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How to Transform Pixels in Photoshop Elements 11 Selections

You may find that you need to resize or reorient selections you've made in Photoshop Elements 11. Transforming involves scaling, rotating, skewing, distorting, flipping, or adjusting the perspective of your pixels. Although you may consider these types of transformations somewhat pedestrian, you’ll find them practical and useful in your daily digital-imaging chores.

Follow these steps to transform a selection:

  1. Create your selection.

  2. If you need to rotate the selection, choose Image→Rotate and then choose your desired rotation from the submenu:

    • Free Rotate Selection: Enables you to manually rotate the selection.

    • Rotate Selection 180º, 90º Left, or 90º Right: Rotates the selection by specified amounts.

    • Flip Selection Horizontal or Vertical: Flips your selection along the vertical or horizontal axis, respectively.

    The other rotate commands have to do with layers.

  3. To scale the selection, choose Image→Resize→Scale.

  4. To freely transform, skew, distort, or adjust the perspective of a section, choose Image→Transform and then choose a transformation type from the submenu:

    • Free Transform: Enables you to rotate, resize, skew, distort, and adjust perspective all within a single command.

    • Skew: Distorts your selection on a given axis.

    • Distort: Distorts your selection with no restrictions on an axis.

    • Perspective: Applies a one-point perspective to your selection.

    As soon as you select a distortion and release the mouse button, a bounding box or transform box surrounds your selection, complete with handles on the sides and corners. You don’t get a bounding box when you select the Flip or Rotate (by degrees) transformations. (These commands are just applied to your image.)

  5. Depending on which transformation type you choose in Steps 2, 3, or 4, drag the appropriate handle:

    • Free Rotate: Move the cursor outside the bounding box. When the cursor becomes a curved arrow, drag clockwise or counterclockwise. Hold down the Shift key to rotate in 15-degree increments.

      Remember that choosing Rotate 180º, 90º CW, or 90º CCW or Flip Horizontal or Vertical executes the command. Handle-dragging isn’t necessary.

    • Scale: Corner handles work best for this transformation. Hold down the Shift key to scale proportionately. Hold down the Alt key (Option key on the Mac) to scale from the center.

    • Skew: Drag a side handle.

    • Distort: Drag a corner handle.

    • Perspective: Drag a corner handle.

    Elements executes all the transformations around a reference point. The reference point appears in the center of the transform box by default. You can move the reference point anywhere you want, even outside the bounding box.

    In addition, you can set your own reference point for the transformation by clicking a square on the reference point locator in the Tool Options. Each square corresponds to a point on the bounding box.

    You can also use the fields in the Tool Options to perform most of your transformations. After choosing any of the transformation commands from the menu, fields for a numeric entry to scale, rotate, and skew appear in the Tool Options.

    Execute all your transformations in one fell swoop, if possible. In other words, don’t scale a selection now and then five minutes later rotate it, and then five minutes after that distort it.

    With the exception of flipping or rotating in 90-degree increments, every transformation you apply to an image results in a resampling. You should limit the number of times you resample an image, because it has a degrading effect — your image starts to appear soft and mushy.

  6. After you transform the selection to your liking, double-click inside the bounding box or click the Commit button next to the bounding box.

    To cancel the transformation, press Esc or click the Cancel button next to the bounding box.

    Your selection is now magically transformed. If your image isn’t on a layer, you can end up with a hole filled with the background color after your image is transformed.

When the Move tool is active, you can transform a layer without choosing a command. Select the Show Bounding Box option in the Tool Options. This option surrounds the layer or selection with a box that has handles. Drag the handles to transform the layer or selection.

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