Photoshop Rulers & Guidelines

Written by elizabeth mott
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Photoshop Rulers & Guidelines
Adobe Photoshop CS5 provides rulers and guides to help you combine creativity with precision. ( Images)

To add precision to your work in Adobe Photoshop CS5, the application provides a measurement system and measuring aids you can use to locate graphic elements at carefully selected vertical and horizontal positions. Like previous versions of the program, Adobe Photoshop CS5 accomplishes these objectives by enabling you to display, hide and customise document rulers and ruler guides.

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Units of Measure

Adobe Photoshop CS5 offers you the choice among seven units of measure for your document rulers: pixels, inches, centimetres, millimetres, points, picas or per cent. The last one subdivides your rulers relative to the dimensions of your file itself rather than a prefabricated real-world measurement system. While your Photoshop preferences set one of these measurement systems as the default for all new documents, you also can override your preferences on a document-specific basis to use whichever system simplifies your work. To change ruler defaults for your current document, right-click on the rulers and select a unit of measure from the pop-up menu of choice or double-click on the rulers to bring up the "Preferences" dialogue box.


By default, Adobe Photoshop CS5 creates new documents without displaying rulers in the document window. You can show and hide your rulers at any time by choosing "Rulers" from the "View" menu. As you zoom in to view your work at higher magnifications, your rulers display progressively more and finer subdivisions of your measurement scale. The intersection of the zero point on the horizontal ruler at the top of your screen and the vertical ruler along its left side serves as your measurements' point of origin. You can set this point to occur anywhere within your document by clicking at the top left corner of your document window and dragging until you've set your zero point where you want it.

Ruler Guides

Once you tell Adobe Photoshop CS5 to display your document rulers, you can add ruler guides to the live area of your Photoshop file or the pasteboard area surrounding it. Simply drag from either ruler to create a guide that runs parallel to it. If you hold down the "Alt" key (Windows) or "Option" key (Mac) while you drag out a ruler guide, Photoshop creates a guide that runs perpendicular to the ruler from which you dragged it. To snap a guide to the tick marks on your ruler, hold down the "Shift" key as you create a guide. Visit the "View" menu to lock guides so you can't accidentally move them. You also can turn on "Snap" so your layered material and selections adhere to your guides as you move items near them. To delete all guides at once, choose "Clear" from the "View" menu.

Special Considerations

Depending on the resolution of your Adobe Photoshop CS5 document and the unit of measure you choose for your rulers, it's possible to snap a ruler guide to a measurement point to which you can't snap pixel-based items in your file. For example, you can set a ruler guide at the 72-point vertical or horizontal mark in a 300 pixel-per-inch document, but if you try to snap a pixel-based selection to that guide rule, your selection won't line up with it precisely. That's because Photoshop doesn't allow you to set pixel-based items at fractions of a pixel, or subpixel positions. Type, paths and vector guides all snap to subpixel ruler positions, however.

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