Photoshop tutorial – Create simple photo borders/frames (Part 1)

In Photoshop, there are absolutely countless ways of creating photo borders or frames. The techniques can be very simple, easy and creative or professional and sophisticated. Though an image by itself can be as attractive, drawing a border or frame around the photo can enhance its beauty and bring focus to its contents. And, this drawing craze is one of my favourite hobbies, more an addiction actually! ;)

Here, I aim to share three very simple and easy ways of creating photo borders or frames, using Photoshop CS2, especially for beginners. Some methods are easier than others, some are more suited to certain photos, and some need a combination of techniques to produce the best results. By practicing more often, you’ll know which method to apply to yield better outcome.

Let’s get started with the tutorial!

Sharing a few pointers first:

  • Never use your original photo to work on, always use copies of photos. Use the same method as you would copy a file in Windows Explorer (copy and paste)…it’s that easy!
  • This is optional, but try to reduce image size to 800 x 600 pixels or vice versa, which is the recommended size for web publishing – in Photoshop, open the photograph, then go to Image > Image Size and key in the dimensions as you would want the approximate final output to be. In this tutorial, all images used are 800 x 600 pixels.
  • Visualize what border/frame color(s) work best with the image.
  • Envisage what you want to accomplish.


(This is by far, the simplest and easiest way!)

Step 1. In Photoshop, open the image that you want to use – press Ctrl+O (or go to File > Open) and browse to choose and open your image. Then, select image – press Ctrl+A (or go to Select > All).

Step 2. Tutorial - Stroke options for photoborder Next, go to Edit > Stroke (or right-click on image with the Marquee Tool – tap M, and select Stroke). A dialog box (as shown) opens for your selection of border width, color, etc. Note that the more pixels added, the wider the border will be. For a thin border, any number below 5 pixels will be perfect. Location can be either inside or center but not outside, otherwise it would be invisible. Feel free to experiment with the Blending modes to yield various interesting effects. To undo previous Stroke effect, just press Ctrl+Z and retry. When done, press Ctrl+D to deselect image. Then, save your finished project.

A single thin stroke border will work great for macro objects or subjects that fill almost the whole image. However, if your image has too much background and you want it covered, then a thicker border with multiple strokes would be more appropriate. In such a case, do not deselect image as yet but repeat the Stroke as many times as you want. Just bear in mind that each subsequent stroke effect will be on top of the previous one, so the innermost border should have the largest width, with the subsequent ones gradually decrease.

Shown below are photo borders done, using this method. The left image with our garden flower, Wrightia antidysenterica, had the Stroke effect applied twice. First stroke is the luminous green inner border based on selections shown in the image above, and the second outer dark green border had the same selections except that width was changed to 54 px and color to #091605.
As for the right image, alternating between white (#ffffff) and black (#000000) strokes, with varying width starting from 60px, then 20px, 10px and ending with 3px will produce this lovely photo frame. Clicking on the right image will lead you to a larger one for better view.

Tutorial - Create photoborder with stroke command #1 Tutorial - Create photoborder with stroke command #2


(Another simple and easy method, most suited for image that has large areas of plain and light coloured background. I quite like this way too as it gives an elevated effect for the image)

Step 1. Open the image that you want to work on – press Ctrl+O (or go to File > Open). Then, select image – press Ctrl+A (or go to Select > All). Here, I’ve chosen an image of our tropical orchid, Dendrobium Diang Suree.

Step 2. Next, go to Select > Modify > Border. A window pops up for you to fill in your desired border width, then click OK to exit. In this example, I typed in 40 pixels.

Create photo frame with border selection #1 Step 3. Now to fill the border with color. Go to Edit > Fill (or press Shift+F5) and a window opens for your selections. Click on the drop-down list to make your choice. If you select color, the Color Picker palette will pop-up. Here, I’ve chosen Color #213f09 from the image with the Eyedropper Tool and then click OK to close. Next, choose Blending Mode – Normal and Opacity – 100% before hitting the OK button to close the Fill window. If you change your mind, just press Ctrl+Z to undo previous action and try again. Play around with patterns and other blending modes for more interesting effects. When done, press Ctrl+D to deselect image. That’s all…remember to save your completed job!

Can you notice a slight difference in this next image?

Tutorial - Create photo frame with border selection #2

In this example, the frame appears to have two distinct sections. Well, you just need to follow Steps 1 and 2 above, then apply a Stroke before proceeding to Step 3. To ‘travel that extra mile’, go to Edit > Stroke and select the following options in the pop-up window:
Width – 10 px
Color – Black #000000
Location – Center
Blending mode – Normal
Opacity – 100%


(Another simple and easy method, for variety!)

Step 1. Open the image that you want to work on – press Ctrl+O (or go to File > Open).

Step 2. Next, choose either a Rectangular Marquee Tool or an Elliptical Marquee Tool from the top left of the toolbar (if it is unseen, click and hold down the icon until a fly-out appears and choose your tool), and drag to draw a rectangle or ellipse over the area of your image that you want to select. To undo, press Ctrl+Z or click inside it to deselect and start all over again. (Tip #1: to reposition the selection border as you draw it, hold down the spacebar and drag it to a new position. Then, release the spacebar to continue dragging and adjusting the selection border, and repeating these actions if necessary. Release the mouse button only when you’re finally done. Tip #2: To move the selection border after it is created, click anywhere inside the border and drag. Or, if need to nudge the selection border slightly, use the keyboard arrow keys.)

Tutorial - Framing with the MarqueeTool #1An Elliptical Marquee Tool was chosen in this example. Instead of the normal free-hand drawing, in the options bar at the top, I’ve set Style to Fixed Size, with Width – 750px and Height – 550px, since I’d wanted a 25px minimum margin at opposite sides of an original 800 x 600px size image…(simple mathematics – for width: 800px – (25×2) = 750px and height 600px – (25X2) = 550px :) ). Then, click anywhere at the top left corner of the image to place the prefixed elliptical selection border. Next, reposition it by clicking anywhere inside it and drag, or use your keyboard arrow keys to nudge it if necessary.

Tutorial - Framing with the MarqueeTool #2Step 3. You will then need to invert your selection to create the border outside and fill it with color.
First, press the shortcut keyboard keys Ctrl+Shift+I or go to Select > Inverse and you’ll now notice a new set of dotted lines outlining your image as seen in the photo on the right. The area between the two sets of dotted lines will then form the border or frame.

Tutorial - Framing with the MarqueeTool #3Step 4. Next, fill the border with color. To do this, use the Eyedropper Tool from the toolbar and click the color you’d want from your image (color #95287b was taken from this example image) or click the Set foreground color box to open the Color Picker palette to choose, and click OK to exit. Then, press Alt+Backspace to color the border. Alternatively, you can go to Edit > Fill to fill with color or pattern. To end, press Ctrl+D to deselect.

This is the finished result.

The final result - framed photo, using the elliptical marquee tool

Optional: Step 5.

You can opt to draw a second border to your image, using the Stroke command. To do this, undo the deselect that was done in Step 4 above, by pressing Ctrl+Z or click on the action before Deselect in the History Palette. Next, go to Edit > Stroke and make your choices when its dialog box appears. In this example, the following choices were made: Width – 3 px, Color – #3a052d, Location – Inside, Blending mode – Normal, and Opacity – 100%. And, to finish off, press Ctrl+D to deselect.
Ta..da!…the final result below! I prefer the added stroke effect as it gives a distinct border encircling our garden plant, Tradescantia spathacea ‘Hawaiian Dwarf’ with its spectacular foliage! :)

The final result - framed photo, using the elliptical marquee tool and stroke

Want more? Try creating a semi-transparent border now, just for fun? It’s easy really, now that you’ve managed to do a frame with the Elliptical Tool above! Quite similar actually, just a wee bit different.

Let’s do this:

A Rectangular Marquee Tool was chosen in this next tutorial.

Step 1. Open your image.

Framing with Rectangular Marquee Tool (Step 2)Step 2. Follow Step 2 above, but select the Rectangular Marquee Tool instead, and drag to draw a rectangle over the area of your image that you want to select. You can either do a free-hand drawing by first setting Style to Normal at the top options bar, or set Style to Fixed Size. Here, I’ve chosen the latter and set Width – 730px and Height – 530px to create the prefixed rectangular selection border.

Framing with Rectangular Marquee Tool (Steps 3 & 4)Step 3. Inverse the selection border by pressing Ctrl+Shift+I as in Step 3 above.

Step 4. Next, fill the border with color or pattern. Since a semi-transparent colored border is desired for this example, go to Edit > Fill, to choose your color and reduce the opacity. Here, I’ve set the Color to #fafcf9, Blending mode to Normal and Opacity to 60%.

Step 5. Now, to complete the process by applying a stroke to both the inner and outer rectangular borders. Go to Edit > Stroke and make your choices when the dialog box appears. I’ve selected Width – 2px, Color #101e0d, Location – Center, Blending mode – Normal, and Opacity – 100%. And, click OK to exit. Finally, press Ctrl+D to deselect. That’s all!

Here is the final result!
The final result - framed photo, using the rectangular marquee tool and stroke

I find the completed frame or border quite appealing – the semi-transparent border gives a peep of what’s behind it, especially pleasing for a gardener like me and at the same time, frames in the Pandanus odorus plants and draw focus there. The stroke effects applied are as appealing, whereby choosing Location as Center will result in a thicker and darker border inside as compared with the outer one. Lovely, don’t you think so? :)

Woo..hoo! All finished! Didn’t I say that these photo framing methods are so simple and easy! Hey…forgot to mention that they’re fast too! ;)

Hope this tutorial helped you in more than a few ways!

View more of my Photoshop Tutorials, or
target Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 in the continuing tutorial series on Photo border/framing.

Last edited: 2008-09-17

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28 Responses to “Photoshop tutorial – Create simple photo borders/frames (Part 1)”

  1. Bilderrahmen gestalten mit Photoshop | Bitte mit Rahmen! Says:

    [...] Photoshop tutorial – Create simple photo borders/frames [...]

  2. Ruby Says:

    THANK YOU!!!
    I have been struggling for over 2 hours with this!!!!!!


  3. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re most welcome, Ruby!
    Hope the struggling was fruitful. Haha, I struggled longer, took me about 3-4 days to write this tutorial as I had wanted to share as many examples! ;)

  4. Elementair kadervraagje - Belgiumdigital forum - Digitale fotografie Says:

    [...] Elementair kadervraagje Deze dame geeft ook goede tips zelfs…tutorials…order-frame-1/ __________________ Nikon D 700 -Nikkor 70-300 mm VR-Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8- Panasonic FZ-20 [...]

  5. George Says:

    Back to the 90s – come on you can do better than this.

  6. Jacqueline Says:

    To each his own, George!

  7. Dann Sommer*Network M@ximizer* Says:

    thanx for sharing – useful info – save me 1 hr for a FB-page montage :-) – enjoy, Dann S.

  8. Jacqueline Says:

    My pleasure…great to know you’ve found it useful, Dann Sommer!

  9. Apie Says:

    nice tutorial….. it’s really going to be helpful

  10. Jacqueline Says:

    Thanks for feedback, Apie!

  11. Xzavier Says:

    Thanks Jacqueline, it’s a great tutorial for a Photoshop beginner like me!! :)

  12. Jacqueline Says:

    Thanks for your appreciation, Xzavier! Delighted that I’ve put a smile on your face!

  13. Anant Says:

    Hi… Its great that you have put up this information. Just had a query. It would be great if you can answer.

    Wanted to know how we can apply borders to a group of pictures. For example, if a folder has about 50 pictures and all of them need to be bordered, how can we do it simultaneously?? Like select all 50 pictures and apply border once.

    It will be really helpful if I can get this information.

    Thanks in advance.

  14. Jacqueline Says:

    Sorry, Anant! I’ve no idea at all.

  15. Kay Says:

    Thank you. This is the best simplest information on making photo borders I’ve found. I was resizing, cutting and pasting into a new blank background and it was very time consuming. I didn’t realize how easy it was to just select all and use the stroke command.

  16. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re most welcome, Kay and thank you for your positive feedback! I’m delighted that you’ve found it useful and able to save precious time.

  17. Bill Says:

    Thank you so much for what you’ve done here!!! I’m not even sure how long I’ve been looking for a semi-transparent border
    that made sense to me and was easy. This is it!!! I will use this a lot down the road.
    Again, Thank You so much for sharing this. I truly appreciate it…

  18. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re very welcome, Bill! Great to know you’ve found this tutorial helpful. Thanks for your thanks and appreciation… this is what makes sharing so pleasurable and rewarding.

  19. murali Says:

    Thanks so much

  20. Jacqueline Says:

    My pleasure in sharing, Murali! Thanks for your appreciation.

  21. Paw Says:

    Thanks for advice. Its simple but powerful. Just great!!!!!!

  22. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re most welcome, Paw! Thanks for your kind compliments…. much appreciated.

  23. Rudy Says:

    Can I create a border around a new blank image with a transparent middle? Want to add a border to a specific background wirh it showing the entire background inside the border.

  24. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Rudy, I tried but unable to create a border around a transparent blank image… it has to be filled first. So, I’d suggest that you work from inside out, meaning create your specific background image first, then only add a new layer to increase the canvas size accordingly for the border.
    Hope this helps.

  25. BAPI Says:

    Thanks for your kind help.
    Lage Raho Yaaar.

  26. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re welcome, Bapi.

  27. Frankie Williamson Says:

    Thank you for posting this awesome tutorial, the end result is amazing! I will definitely be trying this out tonight!

  28. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re most welcome, Frankie! Thank you very much for your generous comment. All the best.

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