How To Add a Wavy Line Border to a Rectangle in Photoshop

Wavy Line Border
Text and images © Ian Pullen

If you've ever found yourself wondering how you can add a wavy line border or frame to elements in Photoshop, you will find this a useful and interesting tutorial to follow. One of the great things about Photoshop is the sheer power of the application, however this can also make it very difficult to learn all of the different things that you can achieve with it.

Newbies may find it difficult to make creative frames as this is something that doesn't seem particularly intuitive. However, it's actually pretty easy and straightforward and over the next few pages I'll show you how. In the process, you'll learn a little about loading new Photoshop brushes, how to apply a brush to a path, and then how you can change its appearance by using a filter. I'll also point you towards a great article by Sue that explains how you can create your own brushes, in case you get the bug for this technique.

Load a New Brush into Photoshop

Load a New Brush in Photoshop
Text and images © Ian Pullen

The first step in this process is to load a new brush into Photoshop. For the purpose of this tutorial, I created a simple little brush that will form the basis for creating a wavy line border effect and you can download this if you'd like to follow along: wavy-line-border.abr (right click and save target). If you fancy making your own brush, then take a look at Sue's article on how to create Photoshop brushes.

Assuming that you've got a blank document open, click on the Brush tool in the Tools palette — it's the one with the brush icon. The Tool Options bar now presents the controls for the brush and you now need to click on the second drop down menu, followed by the small arrow icon at the top right which opens a new text menu. From the menu, select Load Brushes and then navigate to the location where you saved the brush that you want to use. You'll see that it has now been added to the end of all of the currently loaded brushes and you can click on its icon to select the brush.

Apply a Photoshop Brush to a Path

Apply Photoshop Brush to a Path
Text and images © Ian Pullen

Now that you have your brush loaded and selected, you need to add a path to your document. This is easily done be creating a selection and converting it to a path.

Click on the Rectangular Marquee tool and draw a rectangle on your document. Now go to Window > Paths to open the Paths palette and click the small down arrow icon at the top right of the palette to open a new menu. Click on Make Work Path and set the Tolerance setting to 0.5 pixels when prompted. You'll see that the selection has now been replaced by a path that has been labelled Work Path in the Paths palette.

Now right-click on the Work Path in the Paths palette and select Stroke Path. In the dialog that opens, ensure that the Tool drop down menu is set to Brush and click the OK button.

In the next step, I'll show you how you can make the straight lines wavy to complete this effect.

Make Straight Lines Wavy

Apply the Wave Filter
Text and images © Ian Pullen

Thankfully Photoshop includes a Wave filter that makes it very easy to give straight lines a random wave effect.

Just go to Filter > Distort > Wave to open the Wave dialog. At first glance, this can look rather intimidating, but there is a preview window that gives a good idea of how different settings will affect the appearance of the rectangular border. The best thing to do with this is to try out a few different settings and see how the thumbnail preview changes. In the screen shot, you can see the settings that I settled upon, so that should give you a bit of a guide for a starting point.

That's all there is to it! As you can create paths from any selection, it's very easy to apply this technique to all sorts of different shapes.