Getting Precise Layout Results in Photoshop CS2

Photoshop CS2 includes numerous useful features that help you lay out your images precisely. There are dozens of reasons to make a selection in a particular place, position an object at an exact location, or align several objects along the same imaginary line. Here are a few examples:

  • You want to create an object that is the exact same size (in one or more dimensions) as another object already in your image.
  • You're creating a set of thumbnails that need to be aligned in neat rows and columns.
  • You want to create an object that is the exact same size (in one or more dimensions) as another object already in your image.

You have several tools to help you do this, and more.

Creating guides

Guides are nonprintable horizontal and vertical lines that you can position anywhere you like within a document window. Normally, they are displayed as solid blue lines, but you can change guides to another color and/or to a dashed line.

To use guides, choose Edit --> Preferences --> Guides, Grid, & Slices. (In the Mac OS X, you can choose Photoshop --> Preferences --> Guides, Grid, & Slices). Guides would be useful even if they were only, well, guides. However, they have another cool feature: Objects and tools dragged to within 8 screen pixels of a guide are magnetically attracted to the guide and snap to it. That makes it ridiculously easy to align objects precisely. Because the objects snap to the guides, you can be confident that you have placed the objects exactly on the guide and not just near it. You can turn off the Snap to Guides feature if you want a little less precision in your arrangements.

To place guides, follow these steps:

1. Make sure that rulers are visible in your image by choosing View --> Rulers to display them.

Anytime you create a guide by dragging from the ruler, the Show Guides option automatically switches on. At other times, you can show or hide guides by choosing View --> Show --> Guides, or by pressing Ctrl+semicolon (Command+semicolon on the Mac).

2. Click in the horizontal ruler and drag down to create a new horizontal guide, and release the mouse button when the guide is in the location you want.

3. Click in the vertical ruler and drag to the right to create a new vertical guide.

When you release the mouse button, your new guide stops.

You can also create a horizontal guide by pressing Alt and clicking in the vertical ruler (Option+clicking on the Mac), or a vertical guide by pressing Alt and clicking in the horizontal ruler (Option+clicking on the Mac). Use whichever method is faster for you.

4. Use the Move tool (press V to activate it) to reposition your guides.

Using guides

After the guides are in place, here are a few of the things you can do with them:

  • Turn the Snap to Guides feature on or off: Choose View --> Snap To --> Guides.
  • Lock all guides so you don't accidentally move them: Choose View --> Lock Guides. You can also select Alt+Ctrl+semicolon (Option+Command+semicolon on the Mac).
  • Remove all guides and start from scratch: Choose View --> Clear Guides.
  • Change a horizontal guide to a vertical guide (or vice versa): Press the Alt key (Option key on the Mac) as you drag the guide.
  • Align a guide at a precise location on the ruler: Press the Shift key as you drag a guide to force it to snap to the ruler ticks.
  • Create a new guide in a precise location: Choose View --> New Guide, click the Horizontal or Vertical option, and type a distance from the ruler where you want the new guide to reside.
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