Post-Processing » Photoshop Tutorials » How to use Photoshop Actions to Add a Beautiful Border?

How to use Photoshop Actions to Add a Beautiful Border?

Your awesome photo is processed and ready for print. But still, you feel something is missing. Do you want to add an extra exclusive look to your photo with an elegant Photoshop border? And what about applying a Photoshop border automatically to multiple photos by using Photoshop Actions and batch processing. In this post,  I will show you both how you can create a border in a few simple steps and how to automate the technique with Photoshop Actions.

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Creating a Border in Photoshop

In general, there are two ways you can create a border in Photoshop.
The first method is to select the entire canvas space and then contract the selection with the number of pixels you want the border to be and then invert the selection. This will create a selection of where the border goes. You can then fill this selection with any color you like. However, this method will “steal” pixels from your photo by placing the border inside the edge of your photo. This might end up cropping away important parts of your image.

The second method relies instead on expanding the canvas to create extra space for the border. This way you avoid cutting off pixels from your image composition. I will use the second method in this tutorial.

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Preparing a Photoshop Action to Record The Process of Creating a Border

Before we begin with creating the border, lets us prepare a Photoshop Action so you can easily create a similar border to other photos without repeating each step. First of all, make sure that the Photoshop Actions Panel is visible. If not, you can enable it by selecting the menu: Window > Actions.

Photoshop Actions Panel let's you easily create Photoshop Actions
Use the buttons at the bottom of the Actions panel create actions sets (folder icon) and to create new Photoshop actions (new document icon).

Before you can record actions, you should select an existing action set to hold the new Photoshop action. If you don’t have one, you can easily create a new action set by pressing the folder button at the bottom of the Actions Panel. In the dialog give the action set a meaningful name.

New Action Dialog in Photoshop CC

After creating the action set, be sure it is selected and then click on the New Action button (the new document icon next to the trashcan). Clicking the New Action button will open a dialog, where you can enter a name for the Photoshop action and make sure it is stored in the correct action set. Name the action: “White Border: Wide”. 

Once you hit the Record button, the Photoshop action will begin recording everything you do in Photoshop until you hit the stop button in the bottom of the Actions Panel.

The Simple Steps To Create a Photoshop Border

First, open the image you want to add a border to in Photoshop.

1. Rename The Background Layer

Begin by renaming the background layer. The reason for this is because if you expand the canvas based on a background layer, Photoshop will automatically add colored canvas instead of a transparent one. This will create issues with adding a thin stroke around the image later.

A little shortcut for renaming the background layer is to hold the Option (Mac) / Alt (Win) key and double-click on the layer title “Background.” This will change the name to Layer 0.
Another way is to duplicate the background layer and then use the duplicate layer as the base for creating the border.

2. Expand the Canvas Size

The next step is to expand the canvas size of the image to get some space for the new border you want to add to your photo. Go to the menu Image -> Canvas Size. In the Canvas Size window make sure you check the Relative checkbox and select your preferred measure units. Now you just need to plot in the width and height you which the border to have.

The Anchor position tells Photoshop in which direction it should expand the canvas size. Make sure the “dot” is in the middle. With the Anchor in the center position, you tell Photoshop to add i.e. 2 centimeters in each direction both vertically (up+down) and horizontally (left+right).

Add border to photo by expanding the canvas size

When done, just hit the OK button. 

3. Create a Solid Fill Layer

The next step is to add a solid fill layer with the color you would like the border to have. For this post, I will choose a white border.

Navigate to the bottom of the Layers panel and click the small button to create a new fill or adjustment layer and then choose the topmost option: Solid Color.

Create new fill layer for your Photoshop Border

In the Color Picker window that appears simply select the color for the border. I will choose white. Click OK to close the window.

Now your image will be all covered in white, but don’t worry. The next step is to move the Solid Color Fill layer below your image. This will give you a beautiful white frame or border effect around your image. However, we are not quite done yet, but almost.

4. Add a thin stroke around the image layer

As a final detail to your border, you can add a thin black line between the image and the white border. This will help make a very sharp separation between the image and the border. In images that contain a fair amount of white near the edge, the thin black stroke will help the viewer define the boundaries of the image.

To add the thin line just double-click the thumbnail of the image layer or right-click and select Blending Options. In the window that appears go to the Stroke tab (1) on the left side list of different Layer Style Blending Options. Next change the size of the stroke line you wish to add (2). I suggest you keep it quite thin. However, its size depends on your overall image size. Remember to set the Position to Outside (3). The different between outside and inside here is concerning whether the stroke should take the pixels from inside the image layer (which can “crop” away elements near the edge, with a broad stroke line), or whether you want to place the stroke line on the outside of the image layer. Choosing outside will only “steal” the pixels from the white border you just created, which is better than taking it from the image. Be sure to check the color is black (4) before hitting the OK button.

Create a stroke around your image in Photoshop

If you find that you don’t like the black stroke, it is very easy to turn it off, or you can play with toggling it on/off by hiding the stroke effect on the image layer. Just click the eye icon on the Effects style layer that will appear just below the image layer.

Toggle stroke effect on & off in Photoshop

That was the final step to create an elegant Photoshop border for your image. Before doing anything else, you should click on the stop button in the Photoshop Actions Panel, to end recording everything you do. You can press the Play/Run Action button to test if everything works as intended.

Below you can see the result of adding a white border with a thin black stroke. Note that the outer gray line is just added to let you distinguish the border from the background of the website.

Finished result of creating an elegant white border in Photoshop

How to Apply The Photoshop Action Border Effect to Multiple Images?

If you want to apply this border to multiple images, like when preparing a lot of images for print, you can do so very quickly.

Go to File > Automate > Batch…

In the dialog that appears, you can set up a batch job that applies the same Photoshop action to all images within a source folder and outputs the result to a destination folder.

First, you need to choose which action to play. Select the action set where you placed the border Photoshop action that you have just created and then locate and select the action itself in the next drop-down field.

Next, in the source section of the dialog choose Source to be a folder (from the drop-down), and click Choose to select the folder, where you store all the photos that you want to add a border to, and click OK. Note, that the batch process will include all images within the source folder.

In the checkboxes make sure that you check the option: Suppress File Open Options Dialog. Let the other options be unchecked.

In the destination section of the dialog choose a destination folder, to tell Photoshop where to save the output file after applying the Photoshop action. I suggest that you use another folder than the

As a final step in setting up the batch job, you should tell Photoshop how to name the output files. You have quite a lot of flexibility here, but for this tutorial just select Document Name in the first field and in the next field (to the right) choose 1 Digit Serial Number (which makes sure that nothing is overwritten). Finally, as the latest part of the file name select extention in the third input field for the file name. Note, that the extension should always be last.

Now you are ready to hit the OK button to run the batch job. While Photoshop is now adding borders to all the photos in the source folder, you can sit back and relax, or do whatever you like.

That’s it. You have now created both a Photoshop actions to quickly add a nice border to your photos, and learned how to use this Photoshop action to create a batch job to automate applying Photoshop borders to multiple images.

Bonus tip: Duplicate the Photoshop action and change the background settings to easily create a black border

Changing color on your Photoshop border is easy

Even though I find that this Photoshop border in white suits the image quite well, a white border might not suit all images. It is very easy to switch the colors. To do that just double click on the Effect Style Layer and change the color to i.e. white. Next, choose the bottom layer, which should be the Color Fill layer and double-click on the thumbnail. In the Color Picker dialogue, choose i.e. black to change the border to that color.

Going from one border color to another only takes a few seconds. Here is the image with the black outer border with a white stroke. However, instead of changing the final result, I suggest that you duplicate the Photoshop action and rename it to “Black border: wide” to have Photoshop actions for both the white version and the black version.

Once duplicated you should change the values used by the action that create a black border. You can do that by expanding the “Black border: wide” action and double-click on the effect style layer action step, you will change the values that this Photoshop action uses. In the same way, just click on the action step that creates the Color Fill layer and changes the color from white to black to create the black border effect.

Concluding words

You can get a bunch of different looks and effects with a Photoshop border. Some require different and sophisticated techniques to achieve. However, just remember that a ‘fancy’ looking will also affect the impression the viewer gets of your photo. In this tutorial, I focused on showing you how to add a Photoshop border, which gives your image an elegant and exclusive look that keeps the attention on the image and not on the border. Furthermore, I showed you how to automate creating borders by using Photoshop actions and set up a batch job to apply it to a whole folder in one go.

I hope you found it useful.

If you want it even easier, I have made a bundle of ready-made Photoshop actions including this one. You can even choose between different border sizes. If you are interested, I suggest you check out the action bundle: Photoshop Actions for Photographers.

Do you use borders for your images? Share your experience and methods on adding Photoshop borders to your images below.

3 thoughts on “How to use Photoshop Actions to Add a Beautiful Border?”

    • Hi Craig,

      Thanks for commenting. If you don’t want to increase the total canvas size, but still want to have an action do the work for you could try to modify the following in the action:

      – Decrease the image-size by 10%
      – Add 11,13% to the canvas size (which will be your border).

      This will roughly make you end on the same pixel width/height as the original. If might be off by one or two pixels.

      I hope this helps you.

      Because of your comment, I decided to add 4 more border actions to the action package in my store: (or just go to the store, to learn more.

      Two actions for black borders and two actions white borders, which adds a 5% or 10% border (keeping the same size).

      Thanks again,

  1. Hey Peter,
    I need to create bordering action to print 3:2 images on an A4 sheet. As 3:2 and A4 sizes are not exactly same, the extra height below the photo is to used for captioning. Also, this action is to be used on photos from different cameras (thus different sizes due to different megapixels). Please suggest a way to do this without losing any edges of the photo.


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