I’m Brian Mackenzie from TrustRadius, and in this post, I’ll be going over the basics of PhotoShop. PhotoShop is a popular program for creating graphics, print marketing materials, and editing photos. It can also be intimidating for new users, with many tools and features that aren’t easy to use for beginners. For that reason, we made this video going over the basics of PhotoShop, and how to use all the tools the program has to offer.
I use PhotoShop to create video graphics, channel banners, and to touch up photos and graphs for blog posts. Photoshop offers all sorts of advanced features that you can learn as you use it more, but today I’ll be showing you enough to get you started with the program. Throughout this video I’ll be going over when you should use PhotoShop, how to make a project, what each PhotoShop tool does, as well as how layers work. There are time stamps in the description if you want to jump to a specific portion of the video.
a. Move Tool
b. Marquee Tool
c. Lasso Tool
e. Crop Tool
f. Frame Tool
i. Brush Tool
n. Blur Tool
o. Dodge Tool
p. Pen Tool
q. Text Tool
s. Shape Tool
t. Hand Tool
u. Zoom Tool
What is PhotoShop for?
PhotoShop is built for editing photos and creating rasterized images, meaning detailed images where the dimensions of the image are static. It is a popular choice for creating banner ads, video graphics, and graphics for print materials. Conversely, for vector based images that need to scale up and down without losing their detail, PhotoShop’s sister program, Illustrator may be a better choice. As a general rule, if you know the size of the graphic you want to make, PhotoShop is a good choice. If that graphic needs to scale up and down, Illustrator is the way to go.
Creating a Project and learning the interface
Now that we know when to use PhotoShop, we can make our first project. To create a project, click create new on the left, or click new in the file menu. I like to use the file menu, as that will always be accessible no matter what screen you are on in PhotoShop. Either way, it will pull up this screen with the default PhotoShop size. You can change the dimensions of the project, as well as the unit of measure. You can set them to whatever is appropriate for your project. I like to use pixels for digital work because it gives me the exact height and width and makes that easily changeable.You can also change the orientation, or you can set resolution manually by changing the project measurements. The rest of the settings can be left as their defaults for new users.
Once you make your project, PhotoShop will give you a white canvas and a list of tools on the left side of the screen. This white canvas is called the background layer. You can see that if I try to edit the background, PhotoShop will tell me I can’t unless I convert it to a normal layer. I’ll talk more about layers later, but for now I’m going to change this background layer to a normal layer by clicking the lock button associated with the layer. To add an image to the project we can go into our folder where the image is, and just drag the file into our project. You can also add an image by clicking file, open, and then selecting the file to be added on your computer.
The first tool PhotoShop gives us is the move tool, which lets you drag elements around the project. You may notice the checkerboard pattern behind our white background. This indicates transparency. If I were to export this project as it is, the checkerboard portion would be totally transparent, so we could put a graphic behind the background and it would be visible.. This is useful when creating graphics to add to a document or larger infographic.
After the Move tool is our marquee tool, If we right click, we can choose what shape our marquee is. We use the marquee to let us select specific portions of a project.. For example, I can select a rectangle in the center of my project, and then interact with it using other tools, such as the move tool. I can also press the “delete” key on my keyboard to remove the selected area. If I want to select a rounded area, I can right click the tool and change it to an ellipse marquee. This tool makes it easy to do things such as selecting and removing or rearranging portions of a project.
The Lasso tool, below the rectangular marquee, is very similar to the marquee, except you can draw weirder shapes or irregular patterns. If you want to move an oddly shaped portion of a photo, you can use this tool to draw around it, and then delete it, or move it with the move tool.
The object selection tool lets us pick out an object without grabbing the background. For example, if I select the area around the logo, it will only select the logo, and not any of the white background. This tool isn’t perfect, and will sometimes leave something you meant to select behind. That said, it will work well for some images, and is a major time saver when it does. If you right click this tool, you can select the magic wand, which allows you to select an object by clicking it. Like the object selection tool, sometimes this will miss parts of your object. Even when this tool doesn’t work perfectly, it can be a good start for selecting an object.
The crop tool lets us change the size of our canvas, potentially removing unwanted parts of an image. If I only wanted the top part of my logo, and no extraneous background, I can use the crop tool to trim the canvas. You can drag the corners of the tool to set the size of the crop, and drag the project to place it properly in the center. Once you are happy with your crop, click anywhere outside the center of the crop to confirm it. You can undo a crop by pressing CTRL+Z on your keyboard.
The frame tool lets you create a space for an image to go. To use it, you click and drag to create the frame, and then drag an image from your computer into the frame. From here, you can adjust the size of the frame, and the position of the image in the frame. Any part of the image that is out of frame won’t appear in your project. You may notice that the frame counts as a new layer, so it can be edited separately from our background.
The eyedropper tool is used to select colors. Many tools require you to input a color to use, so if you want to make sure you have a color that matches your project, you can select a color from an element of your project by clicking on it.
Spot Healing Tool
The Spot healing, or blemish remover tool is used to get rid of color abnormalities. So if you had something like a stain on a shirt in an image, you could use this tool to try to remove it. If I zoom into an image and add a color that doesn’t belong, I can use this tool to remove that color. This tool works best if the blemish you are trying to remove is on a monocolored background. The more complex the background, the more likely this tool is to be ineffective.
The brush tool is simply used to draw colors onto your project. You can select the color by clicking the colored square on the left side of the screen, or by using the eyedropper tool to select a color in your project. You can also change the size of the brush using the menu on the top left of the screen, allowing you to make changes at the size of a single pixel if you want to.
Clone Stamp Tool
The clone stamp tool lets you copy a portion of your project and paste it elsewhere. To copy, select the tool, hold the “alt” key, and click on the object you want to copy. Then release alt and use left click to paste, you’ll notice a cross where you alt clicked, this indicates what portion of the object is being copied. You can use this to easily recreate objects in your project.
History Brush Tool
The history brush tool can be thought of as sort of a fancy “undo” tool. If I were to delete a portion of my project, I can use the history brush to return part of it to its previous state. This can be used to fix changes that were made too long ago for you to fix with the undo button.
The eraser tool lets you left click to delete elements of your project. You can change the size of the eraser using the menu in the top left.
The gradient tool creates a gradient in a selected area based on the colors you have selected. You can change these colors using the menu on the bottom left. Notably the gradient will cover anything you have placed on the layer, so if you want to use a gradient as a background, you should have it on a different layer than your other objects.
The blur tool is used to make parts of your project blend together. For example, if I zoom in on an image, you can easily see that using the blur tool helps blend two different colors together in the center, creating a soft transition between the two blues.
The dodge tool is used to lighten areas. To use it, hover over the area you want to lighten, and left click. Each time you click, the area will become lighter, eventually becoming white.
The pen tool can be used to draw lines and shapes, but is most often used to make specific selections that avoid whitespace. When using the tool, you can left click to create a starting point, and then click again to make another point with a line between it and the starting point. You can keep clicking like this until you have the shape you want. This is often used to select complex shapes in an image so you can move, delete, or edit them. I’ll go into more detail on paths later, but they are basically outlines we can use to make selections, or draw new objects
The text tool is used to add text to a project. To use it, simply left click where you want the text to appear and start typing. You can adjust font, text size, and color in the menu to the right, or in top left. Once you finish typing you can hit escape to exit the typing interface. You can drag text around with the move tool. Notably, text added with the text tool is added as a new layer.
Path Selection Tool
The path selection tool is used to select paths. We made a path earlier when we used the pen tool, so we can select it by left clicking it, allowing us to drag, edit, or delete it. If you haven’t made a path in your project, this tool won’t have anything to select.
The shape tool, or the rectangle tool by default, lets us draw different shapes. By right clicking the tool we can select what sort of shape we want to create. Once we’ve selected our shape, simply left click and drag in your project to create the shape. You can edit features like color and dimensions in the menu on the top right. PhotoShop also provides a library of custom shapes you can use, including animals and plants.
The hand tool allows you to pan around your project. If the entire project fits on your screen, the tool won’t do anything unless you zoom in. You can use this tool to choose which part of the project you are looking at while editing.
The zoom tool lets you zoom in and out of your project. To zoom in, just select the tool and left click in your project. You can click multiple times for a closer zoom. You can also right click your project to return to normal size, or zoom out.
Layers in photoshop are used to segment your project into canvases you can edit separately. Layers are transparent by default, so you can see through them to the layers below. The base layer of most PhotoShop projects is the background.
If we try to add a gradient background to an existing layer with the gradient tool, it will cover all our work, so we should instead create a background layer and put our gradient there. We can then create layers on top of that where we add our images. This will still allow us to see the background, but it won’t cover up our other work.
We can also hide layers by clicking the eye next to them in the bottom right layer. This allows us to easily see what our project would look like without a certain element without having to delete that element. Don’t be afraid to add as many layers as you need when working in PhotoShop. Many projects require the use of many layers.
Hopefully now you have an understanding of all of PhotoShop’s tools that you can use to perform basic photo editing with PhotoShop. If you are on the fence about PhotoShop, feel free to check out some trusted reviews on TrustRadius, like this highly detailed review from a user interface designer. Alternatively, if you are already using the program, we at TrustRadius would love to hear your review.