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Using Transform to Scale and Rotate Images in Photoshop

Posted by Roger Hyttinen on

This post is part of the Learning Photoshop Series

The Transform menu contains commands that allow you to rotate and scale your images. You must first create a selection around the layer or element you wish to transform.

When the Scale command is selected, a box with sizing handles and a center point appears. You can change the size of an image (scale) by clicking on any of the sizing handles and dragging in the desired direction. Hold down the Shift key as you drag to maintain proportions. Dragging inwards reduces the size of the image whereas dragging outwards increases the size of the image. If you wish to scale from the center point outward, hold down the Alt key if using a Mac or the Option key if using Windows as you drag.

To rotate the selection, drag the center point to the location on which you wish to rotate. Then, move your mouse pointer outside of the transform box. Your mouse pointer will transform into a curved double-headed arrow. Drag in the direction in which you want to rotate your selection. If you wish to rotate your image in 15 degree increments, hold down the Shift key as you drag.

You can quickly rotate your image by 180 degrees or 90 degrees clockwise and counter clockwise by selecting one of the three commands on the Transform menu:

  • Rotate 180 – Rotates the selection 180 degrees.
  • Rotate 90 CW – Rotates the selection 90 clockwise.
  • Rotate 90 CCW – Rotates the selection 90 counterclockwise.

The Free Transform command (⌘+ T or Ctrl + T keystroke combination) combines the Rotate and Scale commands into one command. When this option is selected, the sizing handles appear around the selection. To scale the selection, click on the sizing handles and drag inwards or outwards. To rotate the selection, move your mouse pointer above the sizing handle and then drag in the direction you wish to rotate. Many folks prefer to use the Free Transform command instead of the standard Transform command.

Tip: When increasing and decreasing the size of image, note that the transform command is destructive; that is to say, it will actually delete pixels from your image. To transform an image non-destructively, convert the layer to a Smart Object first.

Quick Guide: To Scale and Rotate an Image

  1. Select the area of the image you wish to scale or rotate.
  2. To Scale an image:
    a. Select Edit > Transform > Scale from the menu.
    b. Click any of the sizing handles.
    c. Hold down the Shift key to maintain image proportions.
    d. Drag inwards to decrease the image size or outwards to increase the image size.
    e. Press Return.
  3. To Rotate an image:
    a. Select Edit > Transform > Rotate from the menu.
    b. Click outside of the selection.
    c. Hold down the Shift key to rotate the image by 15 degree increments.
    d. Drag in the direction you wish to rotate.
  4. To Rotate an image by 180 degrees or by 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise, select Edit > Transform from the menu and then select Rotate 180, Rotate 90 CW, or Rotate 90 CCW
    Choose Image > Image Rotation from the menu and choose 180, 90 CW, or 90 CCW. Choose Arbitrary to enter in a specific angle.
  5. To perform several transformations at the same time select Edit > Free Transform from the menu (or press the ⌘+ T or Ctrl + T keystroke combination) and then using the sizing and/or rotate handles, apply the desired transformations to your images. When finished, press Return or Enter.

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