Did you know that Photoshop has a Perspective Warp tool? Well, it does – and it’s a great option for both retouching and compositing.
In fact, if you haven’t yet tried Perspective Warp, then you’re missing out! Fortunately, this article shares everything you need to know to get started. So to learn how the tool works and what you can do with it, keep on reading.
What is the Perspective Warp tool?
The Perspective Warp tool is designed to give you extreme control over the perspective in your images. It was developed primarily for architectural photography and other building-related shots (where perspective distortion frequently needs to be corrected), but you can also use it to handle perspective issues in composite editing, product photography, and more.
Note: Perspective Warp is only available in Photoshop CC (it was released in 2014). If you have an older version of Photoshop, you’ll need to upgrade before you can use it.
When should you use Perspective Warp?
The Perspective Warp tool has a few different functions. It’s primarily used to correct perspective distortion, which – as I mentioned above – often needs addressing when photographing architecture, interior, and real-estate scenes.
Other photographers who include buildings in their photos also rely on the Perspective Warp tool; travel photos of iconic buildings and city skylines often benefit from a bit of perspective correction, for example.
Flat-lay photographers face another common perspective problem. If the sensor isn’t perfectly parallel to the flat-lay surface, they end up with distortion, which they’ll need to fix in post-production. One of the easiest ways to make this correction? With the Perspective Warp tool!
More creative uses of Perspective Warp involve completely changing the perspective of an object. For example, you can use the Perspective Warp tool to match the perspective of two or more objects when creating a composite.
Last but not least, you can change the perspective of objects and buildings to achieve unreal – even surreal – results.
How to use the Perspective Warp tool: step by step
In this section, I take you through the ins and outs of the Perspective Warp tool. If you’re not sure how to get started with Perspective Warp, you’ve come to the right place.
Step 1: Prepare your image
You can apply the Perspective Warp tool to any type of layer, but I recommend you work with a Smart Object. That way, you can always go back and make adjustments as required. I also recommend that you duplicate your image and work on a copy. You don’t want to damage the original!
So start by opening your image in Photoshop and duplicating the background layer (select Layer>Duplicate Layer). Then right-click on the duplicate layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.
Remember: You don’t have to use a Smart Object if you don’t want to. It’s just a suggestion, and if you prefer, you can always work on the original image layer.
Step 2: Open the Perspective Warp tool
Activate Perspective Warp by selecting Edit>Perspective Warp. This will launch a new workspace (and you might get a pop-up window with instructions, which you can read and then close).
In the toolbar menu, you’ll see that you have two options: Layout and Warp. When you first launch the Perspective Warp tool, Layout should be selected; it’s the mode you’ll use to draw the grids, called quads.
Step 3: Create a quad
To draw a quad, click and drag the cursor across the canvas. Just draw one grid, then release the cursor. The result should look like this:
Note: The grid doesn’t need to match the subject yet; you’ll fix that in the next step!
Step 4: Align the quad with your subject
Click and drag the grid handles to adjust the overall quad shape. The idea is to make the quad match the edges of the subject that you want to manipulate.
Step 5: Complete the quads
At this point, you can proceed with your one quad – or you can draw other quads. This is really only necessary if you can see more than one side of the subject, or if you want to manipulate different sections of the subject independently.
Two or more quads are easy to connect. Simply draw the edge of one quad close to another quad. You’ll notice the quad line gets thicker, and as soon as you let go of the cursor, both quads will snap together.
Step 6: Warp your subject!
Once your quads are ready, go to the Perspective Warp menu and switch from Layout to Warp. (You can also do this with the keyboard shortcut “W.”)
You can choose one of the auto-correct options by clicking on the icons on the top bar. Otherwise, you can click and drag the quad handles to manually modify the perspective.
If you need to go back to the Layout mode, press the “L” key.
And when you’re satisfied with your Perspective Warping, hit Enter on the keyboard or click on the checkmark in the tool menu.
And that’s it! If you’ve followed the instructions I shared above, you’ll have successfully adjusted the perspective of your subject. This manipulation can leave empty areas on the border of the frame; if that’s the case, either crop the image to remove the empty areas or fill in the areas with the Content-Aware Fill tool.
Alternatives to the Perspective Warp tool
Other features that help you manipulate perspective are Transform and Vanishing Point:
The tools in the Transform menu help you correct distortion, though you can also distort objects for creative purposes. You have a handful of options: Scale, Rotate, Skew, Distort, Perspective, and Warp. Combine these to get results similar to Perspective Warp.
- Scale: Proportionally reduce or enlarge the size of your subject.
- Rotate: Turn the picture clockwise or counterclockwise from a fixed reference point.
- Skew: Lean the edges vertically or horizontally.
- Distort: Independently stretch and distort your subject using each corner of the Transform selection.
- Perspective: Correct straight lines following a one-point perspective.
- Warp: You can manipulate the perspective of objects, though the Warp tool is really designed to manipulate objects’ shapes.
Keep in mind that you can’t use Transform tools as Smart Filters. In other words, you can’t go back and make adjustments even if you’re working on a Smart Object. If you want to make any changes, you have to undo the transformation and start over.
On the plus side, Transform tools are available on versions previous to the Creative Cloud.
Vanishing Point filter
The Vanishing Point filter allows you to follow the perspective of an image when you paint, clone, or add new elements.
It has its own workspace where you can trace grids on your subject. While you can always come back to the workspace and find the grids, you can’t undo the work you’ve already done. If you want to do non-destructive editing, make sure you work on a duplicate layer.
Unfortunately, you can’t use the Vanishing Point filter on Smart Objects. When doing compositing work, Vanishing Point can be an alternative to Perspective Warp – but it won’t help if you want to correct or change the perspective of an item in the original picture.
The Perspective Warp tool in action: A step-by-step example
In this section, I show how to use the Perspective Warp tool to change the perspective of a building. Here’s my example file in need of correction (notice how the building appears to lean backward):
Start by duplicating the background layer. You can do this by dragging the original layer to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel. You can also tap Layer>New>Layer Via Copy.
Now, convert this new layer into a Smart Object. Right-click to open the drop-down menu, then select the Convert to Smart Object option:
Alternatively, select Filters>Convert to Smart Filters.
Hit Edit>Perspective Warp to launch the Perspective Warp workspace. You’ll start with the Layout options, so click and drag to create a quad:
Then use the handles to adjust the quad until it matches the edges of the building you want to correct:
I only need one quad for my example photo:
However, if you can see two sides of your building, you might need more. Regardless, once you’re done creating quads, move over to the Warp screen.
Notice how, in Warp mode, the quad and the handles look different. When you drag a handle, it’ll alter the image, and you can adjust the perspective of your subject. (To make your adjustments more precise, you can pull out guidelines.)
I’d recommend using the automatic adjustments to start; try fixing the vertical lines, the horizontal lines, or both. If that doesn’t work, you can apply the adjustments manually.
And if you notice the quads need changing, you can always go back to the Layout screen.
When you’re satisfied, simply fill in or remove any blank pixels, and you’re done!
In most cases, you won’t need to do much filling or cropping. I did a major transformation, so I had to get rid of a lot of white space. But I think the result is quite amazing. Don’t you?
The Photoshop Perspective Warp tool: final words
Like many things in Photoshop, there are different ways to achieve the same result. It’s always been possible to fix an object’s perspective – but the Perspective Warp tool helps you achieve better results with less effort.
So the next time you need to do some perspective correction, I really recommend you give it a try!
How will you use the Perspective Warp tool? Share your thoughts in the comments below!