Easy Photo Straightening in Photoshop

Photoshop Ruler Tool

See this little button? It’s called the time saver button. Actually, it’s called the “Ruler Tool” in Photoshop — but it’s a time saver nonetheless. You can use this tool to automatically calculate the right amount of rotation to get your horizon straight. Not only does it calculate the value, it will place that value into the “Arbitrary Rotation…” dialog box.


  • On your tools palette, click and hold on the “Eyedropper Tool” to reveal a drop-down menu that holds the ruler.
  • OR press (I) to activate the tool group and (Shift+I) to cycle through the tools in that group.


  1. Make sure your ruler is the active tool, as described above.
  2. Click (and hold) where you want to start your horizon, drag out a line that represents where straight should be, and release the mouse button.
  3. Adjust your line by dragging the endpoints or the entire line, and repeat until you’re satisfied with your new horizon.
  4. On your menu, go to “Image >> Rotate Canvas >> Arbitrary…”, and the angle will be filled in for you — just hit OK.
  5. Now crop the image down and recompose, that’s it.

This also works with vertical alignments — Photoshop just takes anything over 45 degrees as being intended for vertical. Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) users can bypass all of this by using the built-in straighten tool, which straightens and crops simultaneously. Why this isn’t part of Photoshop is beyond me.

This entry was posted in Photoshop Tips, Quick-Tip on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

7 thoughts on “Easy Photo Straightening in Photoshop

  1. Marek

    I am using the ruler tool (measure tool in my PS) very frequently for my paddling pictures shot with a point-and-shoot camera. I just hate a crooked horizon. I am surprised that this basic tool is not available in Photoshop elements.

  2. Brian Auer Post author

    Really? It’s not in Elements at all? That’s nuts — doing the “arbitrary rotate” by guess & check is such a painful experience.

  3. Dave Mac

    What a great tip!!! I use the arbitrary rotate canvas tool all the time, but I have always estimated and adjusted several times until the photo horizon looked correct. This is foolproof! :)

  4. Brian Auer Post author

    Well, it’s foolproof until you don’t have a good horizon to work with. Lenses that cause distortion are also a bit tricky — like my 10mm.

  5. HeavyGod

    Really good and really interesting post. I expect (and other readers maybe :)) new useful posts from you!
    Good luck and successes in blogging!

  6. Luis Villalon

    I did exactly as you say, but the only thing it did was overcompensating and now the shot is not straight but tilting (In this case) to the right. Still the same problem. What am I doing wrong? Anybody? By the way, in another site they said there would be a sign saying “auto calculate” , I don’t see that at all.

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