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Typically, when you use the Crop tool or you use Image Size or Canvas Size, you're working with the entire image, but what if you want to work on either just the part of the image or if you want to work on multiple images in the same canvas area? Well, that's when we are going to switch over to Free Transform. The first thing that I am going to do is I am actually going to make a duplicate of the background layer here. And probably the easiest way to do that is just to select the background and then drag it down to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.
So now I have two identical copies of the same photograph. It's this top layer that I'm going to be working on right now, and I want to rename it, so I'll just double-click where it says Background copy, and I'll call this Distorted. What I want to do is I want to put kind of a little bit of the distortion on a copy of the background and just make it a little bit smaller, kind of to get a little picture-in-picture effect. So with this top layer selected in my Layers panel, I'll choose Edit > Free Transform.
I can also go down to Transform if I want to, and pick specific transformations, like Rotates or Skews. But for now, let's just select Free Transform. With the transformation bounding box, I can simply click and drag to transform this image, but you will notice that I'm not maintaining the perspective or the aspect ratio of the original image. So I'll use a quick undo, which is Command+Z or Ctrl+Z, and this time as I start dragging from the corner, I'll hold down the Shift key in order to constrain the proportions.
I can also hold down the Option key and drag, in which case I would be dragging from the center of the image. So I just want my image a little bit smaller, so I'll go ahead and scale it to there. And then if I position my cursor inside the transformation handles, I can reposition this layer. I could move my cursor outside of the transformation handles, and you will notice that I get the double-headed arrow. Now if I click and drag, I can rotate in either direction. You can notice that it's rotating around the center there.
It's rotating around this anchor point. I am going to go ahead and undo that as well, using Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. If I want to access maybe the Perspective Transformation option, certainly I can go back to the Edit menu and then select it from the list, but I think a much quicker way would be to use my context-sensitive menus. So I'll right-mouse-click within the Transformation handle--or on Mac you could use the Ctrl+Click--and then choose Perspective from the list. The nice thing about using the context- sensitive menus is that it also gives me access to flip my image either horizontally or vertically.
But for right now I'll use Perspective, and then I'll click on the upper-right anchor point and just drag down a little bit to give the image a little bit of a perspective. Then I'll right-mouse-click again and choose Free Transform and then just pull in this handle a little bit. Then I'll reposition it so that it is back in the center of the image. To apply this transformation, I'll go ahead and click the check mark up in the upper right-hand corner, but it's really hard to see any difference between the foreground and the background. It's just very confusing with the two layers.
So I want to take the opacity of the background layer down, but when I click on the background layer, you'll notice that the opacity is not available. So what I need to do is go to Layer > New > Layer from Background. I'll go ahead and call this Screened Back, because that's what I'm going to do to the image, click OK, and then lower the opacity of that background image. Now when I lower the opacity, we start to see the transparent checkerboard.
I can also turn that off by using my Preferences, underneath the Transparency & Gamut. On Windows you would go on to Edit menu and then choose Preferences > Transparency & Gamut. And for my Grid Size, I'll turn that to None. When I click OK, now we can see what this would look like when it's printed, because Photoshop is displaying it as if it's a flattened image, flattening all of my layers to white. One last thing that I might want to add is a simple drop shadow in order to create some separation between this front image and the back image.
I need to make sure that on the Layers panel I've selected the Distorted layer, and then I'll choose the Drop Shadow from the Effects menu. Let's move this out of the way. And one of the nice things about the Drop Shadow is instead of changing the Distance and the Angle numerically, I can simply position my cursor in the image area and click and drag to move this drop shadow around. So if I want to drop shadow to drop kind of farther away from my image and maybe make it a little bit softer than that, when I click OK, you can see that the drop shadow really helps separate the front image which has been transformed from the flat original but screened back copy in the background.
So this is one of the more basic examples of Free Transform, but you can imagine, if you're actually trying to lay out a design and you are using multiple images or you're trying to create a composite image that looks realistic using images for more than one photograph, free transformation really plays a critical role in getting your images to be the right size and look like they belong in the same scene.
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