Fixing Distorted Images with Photoshop’s Puppet Warp Tool

Photos are meant to capture a moment in time and preserve it for everyone to observe and remember. Sometimes, even the best photographer might have an image that is slightly distorted or warped. This is upsetting, because some moments only happen once, so there might not be a second chance to capture it. However, all isn’t lost, because there are ways in Photoshop to correct a distorted image. You have a good chance of saving those images that you worked so hard to take.

Download the sample image shown below here. Notice that the lines of the glass blocks are distorted and warped inward. This effect is not desired, but you can straighten them out easily.

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Simply go to Filter > Lens Correction. A dialog box will come up, allowing you to manipulate your image. The Auto Correction options are very limited, and it isn’t very clear what the outcome will be. It asks you for the make and model of the camera used to shoot the image, which isn’t always known. This is especially true for images that you didn’t shoot on your own. Instead, choose Custom.

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Every setting in the menu will come in handy for different situations. The settings we will use for this image can be found in the first slider. Geometric distortion will allow us to pucker the image further, or we can bloat the image, correcting the image that is already puckered inward. Move the slider to the left until most of the lines are straight. You will find that you won’t be able to even out the image perfectly with this menu, but it does most of the work for us. I set the value to -24, which straightens the most lines, especially the center ones. Notice in the example below that a couple of the outer lines are angled slightly. We will fix those next.

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Right-click on your image layer and choose Convert to Smart object. The next settings may take multiple adjustments and refining, and converting your image to a smart object will allow you to go back and make changes instead of having to undo and redo your settings over again. Next, go to Image > Edit > Puppet Warp and Photoshop will place a geometric triangular mesh over your image. You will be able to place pins where you want to manipulate the image. The key to this feature is placing the pins in key areas where you want the image to pivot. For example, if you want a line that is bent to straighten out you would place 3 pins – one on each end and another in the middle, where you want the bend to straighten out.

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You can place as many pins as you want. To move them around, simply click and drag them. Keep in mind that any slight movement that you do will distort or manipulate your image. To alter your image more precisely, go to the options bar at the top and choose Density, more points. This will make the mesh much tighter and more refined than before, giving you more minute control over how the image is corrected.

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To have minute control over adjusting your image with the Puppet Warp settings, select a point that you have placed on the mesh and use the arrow keys to adjust it. this is more precise than clicking and dragging, giving you precision adjustments. Notice how I have multiple instances where 2 points are close to each other. This will hold that area of the image in place, while you adjust the point next to it. This is key for this setting. Otherwise, you will fix one part of your image, and end up distorting another area.

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As shown above, if the mesh is really distracting for you (which it can be at times when making fine adjustments) you can hide it, while still showing the pins that you have placed. Right-click on any pin and choose Hide Mesh. You will still be able to move the pins around and correct your image, without having the mesh in the way. Once you are finished, select another tool, such as the Move Tool and Photoshop will ask you if you want to apply your changes. Choose yes and your changes will take place.

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The result is that the lines are much straighter now, and actually look like a glass block wall.

Conclusion

The Puppet Warp Tool is a handy tool found in Photoshop. When you need to bend only a portion of an image to your will and do it precisely, the Puppet Warp Tool can handle most tough jobs. You have a great deal of control over your image and how refined your correction will be. Having control over the mesh gives you control over how detailed you want the distortion to be.

Do you have a distorted image? Try the Puppet Warp Tool in Photoshop and you may be able to fix it easily!

 

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