I’ll bet you don’t even know what a “reference point” is in Photoshop! That’s ok, I didn’t know that’s what it is called either. But I’ll bet you’ve seen it!

When you have your Move Tool selected, if you have the “Show Bounding Box” box checked you will see the Bounding Box around the active layer.  This looks like lines with little squares in each corner and the center of each side.

In the center of the box is a little circle with a dot in the middle – that’s the reference point. It is the point around which the bounding box will rotate. The cool thing is you can move this point!


All you have to do is click on it and drag it to one of the little squares around the edge, and the layer will now rotate around that point.

Notice up in the Tool Options Bar there’s a little symbol at the left that shows you the location of the reference point. The box that’s holding the reference point will turn black on the symbol, in case you’re not sure where you put it. You can also change the location of the reference point by clicking in one of the boxes on the symbol.


Why would you want to change the reference point? Well, to make the flower I made above out of hearts, I just moved the reference point to the point of the heart, then all the hearts would rotate around the same point, making a perfect flower!

To see this in action, check out my newest Video Quick Tip:

Happy Scrapping!!

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  1. […] I've known how to do this for a while, just never knew what it was called! Check out this tutorial and see if you know this cool tip! __________________ Jenn […]

  2. Julie says:

    Too cool! And yep, you’re right, I used it but I didn’t know what it was called! (BTW, big fan of written tuts, so thanks for both!)

  3. lillimou says:

    Very cool tutorial!! I was clueless about that little box! 🙂

  4. doris says:

    Way cool as are all of your tips. Thanks so much.

  5. Vicky Day says:

    Is there a way to do this in PSE6?? Very cool, if possible! Thanks, Jenn!

    • Jenn says:

      Vicky, it works the same way in PSE 9, so I think it should work for 6. Give it a try and let me know! I need to re-install 6, had a lot of questions on it lately.

  6. Zanne says:

    Love the video tut… looks great!

  7. Vicky Day says:

    Jenn, The point of reference box does not show up until you begin the rotation. In other words, I made a copy of my original element and then began the rotation. The point of reference box appeared and I clicked the bottom center box and it worked like a charm! This is soooooooooooooooo cool! THANKS!!!

  8. Janice says:

    You have solved a mystery for me. I often move the reference point by accident and never knew why it moved and how it was useful. I didn’t even know it was the reference point. THANKS

  9. Susan says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I knew what the reference point did but I never thought about using it. Thanks Jen! I like that you offered both the written tutorial and the video tutorial. I like having a written tutorial to go back to but I’m a visual learner so seeing it in practice really helps!

  10. Kay says:

    What a cool tip! I absolutely LOVE your website! You have such good info and you explain it so well that it is easy to understand. I also enjoyed the making plaid paper one that was at the bottom of the page I was on. Can’t wait to try it out!

    Thank you!!!

  11. Linda Vich says:

    This tip is really helpful. As an extension of this technique, you can use shortcuts while employing the reference point in Photoshop, even placing the reference point OUTSIDE the object itself. After transforming the first time and pressing Enter, to transform the same object again, use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+T (Win) / Command+Shift+T (Mac). To duplicate AND transform again, use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shift+T (Win) / Command+Option+Shift+T (Mac). This technique can allow you to easily construct a flower if you start with one petal (cannot be a shape layer) and then input an actual rotation amount that divides evenly into 360. So for a 9 petal flower, insert a rotation amount of 40, for 12 petals enter 30, etc. Then continue using the shortcut to duplicate and transform until the flower is complete. You can reference this technique at http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photoshop-tips-tricks/transform-again/

    These shortcuts WILL NOT work with Photoshop Elements.

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