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How to Evenly Space Objects in Photoshop

Published: 02/06/2021

If you are a photographer or graphic designer, you must have run into situations where the accurate placement of objects to space them evenly on the canvas is a real challenge. You cannot guarantee accurate and even spacing by measuring the layout roughly by sight. Learn how to evenly space objects in Photoshop using its amazingly helpful automatic features.

How to Evenly Space Objects in Photoshop

To create coherent visuals, we often attempt to arrange multiple elements evenly on the canvas. The proper placement and spacing of elements are required in marketing material like flyers and print ads, collages, and many other forms of visual designs. If elements are scattered in a messy way, it instantly kills the appeal of the visual.

Adobe Photoshop CC can help you space objects in a clean, accurate way through its automatic spacing features. Not only it has several options to align and distribute elements as you like, but it also has an auto-align functionality that aligns objects with similar details on the borders.

Photoshop also has a very handy Smart Guides feature that is immensely helpful in uniformly placing elements in your creation. We will discuss all of these below in detail so that you can get the hang of these features and practice them to perfection.

Creating a Document with Multiple Layers

First of all, for demonstration purposes, we will create a new document with thumbnail size images of various properties. We can use this to create a flyer, adding text and other elements later on. But right now, we have a color-filled background with three images on separate layers.

Color-filled background with three images on separate layers

Alternatively, you can also create a document using vector shapes to practice their placement using the options described below. Make sure that you deselect a shape by pressing CTRL/CMD + D before creating new duplicate layers

Using Smart Guides

The first feature we will throw light upon is the intuitive Smart Guides in Photoshop. The feature is your answer to all the spacing and aligning issues you may run into during the designing process.

On the Photoshop CC interface, the Smart Guides are turned on by default. However, they can be enabled by going to the View menu, hover on the Show option, and click on Smart Guides. Once turned on, you can easily view alignment and spacing values between an object and its neighbor, making accurate and even spacing possible. 

Images using Smart Guides

Quick Tips:

  • If you want to view the measurement in pixels rather than inches, press CTRL /CMD + R to enable the ruler tool. Now right-click on the ruler and select Pixels from the drop-down menu. 
  • If you press CTRL/ CMD while hovering over layers, Smart Guides will display measurements that allow you to snap to the nearby object accurately while you are moving the layers.
  • Hold ALT / OPT key and drag a layer to copy it. The Smart Guides will help you place it at the right distance.

Space Objects Evenly Using the Move Tool

The Smart Guide method to space objects, although very useful, requires manual alignment and distribution. However, when there are a large number of elements that need an arrangement and precise spacing, you can resort to the Move tool options that do the job automatically for you. 

Each object, if on a separate layer, can be aligned and distributed accurately along with the other objects on your document. The twelve Alignment and Distribution options are accessible via the Layer menu and the options bar of the Move Tool.

Selecting Layers

Remember that in order to use the Align/Distribute options, you must select a minimum of three layers in your layer panel. Unless you do that, the options won’t be available to you. Also, the adjustment layers, vector layers, or any Smart Objects that do not have the needed information about alignment or distribution cannot be selected.

Select consecutive layers by clicking on the first layer, hold down the Shift key, and click on the last layer to select the series. For non-consecutive selection, press and hold the CTRL/CMD key and keep on clicking the layers you intend to space evenly.

Command Using Layer Submenu

With the layers selected, go up to the Layer menu. From the Align option, choose any of the six options to ensure even spacing from a specific perspective.

Choosing the Align Option in the Layer menu

Or, go to the Layer menu, and hover over the Distribute option to choose any of the six options from the submenu to distribute the layers proportionally.

Choosing the Distribute Option in the Layer menu

Command Using Move Tool Option Icons

All the six Align options and the six Distribute options are also accessible as icons on the top options bar when you select the move tool. All you need to do is select the desired object layers and click on any of the icons that will fulfill your placement command. 

Move Tool Option Icons

Align Options

The six align options in Photoshop are:

  1. Align Top Edges: The option will align the objects with respect to the top edge of the selection border.
  2. Align Vertical Centers: Each object has a vertical center which this option will use to align them evenly.
  3. Align Bottom Edges: The opposite of top edges, this option will align objects with respect to their bottom edges.
  4. Align Left Edges: Place objects evenly aligned according to their leftmost pixel.
  5. Align Horizontal centers: Aligns objects based on their horizontal centers.
  6. Align Right Edges: Places objects evenly aligned accordion to their right-most pixel.

Distribute Options

The six Distribute options are:

  1. Distribute Top Edges: Consistent spacing of objects with respect to their topmost pixels. 
  2. Distribute Vertical Centers: Consistent spacing of objects with respect to their vertical centers.
  3. Distribute Bottom Edges: Consistent spacing of objects with respect to their bottom-most pixels. 
  4. Distribute Left Edges: Consistent spacing of objects with respect to their left-most pixels. 
  5. Distribute Horizontal centers: Consistent spacing of objects with respect to their horizontal centers. 
  6. Distribute Right Edges: Consistent spacing of objects with respect to their rightmost pixels. 

Group Object Layers to Move Them Together

Here is a tip to avoid moving a layer accidentally after you have perfectly aligned and distributed them. Make a group of all the objects that are spaced evenly. This will help you move the whole group together if you need and avoid chances of accidentally changing the placement of a layer.

Auto-Align Layers

One more feature that is very handy while using the Move tool is the Auto-Align. It can be used to align layers that have some similarity in content around the borders. 

To overlay the matching content, choose a reference layer in the Layer panel and click on the Auto-Align icon. The feature will place the images in a way that the matching content will be overlapped.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are The Align And Distribute Icons Greyed Out In The Move Tool Options Bar?

The Alignment and Distribute options are only available for use if you have three or more layers selected in the Layer panel. You need to specify to Photoshop the elements that need to be spaced evenly.

Why Do We Need to Align and Distribute Objects Evenly?

You may need to Align and Distribute objects evenly for the following reasons:

  • To achieve a perfect visual coherency in marketing materials like flyer designs and ads.
  • To combine several pictures in the form of a collage.
  • To align images with relevant text in a graphic. 

Conclusion

The efficient tools in Photoshop are no less than a blessing when it comes to the proportional spacing between objects. The features are described in detail to help you understand their functionality. Using these options, you can quickly space objects at equal spaces in a multilayer document and create visual coherency without figuring out measurements.

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