I use guides for so much in Adobe Photoshop. As a matter of fact, I just finished up a project in which I used a fair number of guides to trim multiple images that were to be sized identically. I love the fact that I can resize an image using the Free Transform tool and keep just a bit of the edges of the images hanging outside of the guide pattern that I set up. After the resizing, I use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to draw rectangles that snap right to the guides. I press delete, the overhanging edges disappear and I’m a happy camper. Guides rule and I couldn’t even imagine how long these types of projects would take if they didn’t exist.
By the way, if you’re new to guides I mentioned them in this post below, so please feel free to click through to learn a bit about them.
What I’d like to discuss in today’s post has to do with a very special type of guide – the Smart Guide. Smart Guides are turned on in Photoshop by default, but if you’d like to turn them off, there is a way. I’ll cover that down below. Basically, Smart Guides are guides that are “active” in your workspace. They become visible when an object in a layer moves into alignment with another object or a specific position within the canvas, such as the center or in a corner. They’ve extremely helpful because of the time savings they offer. Instead of creating multiple layers that contain multiple objects and then having to link those layers and align them the traditional way, we’re able to simply create our new layers and drag them around the canvas until the Smart Guides light up, telling us the object is in position. These things are a wonderful feature I know you’re going to just love them by the end of this post.
For this post, I guess I’ll simply show you how Smart Guides work. There’s no exact science behind the feature and everyone’s experience will be different, depending on what type of project you’re working on. For my project today, I’ll move a few shapes around an empty canvas. I think that will keep things as clear as possible.
Turning Smart Guides On & Off
The first thing I’d like to show you is how to turn Smart Guides on and off. This process is very simple. If you visit the View > Show > Smart Guides menu item and click to reveal a check mark, you’ve turned the guides on. If you click again so the check mark disappears, you’ve turned the guides off.
Aligning Some Shapes
The best way to demonstrate how these guides work is to work with shapes in an empty document. I’ve already created the document and now I’ll use the Ellipse Tool to draw a red circle.
Now, when working with graphics, it’s oftentimes very helpful to have the ability to automatically select an object simply by clicking on it with your mouse right in the workspace, as opposed to having to select it by clicking on the layer in the Layers panel. To enable this ability, I’ll first activate the Move Tool and then I’ll go up to the options bar and click on Auto-Select. Finally, I’ll choose Layer from the drop-down box to the right of that.
Next, I’ll go ahead and click on the circle and drag it around a bit. As I do this, I’ll notice pink lines appearing as move the circle around the canvas. Take a look. This first screenshot shows the center lines for the canvas.
And this next screenshot shows some random guides that aren’t quite clear as to their purpose. Look closely at the small dark box and you’ll see the coordinates of the shape as it relates to the guides.
Remember, these guides appear and disappear as I move the shape.
While this is all well and good as I deal with one shape, check out how much of a time saver these Smart Guides become as I begin duplicating shapes. Let’s pretend that I mean to align multiple shapes on the canvas. I’l first press and hold down the Alt (Option) key on my keyboard and then I’ll click and drag the shape downward.
Notice how the guides have appeared to keep the second shape aligned with the first? I’ll continue dragging downward.
Wow, as I drag, I can see exactly where I am on the canvas. And the best part is, these guides snap, meaning I don’t have to be very precise with my dragging. The shapes will snap in place as I move near the guides.
My ultimate goal is to center these circles in the middle of the canvas so they make up a square. To do this, I’ll need to align these first two circles along the center line. I’ll hold down the Shift key on my keyboard and click right on both circles. This will select the both of them. Then, I’ll drag slowly to the right until I see the center line Smart Guide appear. The circles will snap to that line and I’ll let go.
Since the two circles are already selected, all I need to do now is to hold down the Alt key again and drag to the right. Doing this will create two more duplicates. I’ll drag until I see the center guide appear again. Once the shapes snap into position, I’ll let go.
When I let go of my mouse button, the guides will disappear and I’ll have perfectly aligned shapes. If you think about it, consider how long this would have taken with traditional guides. I could perform the alignment that I just created above in about five seconds. With regular guides, it would have taken much longer and I wouldn’t even be sure if things were aligned perfectly. Needless to say, Smart Guides are the way to go. Use them and save yourself a heck of a lot of time. And remember, my example above was just a tiny taste of what these things can do. They can assist with all types of alignments so I encourage you to experiment with them.
Well, this was a quick post, wasn’t it. I like these types of posts. Straightforward and to the point. If you have any questions regarding what I covered above, please ask in the comment section down below or in the Photoshop discussion forum. Thanks for reading!