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Photoshop Basics: The Alignment Tools

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In this tutorial, learn to use the alignment tools in Photoshop to arrange layers to themselves and to the entire canvas.

* This tutorial is part of the Photoshop Basics Collection

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What are the Align Tools

Nearly every word processing program includes align tools. These tools let the user position the text as desired: left aligned, centered or right aligned. These handy tools are also a great feature of Photoshop. They make it easy to align any layers within a Photoshop file. Whether you have many blocks of text that all need to align with the left margin or you’re designing a logo with several graphics that need to be perfectly centered, the Align tools in Photoshop provide everything you need to finish your project.

Features of the Align Tools

Photoshop’s tools are far more sophisticated than the options you will see in word processing programs like Microsoft Word. You can:

  • Align two or more layers by left edges, right edges or horizontal centers
  • Align two or more layers by top edges, bottom edges or vertical centers
  • Equally distribute two or more layers by left edges, right edges or horizontal centers
  • Equally distribute two or more layers by top edges, bottom edges or vertical centers
  • Combine images with the auto-align option to merge photos spherically, cylindrically, collage-style, using perspective and more

You can choose to align all layers or just certain layers. You could align some layers by top edges and others by bottom edges when designing a poster or other professional graphic that includes many text elements.

Why Use Photoshop’s Align Tools?

Many designers are perfectionists, and the Align tools are made for these people. Sure, you could always eyeball the placement of elements, but using a tool like this is faster and more accurate. There are a number of circumstances where these tools would make your life much easier, such as:

  • When you want to perfectly align different elements
  • When you want to merge several pictures into one picture with a precise edge
  • When you want the flexibility to align some elements but not all
  • When you want elements spread out equally
  • When you want to center a watermark logo on top of a photograph

When Align Isn’t the Right Tool

There are many uses for the Align tools, and it’s an option many Photoshoppers use constantly. However, there are definitely circumstances where it’s not needed, such as if you like an asymmetric look or if you’re working with a flattened or merged image; you can only use the Align tools with layers. If you need to divide your flat image into layers to use the Align tools, Photoshop has options for you.

Once you master Photoshop’s Align tools, you’ll find yourself using them quite often. If you haven’t used the tools before, it’s time to learn! Check out the video to see the Align tools in action, and browse our website for more Photoshop tips, tricks and hints.

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