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how to add a border in photoshop

How to Add a Border in Photoshop

by Alexandra Bateman on Aug 30, 2019

How can you make your image stand out? The answer may be as simple as adding a border in Photoshop CC! 

Borders can frame your image to add a creative touch that could otherwise be missing.

In this tutorial, we’ll cover:

  • Types of Borders in Photoshop
  • Easiest Ways to Add a Border in Photoshop
  • Steps for Adding a Border in Photoshop
  • Best Tutorials for Adding a Border in Photoshop

Of course, this tutorial is only useful if you already have Photoshop downloaded on your computer! You can get Photoshop through Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan for only $9.99/month. This plan also includes Lightroom for all of your photo editing needs!

Types of Borders in Photoshop

You can create two types of borders in Photoshop CC for your photos. Though two options may not seem like many, these are all you need to be able to make the border you’ve been imagining to complete your picture.

Solid borders are borders with straight lines that go around each side of your photo. Imagine a photographic print that is framed with a mat. In Photoshop, you can create a solid border around your picture as though it were framed with a mat. A white border or a black border will have this appearance.

You can customize every aspect of a solid border in Photoshop, including its width, color, and fill pattern. Though it is called a “solid border,” you can fill a solid border with a gradient or pattern instead of a solid color.

You can also adjust the width or thickness of your solid border. If you’d like, you can make the top and bottom border widths different from the border widths of the sides. Photoshop allows you full control over the solid borders you create.

Solid borders come in traditional square and rectangle shapes, but they can also be manipulated to feature rounded corners for a less geometric look. Rounded corners look great on all kinds of photos!

Photoshop also helps you create custom borders if you want something more than a solid frame around your picture. Using Photoshop’s brush tool, you can create any kind of custom border you want.

For example, you could use a chalk-like brush to paint a chalkboard border around your image. Or, you could select a leaf pattern brush to make a border of falling leaves for your photo. With Photoshop’s vast library of brushes, the choice is really yours! 

Both types of borders should be applied to your image after you’ve finished all retouching. Make sure all of your photo editing is finished, like adding warmth and adjusting exposure, before you create your border. Borders only work on single layers, so your background image must be contained on one layer.

Easiest Ways to Add a Border in Photoshop

Perhaps you want to add a polaroid frame to a portrait of your family. Maybe you want to create a custom border for your landscape photography photo. Whatever the case may be, this tutorial is for you.

Now that you know what kinds of borders Photoshop can create, let’s talk about how to create your own border. 

What are the easiest ways to add a border in Photoshop?

Creating a Solid Border

The simplest border to create is a solid frame. To create a solid border, first open your photo in Photoshop. 

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be working with an unedited photo:

Close shot of italian ice truck with single patron standing in front

If you are adding your border to an edited photo with multiple layers, make sure to flatten your layers first.

To flatten layers in Photoshop CS or CC, select all active layers in the Layers panel at the bottom right-hand side of the workspace. Then, right-click and select Flatten Image from the drop-down menu that appears.

Your workspace will look like this: 

Image in Photoshop workspace

Then, navigate to the Layers panel once again. Find the layer containing your photo. Click on the padlock icon once to unlock the layer.

Close up of locked background image in Photoshop with yellow arrow pointed at padlock icon

The layer name will change after you click on the padlock. Now your photo will be contained in “Layer 0.” Feel free to rename this layer however you’d like. 

Next, you’ll need to enlarge the canvas so that there is space to include a border. Choose Image >> Canvas Size at the top of the Photoshop toolbar. 

Screenshot of Photoshop's Image menu extended and "Canvas Size" option highlighted

In the dialog box that appears, make sure to check Relative. Then, type in desired width of your border. In this case, I’ve chosen to create a 2-inch border around my photo. 

Within this dialog box, you can also choose your border color. Locate the Canvas extension color at the bottom of the box, and select the color you’d like. I’ve chosen to keep it simple with a white border.

Photoshop's Canvas Size dialog box with "Canvas extension color" highlighted with yellow box

As soon as you’ve completed these steps, your photo will have a border! You can change the dimensions of your border by readjusting the canvas size. 

Image in Photoshop workspace surrounded by white border

Creating a Custom Border in Photoshop

 If a plain border just isn’t for you, never fear! Photoshop CS’s brush tool makes it simple to create a customized border.

Open your photograph in Photoshop:

Vertical image in Photoshop's workspace

Once again, I’m going to leave this photo unedited. If you are working with more than one layer, Flatten them now. 

Next, I’m going to create a layer mask for this photograph. A layer mask will allow us to obscure and reveal portions of the photograph without manipulating it directly. 

To make a mask, click on the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then select Solid Color from the options that appear.

Close up screenshot of Photoshop's Adjustment Layer option selected and highlighted with yellow circle

Choose a color for your border.

Photoshop's color picker box

Once you’ve selected a color, notice that the color of the adjustment layer you created changes to match it.

Close up of Photoshop's layers panel with one locked background image and one solid adjustment layer with layer mask. Yellow arrow pointing to solid blue layer.

You’ll see that the mask covers the whole photograph. We want our photograph to show through the mask, so double click on the mask and select Invert. The color of your mask will turn black, and your photograph will be visible.

Now you’re ready to paint your custom border. In order to do this, we’ll be using Photoshop’s brush tool. Click on the brush icon to access Photoshop’s brush catalogue. Find the brush that suits your vision.

Photoshop's brushes panel extended

If you don’t see any brushes you like here, you can always create your own. Here, I’ll be using a chalk-like brush to create my border.

Using your brush, paint white onto the mask to conceal the edges of your photograph. 

The mask reveals your border wherever you paint. The brush strokes you paint appear on the black mask as white strokes, even though they reveal the blue background on the photograph.

Layers panel with yellow box around solid layer and black layer mask

My border looks like this:

Image with blue chalk brush border

You can change the color of the border by clicking on the solid layer. For this version, I used the color picker to sample the pink in the photograph:

Image with pink chalk brush border

I sampled the blue-green color from the photo using the color picker for this border:

Image with teal chalk brush border

Experiment with the color of the border until you’re happy, then export your photograph. Save your Photoshop file so that you can edit your border in the future.

Steps to Adding a Border in Photoshop

The steps to adding a border in Photoshop depend on the type of border you want around your photograph. 

In order to create a simple, solid-colored border around your photograph, follow these steps:

  1. Open your photograph in Photoshop CC
  2. Flatten your edited photograph
  3. Unlock the layer containing your photograph
  4. Go to Image >> Canvas Size
  5. In the dialog box that appears, click Relative
  6. Import the dimensions of your border
  7. Select your border color next to Canvas extension color
  8. Click OK
  9. Save your Photoshop file so that you can edit your border in the future

Creating a custom border around your photograph in Photoshop requires a couple additional steps. But, if you follow this protocol, you won’t have a problem!

  1. Open your photograph in Photoshop
  2. Complete photo editing
  3. Flatten your edited photograph
  4. Create a Solid Layer from the New Fill/Adjustment Layer button
  5. Choose a color for your border
  6. Invert the layer mask
  7. Choose a brush for your border
  8. Paint with white on the black mask to create your border
  9. Save your Photoshop file

If you follow these steps to adding a border in Photoshop, you should have no problem. But, there are more online tutorials that can help. 

Best Tutorial for Adding a Border in Photoshop

What is the best tutorial for adding a border in Photoshop? If you’re a hands-on learner, then the best way is to practice yourself. But, the Internet has a wealth of great tutorials for adding borders to your photograph in Photoshop CC. 

The best tutorial for adding a border in Photoshop may depend on what you want your border to look like. Here are a few good tutorials:

  • This video tutorial shows you how to add a border to a photograph you plan to post to Instagram.
  • For help using Photoshop’s color picker to create your border, this tutorial is helpful.
  • Follow this guide for how to blur the edges of your photograph before adding a border for an even more interesting look. 

Download Photoshop through the Creative Cloud Plan from Adobe so that you can make interesting borders for all of your photos.

Let us know in the comments below how your Photoshop borders are turning out! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more Photoshop tutorials and photo editing advice.

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