How to Lock an Aspect Ratio in Photoshop

We’ve all been there — you’re trying to resize an image in Photoshop, but the image distorts as you drag the handles. This leads many people to ask, “how do I lock an aspect ratio in Photoshop?”

Below, we’ll discuss exactly how you can resize your images or layers in Photoshop without affecting the aspect ratio. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

How to Lock Aspect Ratio in Photoshop

Until 2019, you had to hold down the Shift key as you dragged the transformation handles to maintain a layer’s aspect ratio as you resized it. Newer versions of Photoshop have changed this, so resized images now maintain their aspect ratio by default.

If you’re running Photoshop CC 2019 or newer, all you have to do to maintain a layer’s aspect ratio is drag the transform handles. To do this, click the “Edit” menu, then choose “Free Transform.” You’ll see the transform handles appear automatically on your selected layer.

You can also use keyboard shortcuts to select the Free Transform tool. These shortcuts vary based on the operating system you use:

  • Windows: Ctrl+T
  • Mac: Command+T

Adobe has essentially reversed the transform functions in newer versions of Photoshop. Clicking and dragging, which used to scale layers un-proportionally, now scales them proportionally. And, while holding the Shift key as you dragged a layer used to scale it proportionally, it now scales it un-proportionally.  

When you’re ready to scale an image, just select and drag any of the squares that appear around the layer after selecting the Free Transform tool. These are called “transform handles.”

While most people prefer to scale their images from the corners, you can also do so from the middle of the image. To scale an image from its center while maintaining the aspect ratio, hold down the Alt key on a Windows computer, or the Option key on a Mac, as you drag the transform handle. 

What Types of Layers Does Photoshop Scale Proportionally by Default?

Since 2019, new versions of Photoshop have included a new feature that allows you to maintain a layer’s aspect ratio as you resize it automatically. This is not only true for image layers, but for the following layer types as well:

  • Bitmaps
  • Text layers
  • Placed smart objects

While the 2019 Photoshop update did not include shape layers in this new feature, it has since been updated. As long as you’re running Photoshop CC 2020 or newer, you’ll be able to automatically maintain a shape layer’s aspect ratio using the Free Transform tool.

How to Unlock Aspect Ratio in Photoshop

Unfortunately, there is no direct way to unlock the aspect ratio while using Photoshop’s Free Transform tool in current software versions. But, it is still possible to resize an image un-proportionally.

To resize an image without maintaining the aspect ratio in current versions of Photoshop, all you need to do is hold down the Shift key as you drag the transform handles. 

You can also scale a layer un-proportionally from its center. To do this, you will need to hold down both the Shift and Alt (on Windows computers) or Option (on Mac computers) as you drag the transform handles.

Can I Revert to the Old Free Transform Tool?

If you’ve recently updated your Photoshop software after using an older version for a few years, you may want to revert to the old Free Transform tool to continue using the controls you’ve gotten used to. 

Luckily, Photoshop has added a way to do just this. If you’re using a Windows computer, select the “Edit” menu, then choose “Preferences,” and finally, “General.” If you’re using a Mac computer, select the “Photoshop CC” menu, then navigate to “Preferences” and “General.”

You can also open this menu using keyboard shortcuts. Press Ctrl+K on Windows computers or Command+K on Mac computers.

Here, you should see an option that says, “Use Legacy Free Transform.” Check the box next to this, then close the Preferences menu. You should see your changes take effect immediately.

You can also change your preferences manually if you don’t see this option. Follow these steps to do so:

Open a text editor on your computer. Any application that will allow you to save a document in .txt format will work. Type “TransformProportionalScale 0” into the document, then save it as “PSUserConfig.txt.”

Now, you’ll need to drag the document into your Photoshop settings folder. This folder’s location will vary based on the operating system you use:

  • Windows: Installation drive > Users > (your username) > AppData > Roaming > Adobe > Adobe Photoshop CC (version year) > Adobe Photoshop CC (version year) Settings 
  • Mac: Users > (your username) > Library > Preferences > Adobe Photoshop CC (verson year) Settings

The next time you open Photoshop, you should see these changes take effect. 

Final Thoughts

As long as you’re using Photoshop CC 2019 or newer, your image or layer’s aspect ratio will automatically lock when you use the Free Transform tool. If you ever want to resize an image un-proportionally, just hold down the Shift key as you drag the transform handles.