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Layer Transformations in Photoshop
Software Used: Photoshop 5.5 (Any version with layers will work)

This tutorial was prompted by a visitor to the site who had recently purchased Corel Knockout, and was having difficulty understanding how to manipulate the knocked out object after placing it into another image in Photoshop. I'm using Photoshop version 5.5 for Windows, but this should also work in Photoshop 4 and higher versions for Windows or Mac. I believe the transform command was moved to a different menu in version 5, so I'll be using the keyboard shortcut which is the same in either version. (Continued below...)

1.) The first step is to open both images you'll be working with. My two images are shown below. The red fish on the left is the knocked out image exported to Photoshop format from Corel Knockout.

the knocked out image the image we'll be placing our knocked out object into

2.) If you make the knocked out image active, then look at the channels palette, you'll see there is a fourth channel named Alpha 1. (If you can't find your channel palette, go to Window > Show Channels.) In the screen shot to the right, the alpha channel is outlined in red.

An alpha channel is a grayscale representation of a selection that can be saved with an image. To use the selection, we'll need to load it first.

an alpha channel displayed in the channels palette

3.) To load the selection, go to Select > Load selection and choose Alpha 1 from the channel drop down menu.

loading a selection from the alpha channel


4.) A selection marquee will surround your object.


5.) Select the Move tool move tool. Click on the selected object and drag and drop it onto the other image. When the move tool is still active you can move the object around above the background.


a selection marquee surrounds the object

Here's my result after dragging the selected object into the new image.

Looking at the layers palette, you can see that the object was placed onto a new layer, above the background layer.

the object is placed in a new layer

after dragging the object into another image

6.) To transform the layer, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-T (Command-T for Mac users).


The object in your active layer will have a bounding box around it with square "handles" on the sides and corners. When you are in transformation mode, there are several ways you can manipulate the image...

Transformation bounding box
When the cursor is placed inside the bounding box, it becomes a solid black pointer. When you see this cursor, you can use it to move the object around within the layer. the cursor for moving an object in transform mode
When the cursor is held directly above a handle, it becomes a two-way pointing arrow. This allows you to stretch and scale the object. If you hold the shift key while dragging a handle, the object can be scaled without distorting the proportions. the cursor for scaling an object in transform mode
When the cursor is held just outside one of the handles it will change to a two-way curved arrow which allows you to rotate the image. the cursor for rotating an object in transform mode

The transform pop-up menuYou can also get a pop-up menu with more options by right clicking inside the bounding box. (Mac users Control-click)


7.) After scaling rotating and moving the object into place, double click inside the bounding box to apply the changes. It's best to make all your transformations before applying them since repeated transformations can degrade the quality.

And here is the completed image after applying the transformations:

double click inside the bounding box to apply the transformations the final image

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