Stretching a Photo in Illustrator

dekePod Episode 004: Photoshop, Photoshop, Photoshop. Don't you sometimes get sick of Photoshop? Me neither, but still, it's time for a change. In this episode, we stop obsessing about Photoshop (uh, kinda) and start obsessing about Illustrator. Why Illustrator? Well, first, the program rocks. Second, it provides something Photoshop doesn't: An expertly rendered envelope-style distortion function that lets you--get this--transform a horizontal photograph into a vertical one without harming the foreground image. Here's the official marketing description:

Have you ever wanted to stretch a photo's background but leave the foreground unchanged? Or turn a horizontal photo into a vertical one without making a mess of it? You can't do it in Photoshop CS3, but you can in its companion program, Adobe Illustrator. Deke shows you how in a way that'll make you so happy, you'll think you're on drugs. And wait till you see the new look! Deke is dreamy.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the new look. In this latest dekePod, I could pass for a real human being. (Just effects, of course. I'm still a wooden puppet.) If you're interested in downloading this delightful humanizing, pro-happy video, try one of these links:

  • For a high-quality QuickTime movie, right-click here and choose Save Target or Download Link or the equivalent.
  • For an M4V file that you can play on an iPod, right-click here and choose one of those same commands.
  • Or you can subscribe to dekePod via RSS or iTunes.

You can also check out the page at my book publisher O'Reilly Media.

This is a fairly elaborate technique. Which is why I promise to share more in my weekly dekeStuff column, coming at you next Monday, every Mondays, and sometimes more frequently than that. (Or less.) Take care, and don't let the vectors stretch you!

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Thank you

Thank you, great video, it's both teaching and ..uh.. kind of entertaining. In fact, it shows how you can use dsome tools in Illustrator which are hard to achieve with Photoshop. Some articles in pdf on Illustrator that I read touch upon the topic, I mean, stretching of the image. But in your example you are showing how and why, in what cases, and depending on what effect one can achieve, we should use this tool. It's illustrative and helpful. Thank you, we will be looking forward to new posts!


Hey guys thanks for sharing the information, it was a nice content to read thanks again for sharing, keep up the good work.
Panic Away

Matthew - Illustrator

I like how you presented this video. You're right that Photoshop is weak on that area. And Adobe Illustrator did it perfectly.

Matthew from Guitar Tutorial

Well photoshop has changed

Well photoshop has changed the printing scenario, now you can fix your photos anywhere and can add anything you want, I know I add Gucci coin cufflinks on my photo before adding it to facebook and you wont believe the comments' I got because of that.


I am at the verge of trying out illustrator after watching your video. The learning curve on photoshop is just too much for me to bear. Thanks for the short tutorial.

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Looking for a new photo shopping cart.........

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I personnaly like

I personnaly like illustrator alot. Not the same thing as photoshop, but it has definitly some argument to show when you are on particular job. As for the tios given here, it's fully demonstrated that illustrator is not a 2nd choice software...

Scrabble Cheat

Illustrator rules!

I can't believe people ever thought that Illustrator was a 2nd choice software. I mean, it's a completely different approach to graphic design. Photoshop is raster based and Illustrator is vector based. I'm not convinced that people understand what the difference is; however, I am convinced that some people are using both of them and just thinking that one just has a different interface than the other. Weird. I guess that's what happens when a bunch of people who don't know anything about graphic design download "free" software off the Internet because they heard it was expensive/cool to have.

Drawings in photoshop

I have been trying to draw some images in photoshop of my house to help me do some renovations. I am still having some problems doing all of the rendering, but I think I will get better at this with practice.

I prefer control myself, and

I prefer control myself, and it's definitely a worthy trick to know especially if you don't have access to Photoshop CS4. That's kind of funny that CS4 released content aware scaling just the day after you filmed this tutorial. Anyway nice tut, as well as entertaining. I learned something that I'll surely find a use for even if there's a different way of doing it.


Thank you. I am horrible with photoshop. I cant seem to figure it out. I will have to try illustrator.


Thanks for such a nice video. :)


Is it only my imagination or has this blog suddenly (re: past 24 hours) become somewhat spam laden ?

Not more spam, just less spam surveillance, drjack

Deke and I don't want robots or interns deleting comments, so we read them ourselves and remain on the lookout. Sometimes when we're both on the road, or heads down on new projects, or generally had our fill of eating spam, it gets past us for a day or two.

"Spam in the place where I live (ham and pork),
Think about nutrition, wonder what's inside it now."
----Weird Al Yancovich (Sung to the tune of REM's "Stand")

Would it be possible to

Would it be possible to implement some sort of "report spam" function?

Really appreciate this post.

It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it!

a real wood

By the way nice video. I saw most of its content in Illustrator cs4 one-one-one series but there was some extra on this film. My question isn't about this video thought.

I would want to know how to imitate the shape of the wood. I have been trying to make a real looking log or snag but the final result wasn't what I wanted. If somebody knows how to do that in Illustrator or Photoshop I would be so happy. If there is some help (that I haven't noticed) in Illustrator cs4 one-one-one series from Deke and would point the chapter, that would also help. I know my question can be very wide but I would just want to know a good working method. I have seen so awesome shapes and I envy them. :(

If there is help in Deke's Photoshop cs4 one-one one series, please let me know. I am going to buy those DVDs at some point, for sure.

Ps. I don't want to take the shape from photo and attach it, its not what I want.

Thanks for your help.

I found a way to get a really nice effect. :P I am pleased now.

Thank you, Deke

I'm a photo retoucher and many of my clients ask me to change a photo background or to make a vertical photo from a horisontal one. So your Illustrator lesson was very helpful. This technique helps me to save a lot of time.
Marta Miles

Very informative

Very informative video. Thank you deke. 24 inch bar stools web hosting

Marvellous Showman

This man is genius of marketing. I love his videos because He uses a lot of funny photos.

Da Pods

Just want to say thanks for being a photoshop freak, i love the style of the pods, it frees the mind in the most scariest of ways (don't worry nothing unnatural happened).


Hi Deke.. Shall we include watermark in the images(.jpg) by using Photoshop CS4 and is there any scripts to do something like that..Please help me out of this.. sarvanr


It's good to see that there isn't one, because I just assumed I didn't know where the heck it was. Love the podcast, definitely lots of stuff going on there. I'm guessing your not a right-winger ha ha. ______________________

Have you ever pondered why

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funny and informative!

Thanks for the info. I'm in desperate need of this kind of information PLUS i have no money for an illustrator book. Cheers and please keep it up.

INdesign CS$ one on one

Just got the CS4 suite and the book 'Indesign CS4 one on one'. I am trying to install the disc and having trouble installing the dekekeys keyboard shortcuts. I am using vista sp1. I get down to the \en_us but then there is no InDesign Shortcut Sets. there are three folders. 1. composite font > empty 2. Scripts > empty 3. workspace > has three files a. advanced_current workspace.xml b. essentials_current workspace.xml c. getting started_current workspace.xml please advise. thanks,

Flippin' spirals

Hey Deke, Any way to flip a spiral tool on-the-fly from clockwise to counter-clockwise and vice-versa? Also, for future tutorials (this one drove me nutz 'till I figured it out an hour later), you might want to note that for those of us on Wacom Tablets, there is a bug in Illustrator when trying to change on-the-fly values for spiral tool, arc tool, rectangular grid and polar grid tools, as well as various polygon tools (star tool, etc...): when an arrow key is pressed while the Wacom mouse is on the tablet, the values increase/decrease by dozens at once. The same happens with a regular mouse, but only when you drag the mouse while pressing an arrow key. Perhaps it may be worth a mention on how to avoid it in future tutorials - up to you. I'll also send a word to Adobe team. That's on Illustrator CS3, Vista 64, with a Wacom Intuos 3, but something tells me it's probably on other configurations as well. Thought you'd like to pass along before someone passes out. Cheers! -iVan P.S. Hope the Martini Hour question I sent today is not taken the wrong way; I had a Photoshop question and thought I'd have some fun with a new audio editing program I just got recently.

Horizontal vertical rotation

Hello Deke, Do you prefer to turn the horizontal image into vertical with Illustrator or do you rather use use picture award scale. I've seen you use both on same picture and as you said Adobe paid good money for it but for you as a pro, is it really what does the job???

Yes, but no, but yes

Here's the story: I and Colleen (who runs teleprompter) and a few others finished recording this episode of dekePod on Monday, June 9. That's how long ago some of these movies happened. On Tuesday, June 10, we took off for Adobe offices in San Jose, where John Nack and Bryan O'Neil Hughes proceeded to show us content-aware scaling. Which is when I started to beat my head against the table. B/c they were showing me that feature that made obsolete the dekePod I had recorded less than 24 hours earlier. But in the clear light of day, not so much. CS4's content-aware scaling function does a great job of automating the stretching process. But its controls are scarce and you are ultimately at its disposal. Which means, when it works its works well. And when it doesn't it fails miserably. By comparison, Illustrator's envelope distortion gives you all the controls you could possibly want. But it takes some effort to pull off. So I ask you, which would you prefer? Automation with unexpected results? Or control with laborious process? Me, I'll always say "both!"

I prefer control myself, and

I prefer control myself, and it's definitely a worthy trick to know especially if you don't have access to Photoshop CS4. That's kind of funny that CS4 released content aware scaling just the day after you filmed this tutorial. Anyway nice tut, as well as entertaining. I learned something that I'll surely find a use for even if there's a different way of doing it. Josh