There are plenty of reasons why a designer might choose to round out the corners of an image rather than leave them at sharp 90-degree angles. Not only are rounded corners easy on the eyes, easy to process, and an easy way to make a logo or splash image more inviting, they are also super easy to make in Photoshop.
In this guide, we’ll go over two quick and easy ways to round out those corners in Photoshop.
If you’re an aspiring graphic designer, you might want to consider taking a course that gives a good overview of fundamental design principles.
Rounded Corners Tool
This is the easiest way to make rounded corners in Photoshop CC, because you’ll actually be starting out with them, rather than manipulating an existing image. Take note, this is actually a new feature in Photoshop CC, so you’ll need the latest version in order to do it. This method is best used if you’re create a picture from scratch, such as a logo, a splash image, or a button.
Step 1 – Create a new Photoshop file
First, go to File > New > and create a new Photoshop file with the desired measurements for your image. It doesn’t matter what size, resolution, or color mode your image is in, as these elements are unrelated to the rounded corners feature that comes with Photoshop CC.
Step 2 – Place a shape using the Rectangle Tool
In Photoshop CC, the Rectangle Tool should be grouped in the same section as the Pen Tool, the Horizontal Type Tool, and the Path Selection Tool in the sidebar. You can also select it by pressing its hotkey, U.
Once selected, you have two options. You can either drag the image out onto the canvas and edit its properties after, or set its size first, and then click anywhere on your canvas to place it. In this example, we’ll tinker with the image properties before we place our shape. Options for the Rectangle Tool should be accessible at the top.
You can set the image fill to any color you like, and set the stroke width to any size you’d like. In this example, we’ve set it to zero. Our image width and height is 300 px, a square. Next, we click anywhere on our canvas to place it.
Step 3 – Round those corners!
This next step is made super easy by Photoshop CC’s built-in corner rounding feature. After you’ve OK’d the rectangle placement, the Live Shape Properties box should appear, allowing you to see changes to the shape as you make them.
The option to adjust corners is the portion at the bottom. Just enter in a value, and watch those sharp edges go smooth! The smaller the value, the less rounded the corners will be. This example depicts what a rounded corner at 50px looks like. The closer the value gets to half the size of the length or width (150 in this example, because our square is 300×300), the more circular the shape becomes, so don’t get too carried away.
By default, the corner radius values are locked together, meaning they’ll scale together. To unlock them, just click the little chain icon in the middle.
Now you can set individual values and create a cool effect like the one above.
Layers and Opacity Fill
If you’re working in a version of Photoshop that doesn’t have the feature used above, here’s another quick and easy way to get rounded corners on your images, using layers.
Step 1 – Start out with an image
For this tutorial, you’ll need to start out with a pre-made image. The one above is a simple, colored rectangle with the words Welcome! written in the middle, something that can be used as a header image or a button. The image has been flattened so that all of its layers, the blue background and the overlaid text, are merged together into one layer.
Step 2 – Create a new layer
Next, we need to create a new layer to go on top of our image. To create a new layer, open the Layers prompt and click the icon that looks like a small square of paper with its bottom left corner folded inward. You can also use the menu bar by going to Layer > New > Layer, or just pressing Shift+Ctrl+N. Once you’ve created a new layer, your Layers property box should look similar to the example above.
It doesn’t matter what you call this new layer, just make sure it’s above, not below, the image you want to round the corners on.
Step 3 – Draw a rounded rectangle on the new layer
Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a rounded rectangle on the new layer. If you don’t know where the Rectangle Tool is located, or how to use it, see Step 2 in the tutorial above. The only difference here is you’ll be selecting a pre-defined shape called the rounded rectangle, rather than manipulating a sharp-angled rectangle to have rounded corners.
The rounded rectangle on this new layer should be as large as you want your final image to be, and positioned in a way that captures the portions of the image you want it to capture.
It’s basically a frame.
But wait, you might be thinking. I can’t see the image underneath it! That’s fine. It doesn’t matter if the fill is opaque (as it is in this example) or colored in, just make sure its size and positioning are to your liking.
Step 4 – Set Fill Opacity to 0%
Double click your new layer – the one with the rounded rectangle – in the Layers box, and it should open the Layers Style palette in a separate window. In the Blending Options tab, there should be an area called Advanced Blending, with a Fill Opacity slider. Set the slider all the way down to 0%. Leave everything else the way it is.
Step 5 – Make Selection in the Paths tab
The box where we’ve been managing layers should have three tabs: Layers, Channels, and Paths. Select the Paths tab, make sure the path for the layer with the rectangle on it is highlighted, right click, and pick the Make Selection option. You can learn more by watching this lecture on working with selections, part of this Photoshop CS6 Video QuickStart series.
When the settings prompt box appears, you want the anti-aliased box to be checked, and the feather radius set to 0.
Step 6 – Copy and paste your new image in a separate document
Go to Edit > Copy Merged – or press Shift+Ctrl+C – and open a new document. Size the canvas according to your requirements, paste your image, and admire its newly rounded corners!
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