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Making a Photo Border in Photoshop

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In this tutorial, I will show you a few simple ways to add a border to your photograph in Photoshop. I am using Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11) on a Macintosh. If you are using another version, your menus may look slightly different. For this tutorial, I am using Making Spirits Bright Bundle by Mandy King.

Image of Making Spirits Bright by Mandy King

Here are four ways to make a photo border: add a stroke, use a brush, use a frame shape, and add a frame layer. Each of these techniques will offer a different look for your digital scrapbooking layouts.

Option 1: Add a Stroke

In your layer styles menu, along with drop shadows, you will find the option to add a stroke. In the Photoshop Elements menu, click on LAYER>LAYER STYLE>STYLE SETTINGS. You will get something that looks like this. You will have to supply your own photo, of course! This is a photograph of my Yorkie, Tino. I got a laugh at this photo because it looks like he is reading my family’s Christmas letter. You may notice that I have grouped my photograph to a square shape. You don’t have to do this, but I like the flexibility it gives me to change the size and shape of my photo. The actual photograph layer is completely unchanged.

Layer Styles Menu in PSE

Once you are in the layer style settings menu, you can choose to add a stroke to your photograph by clicking in the box labeled STROKE. Next, you need to choose your size and color. The default is 3 pixels and your current color selection, which, in my case, is black. You can change the size of your stroke by using the slider or typing in a size. To change the color, click on the little color box which will bring up the color selection tool.

Stroke menu options in PSE

I chose a size of 45 pixels and white for the stroke in this final step. Here is my photograph with a stroke border:

Photo border using a stroke

Option 2: Use a Custom Shape Frame

In other tutorials, we have explored the Custom Shapes that come with Photoshop Elements. Here, I chose a frame and simply drew it on top of my photograph. Isn’t it cute? As you can see, there are many different frame shapes that can be drawn to any size and color.

Frame Brush in PSE

Option 3: Use an Artsy Brush

For a completely different look, you can use an artsy brush to add a frame to your photograph. First, add a layer mask to your photograph. (If you are using Photoshop Elements version 9 and above, or Photoshop CS, you have layer masks. For lower versions of PSE, you can achieve the same look by grouping your photograph to another layer.) To add a layer mask, click on the mask icon.


An important rule to remember when you are using layer masks is: “Black hides, white reveals.” Our layer mask is currently all white, so the entire photograph still shows. Next you need to choose a brush and select black for your paint color. I chose a Faux Finish Brush which is included with PSE.

Artsy Brush Selection in PSE

Now, selecting your layer mask, paint with your brush onto the edges of your photograph. Because I have a white shape under my photograph, the edges are white, but you can use this technique over any color or background. Whatever is behind the photograph will be shown.

Artsy photograph frame in PSE

Option 4: Add a Frame Layer

So far, I have shown you three very different looks for photograph borders. This final option is the one I use most often. You simply create a new layer under your photograph using the shape tool. This looks a lot like adding a stroke, but it gives you many creative options.

Add a Frame Layer

In this final layout, take a look at the two ways I used a frame layer border–one on the photograph and another on the journal card. Don’t forget to link your frame and photograph layers together so that you can resize and move them anywhere on your layout. For a super easy layout, I used a pre-made Stacked Paper made by Rebecca PSP found in Mandy King’s Making Spirits Bright Collection. I added photo corners, splatter and a journal to complete this page.

Final Frame tutorial layout

If you have any questions about this tutorial or would like to request a tutorial, please visit and post to the Tutorial Help & Requests Forum.

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