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Depending on the project you're working on in Photoshop you may want to start aligning and distributing layers so they are lined up at their tops or distributing their vertical centers or horizontal centers or things that you're probably familiar with if you've used a product like Illustrator or InDesign. You have that functionality in Photoshop as well. And the trick is to start selecting multiple layers before these options become available to you. So, I'm going to select these four thumbnail layers, the ones I got in my Layers panel, so the Dahlia, the Tulip, the Lily and the Mixed. While I just hold down the Shift key, select the Dahlia layer, and then click on the Mixed layer to select all four.
And once I have two or more layers selected, you'll see in the Options bar because I have the Move tool targeted here-- That's my active tool. I now have my Align options and my Distribute options available to me. If I want to align all four of these images to the top of the top-most selected image, in this case, that would be the Lily, I'm going to go ahead and click the Align Tops button and they all snap up and align themselves to the top of the Lily. Now if I want to equally distribute their space between the left and right-most selected layer then I have the Distribute Horizontal Centers button as well.
So, I'm going to go ahead and click on that. You'll see they are now equally spaced across that selected range of layers. Now another common thing is you might want to distribute or align these images to the canvas, the visible area of the entire document. And the trick to do that is just make sure you include a layer that spans or has pixels around the entire canvas area. So, in this case that'd be one of the Options layer, so Option01 or Option02. I'm going to add that layer to my selection. I'm going to hold down the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl on Windows and click on the Option01 layer to add that to my selection.
And now if I want to align these four thumbnails to the top of the document because I have a layer that is including pixels in the entire canvas area here, when I click the Align button you'll see, the Align Top button, all four of those images align to the top of the document. If I use the Bottom button, you'll see they all align to the bottom. All right and same thing if I want to horizontally or vertically align their centers, I have a different way to do that as well. So, just need to make sure you kind of have an idea of where you want these things to be aligned and distributed. If just relative to each other, then just select the four thumbnails.
If relative to the actual document, then just make sure you include a layer in your selection that has pixels on the entire area of the document. Okay, to finish this off I'm going to go actually move these into specific locations. To do that I'm going to go ahead and deselect by clicking anywhere in the Layers panel where there is nothing, so there is a blank spot, to deselect those. I'm going to turn on some guides that I've already created in this particular document, so I'm going to go to my View menu and go to Show > Guides. And now I am going to arrange these little thumbnails on the grid guidelines that I've created earlier.
To do that, I'm going to first Command+ Click or Ctrl+Click on the Dahlia layer to target it. I'm going to go ahead and move that into position and make it snap to those guides there, looks like it's a little bit off. It's not exactly the size I need it to be. But because this had been converted to a Smart Object, you can see the thumbnail icon in the Layers panel has a little special badge, letting me know that that's a Smart Object. I am just going to go Command+T or Ctrl+T to open up Free Transform again, and I'm just going to very quickly make sure that scaled to those guides correctly. Great! Press Return, and I haven't lost any image quality there because it's going back to the original file that's embedded inside that Smart Object layer and re-sampling it for me.
Okay, let's get Tulips. Command+Click or Ctrl+Click on the Tulips layer in the document window and move that into position, and then we'll move Lily. Command or Ctrl+Click to select it, move it in the place. And last, we'll go ahead and move this last thumbnail. Command or Ctrl+Click to select it and move it into its final position. So, there I have my basic postcard, looking pretty good. I'm going to turn off my Guides, Command or Ctrl+Colon or Semicolon to turn those off or under the View > Show menu you can toggle that off with the menu command as well. And there you have it, how to transform and reposition and move and align and distribute your layers to get your final composition to look in the way you want it to look.
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