New Free Transform Preference in Photoshop 

Adobe Photoshop

As many of you are aware of, Photoshop CC 2019 (v20) changed the behavior of Free Transform.  The new default behavior is set to maintain proportions of a layer when dragging an anchor point, while holding the Shift key and dragging unlocks the proportional constraint (freely distorting the transformation). Note: Transforming shapes and paths are the exception – they are left un-proportional by default). While this new default behavior is more intuitive for new users, this change disrupted many of our long-time customer’s workflow. 

With todays update to Photoshop,  you can now set Free Transform to work like it did in previous versions by selecting Preferences > General  and enabling “Use Legacy Free Transform”.

And while we’re on the topic of Free Transform, here are several shortcuts and tips for transforming layers.

  • With the Move tool selected, checking “Show Transform Controls” in the Options bar displays a bounding box around the selected layer(s). Drag the anchor points to quickly transform an object without having to select the Free Transform command.
  • When using Free Transform:
    • Command + T (Mac) | Control + T (Win) displays the free transform bounding box. 
    • Option + drag (Mac) | Alt  + drag (Win) an anchor point to transform from the center. 
    • Command  (Mac) | Control  (Win) -drag a corner anchor point to freely distort the image.
    • Command + Shift  (Mac) | Control  + Shift (Win) -drag a center anchor point to skew the image.
    • Command + Option + Shift (Mac) | Control + Alt + Shift (Win) -drag a corner anchor point to change the perspective of an image.
    • Or, instead of memorizing each individual shortcut, Control -click (Mac) | Right -click (Win) within the transformation bounding box and choose a transform option from the context sensitive menu. 
  • To apply the transformation tap the Return (Mac) | Enter (Win) key.
    • To cancel a transformation tap the Escape key. 
  • When using Free Transform, the “Reference Point” can be changed to determine the location around which transformations occur. By default, the reference point is hidden to prevent accidental repositioning.
    • To display the reference point (while in Free Transform), check the empty well to the left of the reference point icon  in the options bar (or, choose Edit > Preferences > Tools > “Show reference point when using Transform”). 
    • To reposition the Reference Point, drag the center point freely within the image area, click on one of the nine reference point locations in the Options bar, or set the position numerically (also using the Options bar). 
  • Command + Shift + T (Mac) | Control  + Shift + T (Win) transforms the layer(s) again by applying the last used transformation settings. 
  • Command + Option + Shift + T (Mac) | Control + Alt + Shift + T (Win) will create a copy of a layer and apply the last used transformation settings Note this shortcut does not work with multiple layers selected.  
  • When applying Free Transform on layers that contain information which extends beyond the canvas, the transformation handles may not be visible depending on the zoom level. Use the shortcut Command + 0 (zero) (Mac) | Control + 0 (zero) (Win) to zoom the document and “fits” the transformation handles on screen. 
  • Use the options on the Layers panel to change Layer Opacity, Fill, and Blend Modes while in Free Transform.
  • To have the Free Transform command automatically choose the best resampling method based on the transformation made, in the Options bar, set Interpolation to Bicubic Automatic. If the layer(s) is scaled larger,  Photoshop will use Bicubic Smoother, if the layer(s) is scaled smaller, it will use Bicubic Sharper.
  • When dragging the transformation handles, the transformation values appear at the top right of your cursor. The location of the display can be controlled via Preferences > Tools > Show Transformation Values (Top Right, Top Left, Bottom Right, Bottom Left or Never). 
  • To make transformations more “flexible”, convert the layer(s) to Smart Objects before transforming. Smart Objects enable multiple transformations to a layer(s) to be calculated at one time, not as each transformation is made (so that if you transform a layer smaller, then transform it larger, the Smart Object retains all of the original information unlike a regular (pixel based) layer which would discard information when transformed smaller and then make up information when transformed larger).  
  • In order to warp multiple layers as if they are “merged together”, first convert them to a Smart Object, then choose Edit > Transform to warp the Smart Object.
  • When in Free Transform, if you want to toggle to Warp mode, you need to click the Warp icon in the Options bar. However, while in Warp mode, Command +T (Mac) | Control + T (Win) toggles from Warp to Free Transform mode.

Adobe Photoshop

Posted on 06-18-2019


  • By Shoilen Sannamat - 4:05 AM on June 29, 2019  

    That’s a really useful tutorial for image editors like us. The detail and shortcuts are very easy to understand. I Appreciate your effort