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How to Easily Straighten Crooked Photographs in Photoshop

It happens to the best of us: we take a quick pic, hoping to blog it or print it. And despite good intentions, it never comes out straight! Here’s a quick fix in any version of Photoshop to straighten and correct perspective of those frustrating photographs.

*Edit: Added a second method that might be less frustrating for many users. Check out both methods to see which one suits you better.

The Manual Method

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I started with this pic of a Doctor Who novel I needed a straight image of. My picture is both crooked and receding in perspective, so I have my work cut out for me.

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Press Shift L until you have the Polygonal Lasso tool. It looks like the selected tool above.

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Draw points around your image by clicking the corners.

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Press Ctrl J to copy your selection to a new layer.

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Turn your Background layer off by clicking the hide layer .

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At this point, I want to give myself a little more room to work with.

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Press Ctrl Alt C to bring up “Canvas Size.”

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I add an arbitrary amount of extra space around each side.

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Draw a horizontal rule by clicking on the sshot-287 and dragging into your image area.

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Draw rules around your image. You want to create a rectangle that will become the new size and shape of your image. Err on the side of cutting into your image.

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Go to Edit > Transform > Distort while your layer is selected.

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Grab the points and stretch and warp your image until it more or less accurately fills the rules you drew. Notice I am not moving the points to fill the rules, but the image.

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Without releasing your Distort Transformation, click the sshot-287 to draw more Horizonal Guides. Use them to check the straightness of lines in your image and adjust appropriately.

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Press enter to release your Transformation.

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Press c for the crop tool. Click and drag to create a square edged rectangle around your image. Don’t worry about cutting off some of the image.

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Press enter to finalize your crop. Your image is now straightened, in perspective, with clean edges around the sides.

A Second (Easier) Method

This is a method I would recommend not only for Photoshop Newbies, but for anyone that isn’t a crazy perfectionist that loves to do things manually.

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Begin with your skewed image. Press c for the crop tool.

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Draw a rough outline around your skewed image.

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You should see a “Perspective” button in your Control Palette at the top of your screen. Turn it on if it is not. (If you don’t see it, you likely have a version of Photoshop that doesn’t support this)

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Drag the corners of your crop to the skewed corners of your image. Your lines shouldn’t be squared off anymore.

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Press enter to release your crop.

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As you can see, this method is pretty much just as good, and faster. If you don’t want to worry about tweaking your image by hand, this is really the way to go.

Photography by the author. Doctor Who image assumed fair use.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Graphics Geek who hopes to make Photoshop more accessible to How-To Geek readers. When he’s not headbanging to heavy metal or geeking out over manga, he’s often off screen printing T-Shirts.

  • Published 10/6/10

Comments (4)

  1. Rein Ketelaars

    You could also use the crop tool in Photoshop. Check the perspective checkbox in the upper toolbar.
    Resize the crop area to your book and you’re done!

  2. Eric Z Goodnight

    Wow, GREAT suggestion. I did some screenshots for it and added it, it was so great.

  3. cowgod

    if you don’t have to worry about changing the perspective, just the rotation, you can also use the ruler tool (I). draw a line from the top left corner to the top right corner, then rotate canvas->arbitrary. it will auto-fill the value needed to make the line you just drew perfectly horizontal. this is very handy when scanning photographs or cd/dvd covers.

  4. Eek

    ^Cowgod

    thats exactly what i was thinking while i was reading this article. it is a much easier way to just bring the line you draw straight up with the image.
    you can also use the ruler line to make an arbitrarily rotated vertical line.

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