So you want to rotate an image in Photoshop. That’s a pretty fundamental editing skill, so you’re sure to pretty quickly find the Rotation options in the Image menu. That’s the most fundamental way to turn an image 90 degrees to the left or the right, or even 180 degrees to flip it upside down. But there are a bunch of other great ways to rotate images as well. Here are some of my favorites, and a few tool tips you may not already know.
- The crop tool. Although it’s primarily used for cropping and resizing images, you can also rotate the crop tool by grabbing a corner and dragging it to render the finished image in a new orientation. You can hold down the shift key while rotating your crop to snap the rotation to 15-degree intervals. Rotating while cropping is a great way to save steps, and to rotate images by sight rather than by the numbers.
- Arbitrary rotation. In the Image Rotation menu there’s another option besides the preset 90- and 180-degree rotation options. It’s the Arbitrary choice, in which you can input any specific amount of rotation, in either direction, measured in degrees. Even better, you can use the ruler tool in conjunction with arbitrary image rotation to make the adjustment more precise. Simply drag the ruler along the length of a line that you want to be perfectly horizontal or vertical, and when you then select the Arbitrary rotation option, a value will automatically be entered for you. This will rotate the image to make that perfectly horizontal or vertical—whichever orientation it was closer to in the first place.
- Transform. If you’re working with layers and would like to rotate a single element or layer you can use the Transform controls in the Edit menu. The Rotate transformation tool allows you to use preset 90- and 180-degree layer rotations, or to freehand rotate an element without changing the orientation of the background canvas. This can be very useful for subtle adjustments and for aligning layers. You can also use the same shift key to snap the rotation to 15-degree intervals, or input a precise amount of rotation in the toolbar that opens along with the menu.
- Rotate view. If you don’t want to rotate the image, or even rotate an element or layer within the canvas, but you want to rotate your view in order to make it easier to work on the image on your screen, you want to use the Rotate View tool. You’ll find it hidden under the Hand tool on the toolbar, and it works pretty intuitively. This technique is especially helpful for painting or drawing on an image file in order to get a more useable working angle for your mouse or pen.
- Rotate only the print orientation. Sometimes you only want to rotate an image to make it correctly fit the orientation of your printer and paper. Instead of actually rotating the image file in Photoshop, you can instead adjust the page setup in the printer dialogue from portrait to landscape, or vice versa. This can help save a step in your image editing workflow while still allowing you to make properly oriented prints.