Align and Distribute Objects in Photoshop

April 29, 2016

Today’s tutorial is the result of a specific request from one of my readers.  Jan writes: “I would like to know how to spread objects/items evenly across a page. I have fiddled around with the arrange, align, distribute features before, but I can’t do it confidently.”

In order to align and/or distribute items in a document, we must (1) have the Move Tool selected, and (2) have the objects that we would like to align/distribute also selected. If we select the Move Tool only, and do not have the objects also selected, the align/distribute options will be greyed out in the tool bar.

Aligning and distributing works the same way in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Here is a screenshot using CC2015. I have the Move Tool selected, my targeted layers selected (in the Layers Panel), and you can see that the align/distribute tools in the top Options Bar are black, making them available for use.

Align and Distribute Tutorial SnickerdoodleDesigns

Here is a screenshot using Photoshop Elements 14, where I do not have the Move Tool or the targeted layers selected. You can see that the Align and Distribute options (which are located at the bottom of the PSE screen) are not highlighted, thus not currently available for use.

Align and Distribute Tutorial SnickerdoodleDesigns

The Align/Distribute Tools are in 4 separate groups:

  1. Align top edges; vertical centers; bottom edges
  2. Align left edges; horizontal centers; right edges
  3. Distribute top edges; vertical centers; bottom edges
  4. Distribute horizontal left edges; horizontal centers; right edges

If you have trouble remembering what each group does, just look for the line on the tool, which indicates the focus of each tool.  The screen capture below is from Group 1. You can see that on the first icon the line is at the top, indicating that this option will align the top edges of the selected layers; the second icon, the vertical centers; the third icon the bottom edges.

Align and Distribute Tutorial SnickerdoodleDesigns

The best way to understand what each group does is to put multiple objects on your document and click each tool, experimenting and watching what happens. Let’s take a look at Jan’s specific request, which was aligning and distributing objects evenly across a page.

I have 4 flowers on a background paper that I would like to align and distribute.  To do so, I clicked on the Move Tool to make it active, selected all 4 flower layers in the Layers Panel, and clicked on the Align Top Edges icon (Group 1).

Before alignment: (random flower placement)

Align and Distribute Tutorial SnickerdoodleDesigns
After alignment: (top edges of the flowers aligned)

 Align and Distribute Tutorial SnickerdoodleDesigns

To distribute the flowers evenly across the page, I need to have a flower on the left and a flower on the right where I would like them to be in their final line-up. Photoshop will distribute the flowers in between the left and right flowers evenly when we select Distribute Horizontal Centers (Group 4).

Align and Distribute Tutorial SnickerdoodleDesigns

If you are not familiar with the Align / Distribute tools, experiment with them this week. Next week we will learn how to use them to create fun borders!

Thank you, Jan, for your request. I always appreciate specific requests!

Credit: The paper and flowers used in this tutorial are from my newest collection You Are a Masterpiece.

Norma has created an adorable You Are a Masterpiece Quick Page for you!

This gift is no longer available however you can always find some current gifts on the Digi Scrap Freebies Page.  

You Are a Masterpiece FREEBIE

If you would like to download a PDF of this tutorial, you may do so here: Align and Distribute Objects in Photoshop.

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13 Comments

  1. sherry

    Wow…….had no idea that this action existed !!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    I love this! Thank you ?

    Reply
  3. Vivian

    Oh my goodness. I have been using PSE since version 7 and this is the FIRST time I have understood align and distribute. Thank you so much for doing this tutorial.

    Reply
  4. suruha

    I got thrown for a loop because I did NOT know I needed the first and last where I wanted them. So, THAT is the secret! Cool! Thank you!
    Su

    Reply
  5. Lynn

    Thank you, I really appreciate your tutorials!

    Reply
  6. Steph

    Best explanation I have seen for these tools! Thank you, Karen. And you are right about playing with these tools to really “see” what they do.

    Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks, Steph!!

      Reply

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