Photoshop’s Transform command, located under the Edit menu, is a powerhouse when it comes to pushing pixels around. The Transform command has several modes, which allow you to scale, rotate, flip, skew, distort or warp an image in various ways. Furthermore, the Transform command may operate on many different types of Photoshop content – selections, layers, vectors and shapes, and even layer masks, both raster and vector.
You can select any of the Transform options directly from the Photoshop menu; for example, if we want to make the leaf shapes larger in the image below, we can select the Leaf layer and choose Edit > Transform > Scale and we will see the transformation box with four corner handles and four side handles.
Dragging any of the handles will scale the object, making it larger or smaller. Hold the shift key to constrain the proportions.
What if we need a rotation as well? Or maybe a “flip horizontal”? The capability is at our fingertips. Right click (Mac: Command click) in the transform boundary and you’ll get a context menu with ALL the transform options at the ready. You can switch between them at will, as long as you haven’t committed the transform (by pressing Enter/Return or clicking the checkbox in the Transform toolbar):
Now here’s the power tip:
Free Transform allows you do do any or all of the above, and it is available with a keyboard shortcut: Ctrl-T (Mac: Cmd-T).
Rather than selecting from the menu, choose your layer and press Ctrl-T (Cmd-T) to enter Free Transform. You see the same transformation boundary as before, with some notable changes:
- Move the cursor outside the boundary, and it changes to curved arrows. You are now in “Rotate” mode. Grab the selection handles at any time to resume Scale mode.
- Press Control (Mac: Command) and when you hover over a handle, it changes to a hollow triangle. You are now in Distort mode, and each corner moves independently, and sides can be swayed in any direction.
- Press Control and Alt (Mac: Command and Option) and when you hover over a handle, it changes to a hollow triangle. You are now in Skew mode, and each corner moves in conjunction with its diagonal partner, in opposite directions. Side handles move opposite their partners as well.
- Press Control, Alt and Shift (Mac: Command, Option and Shift) and when you hover over a handle, it changes to a hollow triangle. You are now in Perspective mode, and each corner moves in conjunction with its adjacent partner, in opposite directions. Side handles behave just like Skew mode.
While in Free Transform, you still have access to the context menu for Flip Horizontal, Flip Vertical and Warp. At any time, select Free Transform from the context menu to get back into this Power Mode.
Get to know the Transform tool! Its powerful features can save you a lot of time, and all you need to remember is “Control-T for Transform.”
OK, Mac people: “Command-T for Transform” 🙂
Now, get out there and start transforming!