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Aligning Layers

A lot of designers I know hate math, they are right brained and cannot stand those pesky little numbers cramping their creative style. Something you may not be aware of is the fact that Photoshop is a pretty good mathematician. Photoshop comes with an align and distribute feature that does all the calculations for us.

Lets demonstrate this by creating a metal panel with some rivets on it.

Start with a new document. 300 x 300 pixels.

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Apply a linear gradient using the default copper setting.

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Create a new layer and name it "rivet"

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Choose the elliptical marquee tool.

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Change the gradient to radial

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Draw a small rounded selection and fill with the gradient.

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Add a bevel layer style

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Use the settings here. Make it a "pillow emboss" to give the appearance of the rivet being recessed.

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Here is the finished rivet

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Duplicate the layer 3 times and roughly space them out. Don't worry about precision at this point.

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Link all the rivet layers in the layers palette. The align feature will only work on linked layers and wont effect the layers that are not linked.

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Click the "distribute Vertically" button from the top toolbar.

Notice the rivets are now evenly spaced.

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Click on the align left button and notice that they are now perfectly aligned.

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The evenly spaced riverts.

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Here I merged the rivets, duplicated the layer and dragged it to the right hand side. I then used curves and the hue/saturation controls to get a nice bluish gray metal feel.

Aligning Layers

Have fun with the alignment tools and plaster all your images with rivets.


Colin Smith

Colin Smith is a best-selling author, trainer, and award-winning new-media designer who has caused a stir in the design community with his stunning photorealistic illustrations composed entirely in Photoshop. He is founder of the world's most popular Photoshop resource site,, which boasts more than two million visitors.

With over 10 years of experience in the design industry, Colin was formerly Senior Editor and Art Director for VOICE magazine. He is a regular columnist for Photoshop User magazine,, and the official site of the National Association for Photoshop Professionals. He also contributes to a number of other graphic art publications and Web sites, such as Mac Design magazine, Web Designer magazine and Computer Arts Magazine.

Colin's graphic design work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Guru awards at Photoshop World 2001 and 2002, for his work in both Illustration and Web Design. He's authored or co-authored more than ten books on Photoshop, including the best-selling How to Do Everything with Photoshop CS (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2003) and award-winning Photoshop Most Wanted: Effects and Design Tips (A Press/Friends Of Ed, 2002). Colin is also creator of the Photoshop Secrets Video training series ( He is in high demand across the United States as a lecturer, presenting his Photoshop techniques to Web designers and other graphics professionals across the nation.

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