How to Easily Straighten Crooked Photographs in Photoshop

By Eric Z Goodnight on October 6th, 2010

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 Stetson-wearing wild man. During the day, he manages IT and product development for screenprinted apparel manufacturing; by night he creates geek art posters, writes JavaScript, and records weekly podcasts about comics.

  • Published 10/6/10
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