Looking to learn a trick or two about resizing a layer in Adobe Photoshop? You’ve found the right tutorial. 

Adobe Photoshop designs are dependent on layers. These layers allow you, as the designer, to manipulate the picture exactly the way you want. 

A single Photoshop file can contain many layers, with different aspects of the image held on each layer. This allows you to edit parts of the image in one layer while leaving the rest of the image (anything existing in the other layers) untouched. 

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As you master working with layers, you can learn how to isolate one layer and change its color in Photoshop, how to replace the color of one element in the image, or how to crop elements from an image.

This tutorial will walk you through how to resize a layer in Photoshop, step-by-step. If you are brand new to using Photoshop, this blog on How to Use Photoshop is a great starting point for teaching you the basics. 

If you want to tackle more Photoshop tools after this tutorial, Udemy also has top-notch tutorials on the Lasso Tool, the Pen Tool, the Quick Selection tool, and more.

Person in front of two computer screens

Why resize a layer in Photoshop?

Knowing how to resize layers opens up a world of nifty design techniques that you can use to create visually stimulating effects in Photoshop and get your images to look just how you want them to. For instance, resizing a layer makes it easy to adjust the proportions of different elements in an image by making the subject smaller or larger in relation to the background. This also makes it easy to resize and rotate text, shapes, and other design elements that you may add on top of a photograph.

Graphic designers generally work with many layers in their projects because it allows them finer control over the individual elements of an image in Photoshop. Learning how to quickly resize and rotate a layer is an easy way to produce effects that look advanced.

Step 1: Create or select the layer you want to resize

To resize a layer, you’re going to need a layer first. 

If you have an image you’ve previously created in Photoshop that already has layers, you can use that to follow along with this tutorial. Go ahead and open it, select the layer you want to resize, and then skip to Step 3. 

If you don’t have an image with layers created yet, we’ll start by opening a new Photoshop design and making a layer.

Open a new design

Open a new canvas by going to “File” and selecting “New.” A window will pop up, asking you to adjust the size of the canvas. If you want, you can change the height and the width to match the image you plan on creating. If you’re not sure, try starting with the following dimensions:

You can always adjust this later.

adjusting size in Photoshop

Create a new layer.

The white canvas is your background, and now you need to add a few layers on top of this background to give you maximum flexibility while designing. 

To create a new layer, go to your layers palette in the bottom right-hand corner of Photoshop CC. Make sure the tab called “Layers” is selected. 

You’ll see a white thumbnail and the word “Background.” On the bottom of that little panel, there is an icon that looks like a plus sign. Click that, and you’ll have your first new layer!

create new layer in photoshop

Note: If you plan on using the shapes tool to do your first drawing, you don’t need to create a new layer; when you draw the shape on the background, Photoshop will automatically create a new layer with the title of your shape tool and a “1.”

Step 2: Add a design element in the layer

You should notice a highlighted layer on your panel. This means it’s actively selected, and you can design or edit it. 

Within your active layer, go ahead and design anything you have in mind. You may draw a shape, insert a photograph, or add some text — whatever strikes you, place something simple onto the layer. Here, we’ve inserted a beautiful photo:

add design element in layer, photoshop

Step 3: Open the Free Transform tool

Now that you have something drawn in layer 1, we will use the “Free Transform” tool, which allows us to resize and even rotate the layer. 

There are two ways to engage this tool:

  1. Go to “Edit” in the top dropdown menu, and click “Free Transform” or
  2. Press control and the “T” key (CTRL+T). 
free transform tool navigation, photoshop

Note: The second option is called a shortcut. Each tool in Photoshop has its own shortcut using keys on your keyboard, which makes accessing them really easy.

Step 4: Resize the layer

With your layer selected, and the Free Transform tool open, you should see anchor points around the canvas. These will look similar to the points around an image when you try to resize or edit it.

anchor points, resize layer, photoshop

Making the layer smaller

Choose a corner anchor point, and then click and drag it inward toward a central point. As you do, the layer will begin to shrink both vertically and horizontally. 

If you want the layer proportions to stay the same, hold the SHIFT key while you click and drag your anchor point.

Let go of the mouse when the layer is at the size you want. Here’s an example of what it looks like now. Smaller and proportional in size:

resized image, photoshop

Making the layer bigger

If you click on the same corner anchor point and drag your mouse outward, your layer will begin to grow in the same semi-proportional way. Again, if you want to keep the layer proportions the same as you enlarge it, hold the SHIFT key while you resize it.

making layer bigger, photoshop

Adjusting the layer’s width

If you click on any of the points that sit along the vertical sides of the layer, you can drag toward the center to decrease the width. Alternatively, pull away from the layer to increase the width.

adjusting layer's width, photoshop

Adjusting the layer’s height

Likewise, if you grab a horizontal anchor point (sitting along either the top or the bottom border of the layer) and drag it towards the center, the height will decrease. If you click and drag it away from the center, you’ll increase the height. Here, I have resized the image proportionally and then stretched it up.

adjusting layer's height, photoshop

Save your layer at the new size

When you’re done resizing the layer, press the ENTER key to secure it at the new size. Pretty easy, right?

Step 6: Rotate the layer

You’ve successfully resized your layer — now let’s learn how to rotate it. We will use the same Free Transform tool to turn the layer.

Click on the layer that you want to rotate, and then open the Free Transform tool again by going to “Edit” and selecting “Free Transform.” Or you can press CTRL+T for the shortcut. You should see the anchor points appear around the layer again.

To rotate, hover your mouse pointer on the outside of a corner anchor. You should see a half-moon-shaped line with an arrow on either end. 

Click while your mouse pointer looks like this, and slowly drag your mouse in the direction you want your image to rotate. As you go, the layer (and the image or designs within it) will rotate in the direction you’re moving it. 

rotate layer, photoshop

If you rotate the image too far, here are two ways you can fix it:

  1. Drag toward the other corner to balance out the rotation
  2. Hit the shortcut for undo — CTRL+Z for Windows and COMMAND Z for macOS — and then start your original rotation again. 

When you are satisfied with the size and rotation of your image, click save under File–>Save to keep your changes.

Adjusting multiple layers

If you want to adjust multiple images that sit on different layers, you can do them one at a time. Go to your layers palette and make sure the layer you want to edit is highlighted, and follow the steps above.

That’s all there is to it! You can now resize and rotate multiple layers in your Photoshop image to create the effects you want. Now that you understand how to resize layers, you can apply your newfound knowledge in learning how to erase backgrounds in Photoshop. 

Page Last Updated: July 2021

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