How to Rotate an Image in Photoshop

by Aug 24, 2019Free Tutorials, Resources

Have you ever been using Photoshop and found yourself wanting to rotate the canvas on which you are working? Well, just like with a piece of paper, which you could turn around to be at a different angle, you can enable easier editing, drawing, and painting by turning the canvas with the Rotate View Tool. 

By rotating your view whilst you are working on a piece, you are able to see your work from a different perspective, which actually proves to be of high importance in digital art, as well as traditional. 

In the process of creating digital paintings, knowing how to rotate the view of your piece can save you from having to work constantly at awkward angles.

Maybe you are completing a piece of work that displays the subject at an abnormal, difficult angle. For instance, if your subject is sideways, you may find it easier to rotate your digital canvas and work on the piece with a rotation of 90 or 180 degrees.

Perhaps you wish to edit an area of the photo that would be more accessible or clear from a different angle. Or maybe you simply would like to see a new view of your piece to ensure that you are creating the effect that you wanted initially. This image will teach you how to do so, and how to reset the rotation in Photoshop.

First of all, it is of utmost importance that we are able to distinguish the Rotate View tool from the Rotate Image tool. Just as rotating a piece of paper doesn’t rotate the drawing on it, rotating the canvas with the Rotate View tool doesn’t alter the rotation of the image, but rather changes the angle at which we are viewing the piece. 

By contrast, the Rotate Image tool actually rotates the pixels that make up the design on the canvas. If you were to rotate the image itself, you would end up setting just the pixels on the canvas to a particular rotation and leaving the canvas as it was. 

This would mean that only the areas of the rotated image that overlap the area of the fixed canvas would be visible, and, as a result, you would lose areas of your image such as the corners. 

Rotating an image in Photoshop is also a destructive edit, which means that every time you carry out the action to make the edit, the image decreases in quality. This is because by altering the positions on the canvas of the pixels themselves, the program has to redraw the pixels. Redrawing these loses some of the quality of the image, making it a lower resolution. 

In this tutorial, we will focus on the uses of the Rotate View tool to rotate the canvas (and by default, the pixels on it simultaneously).

Step 1: Opening your Image

If you haven’t done so already, make a start by opening up the image that you wish to work on, by opening Photoshop and selecting File > Open. This way you can open up a .PSD file that you have been working on, or simply a JPEG or similar to start a new edit.

open an image photoshop

If, alternatively, you wish to open up a blank document to work on, head to File > New, and select a canvas of the relevant dimensions, size and colour.

Step 2: Selecting the Rotate View Tool

The Rotate View Tool has a keyboard shortcut of R. You can find it near the bottom of the Toolbar (typically down the left side of your screen). 

On this toolbar, you will actually need to select the Hand Tool, since this is the tool of the two that will be visible by default. Clicking on its icon will bring up a small drop-down menu, from which you should then select the Rotate View Tool.

rotate view tool Photoshop

Step 3: Using the Rotate View Tool

With the correct tool selected, we can now begin to rotate the view of our canvas. To do this, click on your image, keeping your mouse button held down until a compass appears.

compas appears on Photoshop

On this compass, the red direction marker always points to the top of the image. This provides you with an easy way to navigate the document, and will always give you an indication of what rotation you’re working at, and where the different areas of the image are (you can work this out in relation to the position of the top of the photo, i.e the red).

– Rotating by Clicking and Dragging

So now that we’ve got the compass displayed, we can rotate the image. Keeping your mouse button held down, drag the image by moving your mouse. Photoshop automatically allows you to rotate the image with no restraints, so you can do this anti-clockwise or clockwise, to any extent that you want. 

If, however, you would prefer to rotate the image with a more accurate approach, then you can hold down the shift key whilst dragging the image. This will cause Photoshop to rotate the image in sets of 15 degrees (eg by 15, 30, 45, 60 etc).

rotated image photoshop

– Rotating by a Specific Value

If you already have a specific value in mind that you would like to rotate the view by, then luckily there is a method suitable for this that would be much more efficient than rotating by dragging the image until you find the correct angle.

To rotate by a specific value, you can set Photoshop to do so by typing the relevant value into the Rotation Angle box in the Options Bar (which typically will be situated along the top of your screen). 

rotate angle option photoshop

Clicking on this box should highlight the default value (the angle that is already set in the box, likely to be 0 degrees) and you can then type in whatever angle you wish to rotate the canvas by. 

Note that an anti-clockwise rotation will have a negative value. For instance, let’s say that you wanted a 30 degree anti-clockwise rotation. To do so, you would type into the box “-30”. Likewise, a 60 degree clockwise rotation would mean that you should type in a value of “60”. 

There’s no need to type in the degrees symbol after your numerical value, Photoshop will recognise it as an angle by default. 

Once you have typed in your value, head to your keyboard and click Enter [Win] / Return [Mac]. This will apply the relevant rotation to the view.

– Rotating the View by Using the Scrubby Slider

Another alternative method by which you can rotate the view of your image is by using Photoshop’s Scrubby Slider. This technique is probably more suitable for those who don’t have a specific rotation value in mind, therefore it works in a similar way to the first method that we discussed. 

To bring up the scrubby slider tool, move your mouse to hover with your cursor over where it says Rotation Angle in the Options Menu at the top of your screen.

Rotating the View by Using the Scrubby Slider photoshop

Doing this will turn your cursor into a hand icon, either side of which are direction arrows pointing left and right. This is the Scrubby Slider cursor. 

To alter the rotation of your view by using this tool, simply click and drag with the mouse still hovering over the words Rotation Angle. Dragging right with your mouse will cause the value to increase (rotating further clockwise) whilst dragging left will rotate the image further anti-clockwise, in other words decreasing the value of the rotation angle. 

Naturally, Photoshop will change the value in steps of just 1 degree. Again, if you wish to work with this more specifically, then you can hold down the shift key whilst dragging the mouse, which will cause the value to change by angles of 10 degrees.

– Resetting the Rotation of the View

Once you have finished working on the piece whilst it is rotated, whether that work be in the form of just a quick check of how your piece looks from a different angle, or extensive digital paint work on an area of your image, you’ll probably want to reset the rotation angle back to 0, and see your piece upright once again. 

To do this, simply click the Reset View button in the Options Bar along the top of your screen. Alternatively, you could press the Esc key on your keyboard to return the view to its original, unaltered state.

Resetting the Rotation of the View photoshop

And that’s about all there is to know about the basics of using the Rotate View tool! The applications of this tool are endless, and the techniques are commonly used by designers, editors, and artists alike, particularly when creating digital drawings or paintings.


For a quick 2 minute summary on how to use the Rotate View tool, check out this video by Creative Bloq, which explores all that you have learned about in the article today, as well as how to rotate all windows at once.

Last but not least, if you’d like to make some money thanks to Photoshop, you can check our 7 Proven Ways to Make Money with Photoshop article. 

About the Author Betchphoto

Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 15 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here