Photoshop Toolbox: Constraining Proportions

Photoshop Toolbox - Beginner Tips for Photoshop

This week in the Photoshop Toolbox we will be building off of our discussion of shapes from last week to discuss what kind of control we have when it comes to actually creating those shapes.

As I’ve said before, I like to have as much control over my images as possible, so I will almost always create my shapes as Shape Layers. With the Shape Layer option selected, I now have to figure out what shape I want to draw. With the Rectangle Tool selected I can click and drag in the document window and create a rectangle to any size and proportions I want.

Say, however, that I wanted to create a square instead. I don’t have to eyeball it, I just have to hold down Shift after I click and as I am dragging my cursor. Holding down that one key tells Photoshop that you want to create a perfect square. All you have to do at this point is decide on how big you want it.

Ok, this works with squares and rectangles, but how about with the Ellipse Tool? Well, it works the same way. By clicking and dragging you can create an oval of any size and shape you like. By holding down the Shift key you will constrain your tool to create a perfect circle. There are times when I run into the situation where I know where I want the center of my circle to be but I don’t want to mess around with trying to center it on the given spot. Easy. Simply add the Option/Alt key into the mix. Click on the spot where you want the center of your circle to be and then add Option/Alt+Shift as you drag and your circle will be constrained and drawn from the center.

Now, let’s say we have our Shape Layer all set but we need to resize it. No problem. First of all, because we’re using a Shape Layer it is a vector shape and can be resized very cleanly. To maintain the same proportions as the original, go to Free Transform, grab one of the corners of the shape, and hold down Shift as you drag to constrain the proportions. Likewise, if you want to resize but maintain the center alignment of the shape, add Option/Alt to keep it centered. If you have a rectangle in place and want to alter the shape so that the position of the rectangle remains the same but you want to make it wider by an equal amount on either side, grab the middle handle on the side of the shape, hold down Option/Alt and drag out. This will allow you to work with both sides at once.

There are a lot of different uses you can find from just these few simple additions of your Option/Alt and Shift keys. Try ’em out and experiment to see what you can do!

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