It is very easy to create rounded corners photos in Photoshop. There are 17 separate ways to generate rounded corners as with most things in Photoshop, but we are going to make things exciting by looking at the process to do it using features of Photoshop that many people do not even consider, i.e., vector masks!
Now, what is a vector mask you may ask? Well, if you consider layer masks to be are fun, you are definitely will love vector masks!
Graphic designers know that one of the methods to get people feel a certain way about the design when they see it is by the use of shapes. Several shapes have various effects on us. Shapes appear fun, friendly and warm, while others seem serious, rigid and cold.
You do not need to be a design expert to experience this. Just grab a piece of paper, and a pencil and draw a square and a circle, and then ask yourself which is more tempting to you.
Unless you are the kind of person who likes spending Saturday nights organizing your filing drawers, chances are, you are going to pick the circle. Everyone loves circles!
The truth is, it does not even have to be a full circle. You can take a rectangle or a square with its right-angled, sharp corners, which usually does not seem very pleasant to us at all, but if you give it rounded corners, you will suddenly feel like the life of the party.
Okay, so that might be stretching things a little, but rounded corners surely look more attractive to us than sharp right angles.
It is a bit unlucky that every time we take a picture, even if it is a picture of a child’s birthday party with party hats and balloons, the picture still ends up with sharp edges. That can be okay if we are only getting the pictures printed, however, what if we use the photo in a collage or a design? How do we turn those sharp edges into the round ones?
Here is the picture I will be using in this tutorial:
The original image.
This is how easy it is to round off those sharp corners! Let’s get started!
Step 1: Add A Layer Mask
I have started a new blank Photoshop document, loaded the Background layer with black to help us to see what is appearing, and then moved my picture into the fresh document. Displaying the picture in front of the black background, we can see the document here:
The picture in front of a black background
And if we look in the Layers palette, we can see the photo sitting on its layer, “Layer 1”, over the Background panel:
The Layers palette in Photoshop which shows the picture on “Layer 1” above the Background layer is loaded with black.
With “Layer 1” or any layer your picture appears to be on, click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette:
Attach a layer mask to Layer 1 by tapping on the Layer Mask image.
There is hardly anything that appears to have happened in the document, but if we see at the layer in the palette, we can understand that we now hold a layer mask thumbnail to the right of the layer’s show or preview thumbnail:
After you click on the “Layer Mask” icon, a thumbnail will appear on Layer 1
Step 2: Add A Vector Mask
So if we are not going to use the layer mask, why add it? We are going to do something that most of the people do not do. We are going to recognize something that most of the people never see. Why? Since we are not “most of the people”. We are different from all of them.
Those users click on the icon once, see the function of it, and then take leave. It does not occur to them that perhaps, just perhaps, if they were to push on the same icon the second time, there is at least a thin chance that something different might occur! And it is awful for them because in this case, something else might happen!
It sounds insane, but now that we have combined our layer mask, click again on that same Layer Mask icon
Click again on the “Layer Mask” icon at the foot of the Layer’s palette
When you have “Show Tool Tips” allowed in your Photoshop Preferences, you will now have seen that something a tad unusual when you floated your mouse across the icon.
The tooltip does not say “Add layer mask” like it usually does. Rather, it now states “Add vector mask”, and when we press on the icon, if we appear at the layer in the palette of Layers, we see what seems to be another layer mask thumbnail to the right. The difference is, it is not another layer mask thumbnail. It is a vector mask thumbnail!
A vector mask thumbnail will appear to the right of the thumbnail of the layer mask.
Both of the thumbnails of layer mask on the left and the vector mask thumbnail on the right appear the same, but there is a big difference between a vector mask and a layer mask.
Both are practiced to show and hide various parts of the layer, but the path they go is totally different. When we use a layer mask, we tend to paint on it, normally with the Brush Tool, to make various parts of the mask either black, some shade of gray, or white.
White gets that portion of the layer noticeable, black coats it, and gray makes that section partly visible which depends on how dark or the light tone of gray is.
On the other hand, vector masks do not need any coating at all. The truth is, you cannot paint on them as Photoshop will not let you. Rather, we make use of shapes to control which portions of the layer are hidden or visible. In reality, we are going to use a form right now to build the rounded corners!
Step 3: Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool
Go over to the Tools palette and choose the Rounded Rectangle Tool with the vector mask. It is nested in with the standard Rectangle Tool, so click on the Rectangle Tool and keep holding your mouse for a second or two and then a fly-out menu will appear. From the list, choose the Rounded Rectangle Tool.
On the Rectangle Tool in the Tools section, hold your mouse down, then from the fly-out menu, pick the Rounded Rectangle Tool that appears.
Do not mix these tools with the Marquee Tools at the head of the Tools palette, like the Elliptical Marquee or the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Those tools are for selection, and they are used to pull out choices. The tools we are choosing here are Shape tools and they are used to pull shapes.
Go up to the “Options Bar” at the head of the screen, with the Rounded Rectangle Tool picked. A group of 3 icons above on the left will appear. These 3 icons define how our “Shape tool” might work. With our Shape tool, we want to draw shapes, so press the icon on the left, which is the icon of Shape layers:
From the “Options” Bar, click on the “Shape layers” icon
If you push further towards the right, you will get to the Radius option. This will determine how rounded our corners will appear. It will be rounder if it is higher and less rounded if lower number. But this is what the problem is!
You will never really understand for sure what amount to enter in for the Radius value till you try 1, began by drawing the shape, watch at how rounded the edges are, and then determine whether you are glad about the result or if the edges need to be less or more rounded.
Usually, I began with a cost of somewhere within 10-20 pixels, after, drag out the shape and select if I like the edges. Commonly, I will not, and you likely will not on the first try, only enter in a cost to start with, pull out the shape, and if you are not satisfied with the circularity of the edges, press Ctrl+Z(Win) / Command+Z (Mac) to undo it, then open another value into the Radius option and then, try again.
Step 4: Choose “Vector Mask” Thumbnail In The “Layers Palette”
Click vector mask thumbnail for selecting it. You will see a white highlight box throughout the thumbnail, which helps us understand that the vector mask is chosen.
Step 5: Drag Out The Shape
Now, all we need to do is pull out our form. Even if it is going to look to us like we are drawing the shape on the picture itself, what we are really doing is bringing it on to vector mask, and when we are done, the only portion of our image that will continue to be visible is the space inside of the shape.
The shape outside is going to be hidden. Drag out your rounded square shape. If you wish to hold all the things in the picture and just round off the edges, start from the top left corner of the picture and pull your mouse down to the bottom right.
If you would rather practice the shape to chop away part of the picture as well as give it rounded corners, just drag your frame around the portion you would like to keep.
If you have to position your shape again as you are dragging, hold down the spacebar, and later drag the form in its new location. Clear the spacebar when you are done and proceed to drag out the shape.
I have dragged out the rounded rectangle inside the corners of the picture. You could see the rounded corners, which will turn out to be the rounded corners of the picture itself in a second.
If you have to position your shape again as you are dragging, hold down the spacebar, and later drag the form into its new location. Clear the spacebar when you are done and proceed to drag out the shape.
I have dragged out the rounded rectangle inside the corners of the photo. You can see the edges that are rounded, which has become the rounded corners of the photo itself.
Drag out the Rounded Rectangle form in the document. Any sections of the picture that falls out of the shape will hide from the scene by the vector mask.
When you are content with the shape, release your mouse button, and instantly, your picture that will be masked to the shape and the edges of the pictures are now rounded.
Your picture now has rounded corners!