3 Steps to Quick and Easy Borders in Photoshop

At the beginning of Sunday’s photo restoration tutorial, we began by cropping away the rough edges of the photograph.

However, on some images the border is what gives it that touch of polish. Especially on vintage photographs, where some kind of border is very common due to the machines used in the enlargement process. It’s possible to add genuine scanned paper borders for a lovely effect, but that’s an entirely different technique. For now we’ll start with something simple.

Let’s take the image we worked on last week.


To add the colour to this photo we selected a Foreground Colour in the colour swatches at the bottom of your toolbar. This time we’re going to select a Background Colour.

So first click on the Background Colour box…

Just like with the Foreground Colour, when you click on the Background Colour, the Colour Picker dialog box will open.

Now, here you can pick a standard black, white, or maybe a mid-grey. Or you can get a little more creative.

Personally, I prefer to add a soft cream border to an image like this; something that imitates the softness of the original paper the border is replacing. But of course any old cream won’t necessarily match the tones in the photo. There’s a useful tool built into the Colour Picker dialog box that helps you find a colour that will exactly suit your image.

You can’t see the cursor in the following image, but when this dialog box is open, the cursor automatically turns into an eye dropper. When you click on any area of the photo you’re working on, it samples the colour and gives you a matching swatch.

In this instance I clicked on the brightest part of the woman’s arm to give me a nice clear, light off-white colour.


Once you’ve picked  a colour, click OK to dismiss the box.


Now that you have your border colour chosen, select Image ==> Canvas Size from the menu bar.

The following dialog box will now open.

Make sure that you have the Relative box ticked; this means that you can change the size of the canvas without having to think about what size it already is. It just adds the size on top of what’s already there. If this box is un-ticked you have to do the calculations yourself. It just makes things simpler.

And then check that the Canvas extension colour is set to Background. The colour in the box next to it should be the same colour as you selected in the last step.


With those settings checked, it’s time to add the border. Still in the Canvas Size dialog box, put a number into the Width and Height boxes.

Here’s where things vary greatly from image to image. This photo is a tiny copy saved from the Flickr Commons, so the border I add will be pretty tiny to match. I’ve found 2mm both ways to be enough. However if it was a larger image it could easily need a centimetre, or even two, to match in relative size.

You can get even more precise and click on the type of measurement used to change it to a number of other things, including pixels.

Sometimes my guesstimate makes the border the right size first time. More often I try it and don’t like the size the first time around, and use  Cmd-Z (Ctrl-Z for PCs) to undo it, then go through steps 2 & 3 again, inputting a new measurement for the border until I’m happy with how it looks.

And here’s the photo with its border.

See how the colour matches the photo, and blends into the highlights nicely?

A little technique, but very effective.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s