Easy Ways To Add an Image Border In Photoshop

by Sep 9, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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Easy Ways To Add an Image Border In Photoshop

In this tutorial, we look at an easy way you can use to add an image border in Photoshop. If you like to share your photos online, adding a border can help to make them stand out.

Some photo sharing platforms like Instagram also impose a square format on photos. If your photos aren’t square, they crop them to fit. Adding a border to make them square prevents this and keep them looking their best. Here’s a screenshot of my Instagram page where you can see the borders added to photos.

Screenshot of Instagram showing photos with borders

I also use Photoshop to add borders to my photos for the gallery page of this website. It keeps things looking neat and tidy.

Let’s get started with two examples of adding a black border to an image in Photoshop.

How to Add a Black Border in Photoshop – Method 1

Although we are adding a Black border to an image, you can use any colour. I’ll explain how shortly. First though, open the photo you want to add the border to using Photoshop.

When the image opens, find the Photoshop Layers window so you can see the image layers. The next step is to create a duplicate image layer to add the border to.

Duplicating the image layer in Photoshop ready to add a border

You can see the Layers window highlighted in the screenshot. Notice also that the background layer that containing the image has been copied to a new layer, ready to have the border added.

To duplicate the image layer, you have two options. The first is where there is only a single background layer in the image. You can copy this by right clicking the background layer in the Layers window and selecting the “Duplicate” option. Photoshop then creates a copy of that layer which appears in the Layers window.

The second option is used where you have more than one layer in the image.  Here you would click on the top layer in the Layers window to ensure it’s selected. Then press the keys Shift + Option + Cmd + E on your keyboard; you don’t need to press them all at one so long as you hold them all down together. If you’re using a Windows PC that’s Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E. Photoshop will then add a new layer to the top of the Layers window, consolidating a copy of the other layers.

With the new image layer in place, we can add the Stroke border to it.

Adding the Stroke Border

Select the new layer you created in the Layers window by clicking it once with your mouse. You should then see that it’s highlighted in the window. Now click the small icon marked “fx” which is at the bottom of the Photoshop Layers window.

Adding a stroke border to an image using the layer effects

When you click the fx icon, Photoshop displays a list of “Layer Effects” you can apply to the selected layer. Click the Stroke option in the list using your mouse. This opens the Layer Style dialog with the Stroke option selected as in the following screenshot.

Layer Style dilog with the Stroke option selected to add a border

On the left of the dialog, you can see a list of “Layer Effects” that can be added to an image. In this example the Stroke option is selected. Then in the centre of the dialog are the controls for the Stroke border. The controls you can use to adjust the photo border are:

  • Size: Use this to control how wide a border is added to the image.
  • Position: The dropdown has three options controlling where the border is positioned on the edge of the image. There is the Inside (best), Centre or Outside. If you select the Outside option, you won’t be able to see the border and selecting Centre only displays half of the border.
  • Blend Mode: This controls how the border blends with the image when it’s added. For our simple border select the default Normal option if it’s not already selected.
  • Opacity: You can use the Opacity setting to fade the border, making it transparent.
  • Colour: Click the colour swatch to open a colour picker tool where you can select any colour for the border.

After selecting the Stroke options to add a border you like, click the OK button on the Layer Style dialog. You have now added a simple border to the photo.

How to Add a Black Border in Photoshop – Method 2

Let’s look at a second method we can use to add a black border to an image. This produces a similar result, but we can also use it to add a burned edges effect.

Start by opening the photo you want to add the border to in Photoshop.

We then need to add a new empty layer to the image which we will apply our border to. To do this, click the Add new layer icon found at the bottom of the Photoshop Layers window. You can see this indicated in the screenshot below.

Adding a new empty layer to an image

After clicking the add new layer icon, you will see a new empty layer appear in the Layers window. This has a thumbnail displaying a grey and white checked pattern to indicate the layer is empty.

We then need to ensure we have the new layer selected by clicking it in the Layers window with our mouse. After that we can apply a Stroke to the layer to add the image border. But rather than using the Layer Effects as in the first example, we will use a Photoshop menu command.

Start by pressing Cmd + A on your keyboard to select the entire layer. If you are using a Windows PC that’s Ctrl + A. This selects the layer, and you should see marching ants appear around the edge. With the edge of the layer selected ,we can apply the stroke border by selecting the “Stroke…” command in the Photoshop Edit menu. This displays the Stroke dialog which you can see in the screenshot below.

The Stroke dialog in Photoshop used to add a border

You will notice the Stroke dialog has the same controls and options as in the first example.

After selecting the options dialog to produce the border, click the OK button. This applies the Stroke effect to the empty layer. You can then remove the selection from the layer using “Select | Deselect” menu option in Photoshop.

Adding a Burned Edge Effect as a Border

The nice thing about the second method of adding a border to the image is that we can use it to create a burned edge effect.

If you followed the example above, you should have a border which appears on an otherwise empty layer. To add the burned edge effect, it’s best to start by duplicating the layer containing the border.

Border layers in the Photoshop Layers window

To duplicate the layer, right click on it in the Layers Window with your mouse. This displays a popup menu where you can select the “Duplicate Layer…” option. When the New Layer dialog displays, enter a name for the layer before clicking the OK button. You will then see the new copy layer added to the Layers window.

Next, we will blur the copy border layer we’ve just created. Before doing this, click the layer in the Layers window to ensure it’s selected. You can then click the Photoshop Filter menu. In the Filter menu find the “Blur” submenu and then in the submenu select “Gaussian Blur…” to display the Gaussian Blur dialog.

Adding a Gaussian Blur to the border layer

In the Gaussian Blur dialog, choose a Radius for the blur. A larger Radius value creates a wider blur effect on the border. Make sure this is large enough to be visible around the edge of the other border layer. When you are satisfied with the settings, click the OK button to apply the effect.

To strengthen the burned edge border try duplicating the layer you just blurred. You could them blur it again to create a wider softer effect and/or change the Opacity. You might also want to change the opacity of the original border layer or even hide it.

Here’s an example of the burned edges border effect around the image.

Burned edges border effect

Adding a Photoshop Border to Produce a Square Photo

At the starts of this article, I shared an example of adding a border in Photoshop to produce a square image. This prevents platforms like Instagram from cropping the image. Let’s look at how you can do this using Photoshop.

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Start by opening the image in Photoshop that you want to add the border to. This time rather than adding a layer as in the earlier examples, we will enlarge the canvas that the image sits on. All images in Photoshop sit on a Canvas but you don’t usually see this, because it’s the same size and shape as the image.

To adjust the size of the canvas, select the Image menu in Photoshop and then choose the “Canvas Size…” option from the menu. This displays the Canvas Size dialog as shown below.

Resizing the canvas in Photoshop

In the Canvas Size dialog, you will see several controls. Towards the top are the size settings. To produce a square canvas, copy the larger of the two values (in this example Width) and paste it into the other box. The height and width of the canvas should then be the same.

It’s possible that instead of the Height and Width of the image you will see 0 in both boxes. This happens when the “Relative” option is ticked. If you click the option, you toggle it off and on which allows you to see the canvas height and width.

In the Anchor section, the small circle should appear in the centre box. This controls which edges of the canvas will be resized. We want the circle to be at the centre so that the canvas is enlarged evenly on all sides of the image. If it isn’t in the centre, click the centre box with your mouse to change it.

At the bottom of the dialog, you can select the colour of the canvas using the dropdown list or clicking on the colour swatch. For this example, we will use white for the canvas.

After entering the settings, click the OK button to resize the canvas. The canvas should then be visible as a square with the image in the centre.

Image on Square canvas

You can of course combine this with the earlier methods we discussed as well as adding further effects. To learn more about layers and layer effects in Photoshop, see my book “Mastering Photoshop CC Layers”. This delivers Photoshop users with a solid understanding of layers and how they can be used in photo editing to great effect.

More Photoshop Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Photoshop Tutorials page.

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