How to Rotate Photoshop Canvas

A fresh perspective is helpful when working with digital images, just as when working on paper. But picking up the computer to rotate the screen would be rather impractical. 

Thanks to the Rotate View Tool you can do this easily in Photoshop itself. 

Hey there! I’m Cara, a photographer who loves to explore the potential of her photos in Photoshop. 

I’m very visual (as you might imagine) and as such, I have a hard time visualizing images from different angles. But Photoshop makes it easy for me to rotate the canvas so I don’t have to imagine. Here’s how!

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Photoshop CC. If you are using the Mac version, they will look slightly different.

Step 1: Find the Rotate View Tool

The Rotate View tool isn’t always easy to find. If your toolbox is set to the default settings, this tool is hidden behind the Hand Tool on the toolbar. You can also get to it by pressing R on the keyboard. 

Step 2: Click and Drag

With the Rotate View tool active, click on the image and drag the mouse to the left or right to rotate the image. The red arm of the compass that appears in the center of the image always points to the original top of the image so you won’t lose it. 

Hold down the Shift key while dragging and the image will rotate in 15-degree increments. This makes it easier to pop back to a straight image. It’s hard to be as precise by just dragging the mouse. 

Other Ways to Rotate

If you want to rotate to an exact angle, it will be easier to use the Rotation Angle box in the options bar. A negative angle rotates the image to the left, while a positive one rotates it to the right. 

To pop back to the original orientation without messing around, hit the Reset View button.

You can also change the angle with the Scrubby Slider. If you hover over the words Rotation Angle, the cursor will turn into a pointing finger with arrows pointing to either side. 

Click and drag to the left or right and the canvas will rotate in 1-degree increments. Hold the Shift key to turn that into 15-degree increments. 

Match Rotation

What if you want to rotate multiple images to the same angle? You can easily do this with one simple command.

Make sure all the documents you want to rotate are open in Photoshop. Choose the one with the rotation angle you want to match. 

Go to Window in the menu bar and hover over Arrange. Now choose Match Rotation. The other images will jump to the same rotation angle. 

Why Use the Rotate View Tool?

This tool rotates the canvas behind the image, not the actual image itself. You can imagine it like rotating the paper underneath the drawing, not the drawing itself. 

Why is this distinction important? 

Because rotating the image (not the canvas) is a destructive edit. Every time you rotate the image, Photoshop has to redraw the pixels to accommodate the new look. This leads to a loss of information. Do this enough times and the quality of the image will suffer. 

However, rotating the canvas behind the image doesn’t do a thing. You can rotate it as many times as you want without affecting the image. 

Interested in learning more about Photoshop’s tools? Check out how to use the incredible Magic Wand tool here!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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