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Free Transform Essential Skills And Shortcuts

Free Transform
control is 1 of its most useful and popular features, a one-stop shop for resizing, reshaping, rotating and moving images and selections within a document. In this tutorial, nosotros acquire the essential skills and shortcuts for getting the well-nigh out of this powerful feature, including how to switch to other helpful transform modes without leaving Free Transform!

This tutorial is for Photoshop CS5 and earlier. If you’re using Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud), y’all’ll want to check out our fully updated Photoshop Gratis Transform Essential Skills tutorial.

Here’s a uncomplicated pattern I have open on my screen:

A diamond pattern created with a custom shape in Photoshop.

A diamond-shape pattern courtesy of Photoshop’s custom shapes.

Before we go any further, I should point out that the pattern is sitting on its own layer above the white background in the Layers panel, and that the layer is active (highlighted in bluish). This is important because the Free Transform command is not a selection tool and wouldn’t be able to select the design on its ain if it was non on its own layer. It volition piece of work on whatever happens to be selected, or on whatever is on the active layer (in my case, the pattern) if goose egg is selected, just it has no ability to actually make selections:

The Layers panel in Photoshop.

The blueprint sits on its ain layer above the Groundwork layer.

Having said that, permit’south see all the things that Gratuitous Transform tin practise for us.

Selecting Free Transform

The official way to select the Costless Transform control is by going up to the
bill of fare in the Card Bar along the top of the screen and choosing
Costless Transform
from the list:

Selecting the Free Transform command in Photoshop.

Free Transform is found nether the Edit carte.

That’s the official way, but cypher says “Hi! I’m new!” quite like the official mode. An easier and faster way to select Free Transform is with the keyboard shortcut
(Win) /
(Mac) (think “T” for “Transform”). Fifty-fifty if you don’t like keyboard shortcuts, this is i you really should take a moment to memorize because chances are, you’ll exist using Gratis Transform a lot and selecting it from the Edit card each time merely slows you downward.

Since my pattern layer is the active layer and cypher else is selected, equally soon as I choose Free Transform, a thin bounding box appears around the pattern, and if we look closely, nosotros see a modest square in the acme center, lesser middle, left center, and correct middle, besides as a foursquare in each of the four corners. These petty squares are called
handles, and nosotros can transform whatever is inside the bounding box simply past dragging these handles around, every bit nosotros’ll see in a moment:

The Free Transform handles.

The small handles are used to transform whatever is within the bounding box.

Reshaping The Selected Surface area

Let’southward begin with a look at the most bones ways to reshape the selected area with Complimentary Transform. To adjust the area’southward width, click on either the left or right handle and, with your mouse button nevertheless held down, simply drag the handle left or right. To adjust the height, click on either the acme or lesser handle and, again with your mouse button still held down, drag information technology up or down. Hither, I’m dragging the right side handle towards the right. Observe that the diamond shapes are stretching wider as I drag:

Dragging the right transform handle.

Elevate the left, right, top or bottom handles to adjust the width or height.

Dragging ane of these side handles by itself will motion but the side you’re dragging, but if you hold down your
(Win) /
(Mac) fundamental equally yous’re dragging the handle, you’ll reshape the area from its heart, causing the opposite side to movement at the same time but in the contrary management. Here, with my Alt / Pick key held down as I elevate the right side handle towards the right, the left side also moves outward towards the left. The same would be true if I were to drag either the meridian or lesser handle while property downwardly Alt / Choice. The opposite side would move at the same time in the opposite management:

Reshaping the image from the center with Free Transform.

Concord downwards Alt (Win) / Choice (Mac) as you lot drag to reshape the area from its eye.

To adjust both the width and summit together, click and drag any of the corner handles. Once once more, holding downward
(Win) /
(Mac) as you drag a corner handle will reshape the area from its centre, this time causing all four sides to move at in one case:

Reshaping an image with Free Transform in Photoshop.

Drag whatsoever of the corner handles to suit the width and elevation together.


One potential problem when reshaping things with Free Transform is that, well, we’ve reshaped them. They may exist wider, thinner, taller or shorter, only they no longer look the way they did originally. Sometimes that’southward what we want, but more oft, we only desire to resize something, making information technology smaller or larger overall but keeping the original shape intact. For example, you may need to make a photo smaller so information technology fits better in a collage or other blueprint layout. You don’t want the person in the photograph to of a sudden appear tall and skinny or brusk and fat because you lot’ve reshaped the image. You lot just need the photograph to be smaller.

To resize something with Costless Transform, concur down your
key, which will constrain the aspect ratio and forbid you from distorting the original shape, as you drag whatever of the corner handles. Merely as we’ve seen a couple of times already, if you include the
(Win) /
(Mac) key too, you’ll resize it from its eye:

Resizing an image with Free Transform in Photoshop.

To resize an image or selection, hold downwards Shift, then drag any of the corner handles.


Rotating an paradigm or selection with Free Transform is a lilliputian bit dissimilar and doesn’t require us to elevate any handles. Instead, movement your cursor only outside the bounding box. Y’all’ll encounter it turn into a curved line with a pocket-size arrow on either end. Then just click and drag with your mouse to rotate it. If yous hold down your
fundamental every bit you lot elevate, you’ll rotate information technology in 15° increments (y’all’ll see it snap into identify as it rotates):

Rotating an image with Free Transform in Photoshop.

To rotate the area, move your cursor outside the bounding box, then click and drag.

It may be hard to see, but if you look closely in the center of the bounding box, at that place’s a small
target symbol. This symbol represents the eye of the transformation, which is why, past default, it’due south in the center. It’due south too why my pattern rotated around its center, since it was really rotating around that target symbol. We tin change the rotation point simply past clicking on the target symbol and dragging information technology somewhere else. For instance, if I want my pattern to rotate around its bottom right corner, all I need to practise is drag the target symbol into that corner (information technology volition snap into place when it gets close enough to the corner):

Moving the target symbol to change the rotation point.

Moving the target symbol changes the rotation point. The pattern is now rotating around its bottom correct corner.


To move the image or selected area around inside the document with Complimentary Transform agile, click anywhere inside the bounding box (that is, anywhere
the target symbol) and drag it around with your mouse.

More Transform Options

On its own, Free Transform can exist a scrap limited in what it can do. That’southward why Adobe includes additional transform modes that aggrandize Photoshop’south abilities. If you go upwards to the
menu and choose
(not Free Transform, just Transform), you’ll see a listing of these additional options, like Skew, Distort, and Perspective, every bit well every bit some rotating and flipping options:

The Transform options in Photoshop.

More means to transform images and selections are constitute nether Edit > Transform.

If you demand to select one of these additional options and you lot already accept Free Transform active, at that place’s no demand to select them from the Edit menu. But
(Win) /
(Mac) anywhere inside the document and the aforementioned options will appear in a convenient sub-menu. Permit’south take a look at how some of them work:

The Free Transform contextual menu.

Right-click (Win) / Command-click (Mac) to access the same boosted transform options.


selected, if you click and drag any of the side handles, you’ll tilt the paradigm while keeping the sides parallel. Holding
(Win) /
(Mac) equally you elevate a side handle volition skew the prototype from its center, moving the contrary side at the same fourth dimension just in the opposite management:

Skewing the image with Free Transform in Photoshop.

Drag a side handle with Skew selected to tilt the image.

Dragging a corner handle with Skew selected volition scale the two sides that meet at that corner. Holding
(Win) /
(Mac) will move the diagonally-opposite corner in the opposite direction at the same time:

Skewing the image with Free Transform by dragging a corner handle.

Dragging a corner handle affects the two sides that join at the corner.


selected, click on a corner handle and simply drag it effectually in whatsoever direction. It’s similar to Skew but with complete freedom of motility. Property
(Win) /
(Mac) as yous drag the corner volition motion the diagonally-contrary corner in the opposite management at the same time (if you didn’t already guess I was going to say that):

Distorting the image with Free Transform by dragging a corner handle.

With Distort, corner handles tin can be moved independently.

Dragging a side handle in Distort mode is as well like to Skew in that information technology will tilt the paradigm or pick, simply again, you’re given complete freedom of movement, allowing you lot to both skew and scale the area in a single drag. And yes, holding downward
(Win) /
(Mac) will move the opposite side along with it:

Distorting the image with Free Transform by dragging a side handle.

Drag a side handle with Distort selected to skew and calibration the image.


fashion, dragging a corner handle either horizontally or vertically causes the opposite corner to move in the contrary direction, which tin create a pseudo-3D result. Here, I’m dragging the top left corner inwards horizontally. As I drag, the elevation right corner moves inward also:

Transforming the image in Perspective mode in Photoshop.

The top correct corner handle moves inward as I drag the elevation left corner handle inward.

And then, while still in Perspective mode, I’ll drag the bottom left corner outward horizontally, which also moves the bottom right corner outward horizontally:

Photoshop Perspective transform mode.

Perspective mode can create some elementary 3D-way furnishings.

Selecting Skew, Distort And Perspective From The Keyboard

With Free Transform active, you can temporarily switch to the Skew, Distort or Perspective modes directly from the keyboard without having to select them from any carte du jour. To switch to either the Skew or Distort mode, just hold down your
(Win) /
(Mac) key as you drag a side or corner handle. To switch to Perspective mode, hold down
(Win) /
(Mac) while dragging a corner handle. Releasing the keys switches you back to the standard Gratuitous Transform way.

Commit Or Cancel The Transformation

When you’re done resizing, reshaping and/or moving the image or selection, press
(Win) /
(Mac) to accept the transformation and exit out of the transform style. To abolish the transformation, press the
fundamental. Or, if yous prefer that “official” manner of doing things we talked almost earlier, y’all can click the checkmark in the Options Bar to accept or the Ghostbusters symbol to cancel:

The Commit and Cancel icons for the transform modes in Photoshop.

The “Commit” (checkmark) and “Cancel” (circle with the slash through information technology) icons.