A Better Way To Straighten And Rotate Pictures In Photoshop

We’ve all taken a photo that we liked, but wish it had a straight horizon line… Correcting it is pretty simple in Photoshop, and like all things, there is more than one way to do it.

When it comes to straightening a photo that is off-kilter, many people go for a variation of image or canvas rotation. The picture is put on a separate layer and the rotate tool or transform tool may be used with a fair bit of personal discretion and taste. However, there are a couple of methods that will give you more reliable results.

Use The Rotate Method

The first way I use to correct my image rotation involves the use of image rotation. Make sure your rulers are showing (Cmd/Ctrl +R) and drag a new guide down to a point in your image where there is a visual clue to what should be straight.

create a new guide

I have marked with crosses where the straight line should be. In many cases, you will use the actual horizon in the photo for best results but I will show another method  and want to give you a comparison to work with!

Go to your toolbar and select the Measure Tool. It is hidden under the eye dropper and you can repeatedly use Shift + I to access it. Drag from the corner point (on the guide you just created) to where you want the level to be, basically, the crosses above.

photoshop measure tool

Tip: You can hold down the Cmd/Ctrl key to position the measure more accurately. Go to the Image Menu and choose Image Rotation > Rotate Arbitrary. A panel appears showing you the angle that has been calculated:

rotate arbitrary

Click OK and you will see your picture rotated with the background colour filling in the gaps in the canvas:

using rotate in photoshop

Straighten a Picture Using Perspective Crop

In Photoshop CS6, there is a new Perspective Crop Tool which can also be used to straighten images. It’s found on the Crop Tool flyout palette:

perspective crop tool

Earlier versions of Photoshop had a Perspective option for the Crop Tool, but I find this one is easier to use, thanks to the overlay grid. Select the tool and drag out a grid, then reposition your corner handles, checking both horizon and other useful horizontal lines:

set your perspective crop handles

I find this method gives a better and more reliable result across the image as a whole.

Photoshop photo with perspective crop

Incidentally, if you are on a Mac, both iPhoto and Aperture give you a temporary overlay grid that appears when you rotate your images. I’m sure Lightroom does too, which is also available for Windows. You could always switch your grid on in Photoshop to use as a guide, but personally, I prefer the two methods above.

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