink the mask and select the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel.
    • To transform a path or vector shape, use the Path Selection tool  to select the entire path or the Direct Selection tool  to select part of the path. If you select one or more points on a path, only those path segments connected to the points are transformed. (See Select a path.)
    • To transform a selection border, make or load a selection. Then choose Select > Transform Selection.
    • To transform an alpha channel, select the channel in the Channels panel.

Set or move the reference point for a transformation

Updated in the October 2018 release of Photoshop CC (20.0)

All transformations are performed around a fixed point called the reference point. By default, this point is at the center of the item you are transforming. However, you can change the reference point or move the center point to a different location using the reference point locator in the options bar.

  1. Choose a transformation command. A bounding box appears in the image.
  2. The reference point is hidden by default. To show the reference point (), click select the check box next to the reference point locator () in the options bar.   

    Show reference point while transforming objects.
    Show reference point check box in the options bar.

  3. Do one of the following:
    • In the options bar, click a square on the reference point locator . Each square represents a point on the bounding box. For example, to move the reference point to the upper-left corner of the bounding box, click the top left square on the reference point locator.
    • In the transform bounding box that appears in the image, drag the reference point . The reference point can be outside the item you want to transform.

Scale, rotate, skew, distort, apply perspective, or warp

You can apply various transform operations such as Scale, Rotate, Skew, Distort, Perspective, or Warp to the selected image. 

  1. Select what you want to transform.
  2. Choose Edit > Transform > Scale, Rotate, Skew, Distort, Perspective, or Warp.
    Note:

    If you are transforming a shape or entire path, the Transform menu becomes the Transform Path menu. If you are transforming multiple path segments (but not the entire path), the Transform menu becomes the Transform Points menu.

  3. (Optional) In the options bar, click a square on the reference point locator  .
  4. Do one or more of the following:
    Use the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) in the Options bar to choose the default scaling behavior
    Use the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) in the Options bar to choose the default scaling behavior

    • If you chose Scale, drag a handle on the bounding box. When positioned over a handle, the pointer becomes a double arrow. 
      • If the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) is ON in the Options bar, drag a corner handle to scale the layer proportionally.
      • If the Maintain Aspect Ratio button (Link icon) is OFF in the Options bar, drag a corner handle scales the layer non-proportionally.  
      • Hold down the Shift key while transforming to toggle between proportional and non-proportional scaling behavior.
    • If you chose Rotate, move the pointer outside the bounding border (it becomes a curved, two-sided arrow), and then drag. Press Shift to constrain the rotation to 15° increments.
    • If you chose Skew, drag a side handle to slant the bounding box.
    • If you chose Distort, drag a corner handle to stretch the bounding box.
    • If you chose Perspective, drag a corner handle to apply perspective to the bounding box.
    • If you chose Warp, choose a warp from the Warp Style pop‑up menu in the options bar, or to perform a custom warp, drag the control points, a line, or an area within the mesh to change the shape of the bounding box and mesh.
    • For all types of transformations, enter a value in the options bar. For example, to rotate an item, specify degrees in the rotation  text box.
  5. (Optional) If desired, switch to a different type of transformation by selecting a command from the Edit > Transform submenu.
    Note:

    When you transform a bitmap image (versus a shape or path), the image becomes slightly less sharp each time you commit a transformation; therefore, performing multiple commands before applying the cumulative transformation is preferable to applying each transformation separately.

  6. (Optional) If you want to warp the image, click the Switch Between Free Transform And Warp Mode button  in the options bar.
  7. When you finish, do one of the following to commit the transformation:

    • Select a new tool.
    • Click a layer in the Layers panel. (This action auto-commits changes and also selects the layer.)
    • Click outside the canvas area in the document window.
    • Click outside the bounding box in the canvas area.
    • Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), click the Commit button  in the options bar, or double-click inside the transformation marquee.

    To cancel the transformation, press Esc or click the Cancel button  in the options bar.

Flip or rotate precisely

  1. Select what you want to transform.

  2. Choose Edit > Transform and choose one of the following commands from the submenu:

    • Rotate to specify degrees in the options bar

    • Rotate 180° to rotate by a half‑turn

    • Rotate 90° CW to rotate clockwise by a quarter‑turn

    • Rotate 90° CCW to rotate counterclockwise by a quarter‑turn

    • Flip Horizontal to flip horizontally, along the vertical axis

    • Flip Vertical to flip vertically, along the horizontal axis

    Note:

    If you are transforming a shape or entire path, the Transform command becomes the Transform Path command. If you are transforming multiple path segments (but not the entire path), the Transform command becomes the Transform Points command.

Repeat a transformation

To repeat a transformation, choose Edit > Transform > Again.

Duplicate an item when transforming it

To duplicate while transforming, hold down Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) when selecting the Transform command.

Reset Smart Object transforms

If you've transformed a Smart Object, you can reset all transformations you've previously applied by doing one of the following: 

  • Right-click the Smart Object layer and choose Reset Transform
  • Choose Layer > Smart Objects > Reset Transform
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