How to Draw Tables in Photoshop

By Elizabeth Mott

Drawing framed shapes in Adobe Photoshop presents a greater challenge than attempting the same maneuver in an illustration program or Web-design application. By default, Photoshop paints pixels rather than creating crisply defined strokes. After all, the program's strengths lie in painting, retouching and other composition tasks that typically require the opposite of straight lines. Choose the right tools, however, and Photoshop can yield the sharp edges and evenly positioned rows and columns that make up a tabular shape.

Step 1

Activate the Line tool, docked with the Rectangle tool in the Adobe Photoshop Tools panel. Double-click on the foreground color swatch in the Tool panel and set your line color in the Color Picker.

Step 2

Click on the unlabeled Shape Layers icon in the Options bar to prepare Adobe Photoshop to draw the appropriate type of output. The alternatives create either unfilled paths or unmasked pixels. Set the width of the line in the Options bar.

Step 3

Press and hold the "Shift" key while you click and drag to draw a straight horizontal line the width of your table. Press and release the "Esc" key to force Adobe Photoshop to create a new layer with the next shape you draw. Press and hold the "Shift" key again, and draw a straight vertical line the height of your table.

Step 4

Press "F7" to reveal the Layers panel and "F8" to open the Info panel if these interface elements aren't already visible. Click on the Layers panel entry for the Shape layer that contains the horizontal line you drew.

Step 5

Press "Ctrl-T" to activate Free Transform mode, and observe the height that the Info panel reports for your horizontal line shape. If the height falls short of or exceeds the measurement you want for your finished table, enter the appropriate value in the "H" field of the Options bar. Press "Enter" or click on the check mark in the Options bar to confirm your transformation.

Step 6

Click on the Layers panel entry for the Shape layer that contains the vertical line you drew. Press "Ctrl-T" to enter Free Transform mode. Evaluate and change the line's width if necessary, this time typing values into the Options bar's "W" field.

Step 7

Select the Layers panel entry for the vertical line. Hold down the "Ctrl" key while you click on the layer icon for the horizontal-line Shape layer. This creates an active selection that corresponds to the size of the line. With the vertical-line Shape layer still active, open the "Layer" menu, choose the "Align Layers to Selection" submenu, and select the "Top Edges" option. Return to the "Align Layers to Selection" submenu and choose "Left Edges." These two steps orient the horizontal line as the top edge of the table.

Step 8

Press "Ctrl-D" to deselect the active selection. Select the Layers panel entry for the horizontal line. Press "V" to switch to the Move tool. Hold down the "Alt" key, press and hold the "Shift" key and drag the line vertically to create a duplicate layer. Create as many duplicates as you need for the number of rows in your table, including a copy to form the bottom edge. With the last duplicate layer still active, hold down the "Ctrl" key and click on the layer icon for the vertical line. Align the last duplicate horizontal line to the selection, choosing the "Bottom Edges" option from the "Align Layers to Selection" submenu. Press "Ctrl-D" to deactivate the selection.

Step 9

Hold down the "Shift" key and click on the first and last Layers panel entries for horizontal lines, selecting all of their panel entries. Open the "Layer" menu, choose the "Distribute" submenu and select "Vertical Centers." This procedure positions all the horizontal lines an equal distance apart, leaving the top and bottom lines unmoved.

Step 10

Click on the Layers panel entry for the vertical line. Hold down the "Alt" key, press and hold the "Shift" key, and drag the line horizontally to create a duplicate layer to form the right edge of the table.

Step 11

Hold down the "Ctrl" key while you click on the layer icon for one of the horizontal-line Shape layers, creating an active selection. Open the "Layer" menu, choose the "Align Layers to Selection" submenu, and select the "Right Edges" option, positioning the second horizontal line layer as the right edge of the table. Press "Ctrl-D" to deactivate the selection.

Tips & Warnings

  • To verify that your shape layers align correctly to one another, press and hold "Ctrl-Spacebar" to activate the Zoom tool, and click and drag around the part of your image you want to view more closely. The smaller the area you drag around, the higher the zoom magnification because Adobe Photoshop switches to a closeup view of a small part of your image. Press "Ctrl-0" to zoom back to a fit-in-window view.
  • With the Move tool active, press the arrow keys on your keyboard to nudge Shape layers into position one pixel at a time. Hold down the "Shift" key while you nudge to move in 10-pixel increments.
  • The Line tool's settings can force it to draw new shapes on an active Shape layer, adding to or subtracting from the visible portion of the shape. Verify your Options bar settings before you use the tool.
  • Information in this article applies to Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Photoshop CS6. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.