How to Rotate an Image in Photoshop

Flip the script for better photos

How to rotate an image in Photoshop

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Is your picture upside down? Did a scanned document appear flipped back to front? Do you wish the horizon of your landscape lined up horizontally? All of these are valid reasons to finally sit down and learn how to rotate in Photoshop. There are a few ways you can do it, but all of them will get your picture the right way up.

The following guide focuses on Adobe Photoshop CC version 20.0.4. Most methods will also work with older versions of Photoshop, but the methodology may not be as exact.

How to Rotate an Image in Photoshop

Rotating an image in Photoshop can mean rotating individual elements within the picture or the entire canvas itself, and can even be completed along with a crop if you want to adjust how much of your image appears at the end of your edits. Here are some of the ways you can turn your picture around.

Rotate the canvas

Rotating the entire image, or the canvas, is the simplest way to perform large rotations accurately – perfect for if your picture or photo is upside down or flipped to one side or the other. To do so:

  1. Select Image in the top menu bar.

  2. Select Image Rotation.

  3. Select 180 Degrees, 90 Degrees Clockwise or 90 Degrees Counter Clockwise for a quick rotation, or select Flip Canvas Horizontal or Flip Canvas Vertical to reverse the picture. Alternatively, select Arbitrary and input a specific angle of rotation that you want.

    Image rotation menu in Photoshop

If you don't like the rotation you've made, press Ctrl (or CMD)+Z to undo your action. Alternatively press Ctrl (or CMD)+Alt+Z to take several undo steps.

Transform layer 

If you want to perform similar rotations to the above option, but want to apply it to a specific layer, you need to use the Transform tool instead. 

  1. Select the layer you want to rotate.

    If you don't see the Layers window, you can enable it by going to Windows > Layers.

  2. Select Edit > Transform.

  3. There you can select to rotate the layer 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise, as well as rotate it 180 degrees. There are also options for flipping the image vertically and horizontally.

If you want to rotate a specific element within an image you can use the same method outlined above, but you'll need to put that particular part of the picture on its own layer. To do so, follow the tips for selecting parts of an image in our guide to how to remove a background. Then copy and paste those elements onto a new layer, or select them and press Ctrl (or CMD)+J.

Free transform

Although not as exact as the other method, rotating an image by hand using Free Transform is one of the quickest. 

  1. Select the image or portion of an image you want to rotate, then press Ctrl (or CMD)+T. Alternatively, you can select Edit > Free Transform.

  2. Select around the edge of the bounding box of your selection and drag in the direction you wish to rotate it.

  3. When you're happy, either double-click/tap or press Enter to confirm your rotation.

Crop

Although not strictly a rotation tool, Crop does have that function within it and it means you can rotate and cut down an image at the same time for a better design.

  1. Select the Crop tool from the Tools menu. It's typically the fourth from the top and looks like a pair of crossed set-squares.

    If you can't see the Tools menu, select Window > Tools to open it.

  2. Select your image by, then select and drag outside the image's bounding box to rotate it. The preview will show how the image will be cropped as it rotates.

  3. When you're happy either double click/tap, or press Enter to confirm your rotation and crop.

How to Rotate an Image for Better Composition

Rotating an image is typically something you do to fix a picture so it's straighter, or lines up better proportionally. Photoshop has a few tricks and tools you can use to make the process easier and make your rotations more meaningful. Here are a few extras to consider.

  • Rulers: Rulers can help you line up an image to a specific orientation or help with measuring elements of a picture. Select View > Rulers to enable them. When in place, you can select them to display a horizontal or vertical line on the image. When rotating, this can make the process of forcing a horizon to be horizontal much easier.
  • Crop rules: When using the Crop tool, the top menu has the option to display several overlay options, including the photographer’s Rule of thirds and the classic painter's Golden Triangle. To enable this, select the Crop tool, then in the top menu, select the small white triangle next to the cog icon. They will then appear as grid lines when you perform a crop and/or rotation.