If you’re just starting out with Adobe Photoshop, it can be challenging to know which features you should focus on learning first. In this post, we’ll cover the essential skills that you need to know to get started using the program for basic edits.
When starting out, the basic skills to learn in Photoshop include navigating the interface, working with layers, making basic edits and enhancements, and understanding image resolution and file formats. These skills will give you a strong foundation to build upon as you learn more advanced techniques and create professional-quality designs.
Master these basics and you’ll be well on your way to creating professional-quality designs with confidence. If you find this post useful, make sure to check out What Are Photoshop Neural Filters? or for an overview of other Adobe software, try Adobe Creative Cloud: Apps and Tools Explained. Now let’s get started!
Navigating the Photoshop Interface
Navigating the Photoshop interface is an essential skill for anyone working with the software. The Photoshop interface is made up of various panels, menus, and tools that you can use to access the different features and functions of the software.
The main Photoshop window is divided into three main areas: the Document window, which displays your open image or document; the Tools panel, which contains the tools you can use to edit and manipulate your image; and the Options bar, which displays options and settings for the currently selected tool. In addition to these main areas, the Photoshop interface also includes various panels and menus that you can use to access additional features and functions.
The Layers panel, for example, allows you to manage the layers in your image, while the Adjustments panel allows you to make color and tonal adjustments. The File menu and the Edit menu contain commands for saving, exporting, and modifying your image, while the Filter menu contains a range of filters and effects that you can apply to your image.
For a more detailed explanation, check out Adobe’s video overview below:
By familiarizing yourself with the Photoshop interface, you will be able to more easily access the tools and features you need to create and edit your images.
Making Basic Edits and Enhancements
There are many different tools and features in Photoshop that you can use to make basic edits and enhancements to your work. Some common edits and enhancements that you can make in Photoshop include:
- Adjusting color and tone: You can use the Adjustments panel or the Color Balance and Curves tools to adjust the overall color and tone of your image.
- Retouching and cloning: You can use the Clone Stamp tool and the Healing Brush tool to remove blemishes, distractions, or other imperfections from your image.
- Applying filters and effects: You can use the Filter menu or the Layer Styles panel to apply a variety of filters and effects to your image, such as blurs, sharpening, and color adjustments.
- Adding text and shapes: You can use the Type tool and the Shape tools to add text and shapes to your image and customize their appearance using the options in the Character and Properties panels.
- Resizing and transforming: You can use the Transform tools in Photoshop, such as the Free Transform tool, to resize, rotate, skew, or distort your images or elements. You can also use the Crop tool to resize the canvas or remove unwanted areas of an image.
For an overview of one of Photoshop’s more advanced filters, check out my post What Are Photoshop Neural Filters?.
Using Presets and Templates
Using presets and templates in Photoshop can save time and help you achieve professional-quality results quickly. Presets are pre-defined settings or configurations that you can apply to your images or projects to achieve a specific effect or style.
Photoshop comes with a wide range of built-in presets for things like color adjustments, filters, and brushes, as well as the ability to create and save your own custom presets.
To use a preset in Photoshop, you can simply select it from the Presets panel and apply it to your image or project.
Templates, on the other hand, are pre-designed layouts or documents that you can use as a starting point for your own projects.
Photoshop comes with a number of built-in templates for things like business cards, brochures, and social media graphics, as well as the ability to create and save your own custom templates. To use a template in Photoshop, you can simply open it and customize it to fit your needs.
Presets and templates can be a useful tool for streamlining your workflow and achieving consistent results, especially when working on projects with similar requirements or styles.
To find out more about of one of Photoshop’s more advanced filters, check out my post What Are Photoshop Neural Filters?.
Working with Layers
Layers are one of the most useful and important features in Photoshop. The principal behind layers is that they allow you to build up effects and make changes to an image without permanently altering the original pixels. This helps to protect the integrity of your image and gives you the ability to make adjustments and try out different effects without worrying about damaging the original.
To create a new layer, you can simply click the “Create a new layer” button in the Layers panel and give it a name. You can also copy, delete, and select layers by using the options in the Layers panel.
The sequence of layers in the panel determines the order in which they are applied to the image, so you can move the contents of a layer up or down in the stack by dragging it to a new position. You can also group layers together by selecting them and clicking the “Group layers” button.
In addition to regular layers, Photoshop also offers adjustment layers, which allow you to make color and tonal adjustments to your image without permanently altering the underlying pixels. You can also lock layers to prevent accidental changes, and control the transparency of a layer using the Opacity slider in the Layers panel.
Check out the video below for a great demonstration of how layers work:
Brushes in Photoshop are a powerful tool that allow you to apply paint, effects, and other adjustments to your images in a variety of ways. The principal behind brushes is that they allow you to selectively apply changes to specific areas of an image rather than applying them globally.
There are many different types of brushes available in Photoshop, each with its own unique characteristics and uses. You can change the size and hardness of a brush using the options in the Brush panel, and if you are using a graphics tablet, you can also adjust the pen sensitivity to fine-tune your brush strokes.
In addition to the default brushes that come with Photoshop, you can also import and export brushes to use in your projects. This allows you to access a wide range of custom brushes and extend the capabilities of the software.
Overall, brushes are a versatile and essential tool for anyone working with Photoshop.
Using Selection Tools
Selection tools in Photoshop are used to select specific areas of an image for editing or to isolate specific elements within an image. The premise behind selection tools is that they allow you to precisely define the areas of an image that you want to work on, rather than making global changes to the entire image.
There are several selection tools available in Photoshop, including the Lasso tool, the Rectangle tool and the Point Selection tool. You can use these tools to draw freeform or geometric selections around the areas you want to select. In addition, the Magic Wand tool allows you to select areas of similar pixels such as a patch of color.
You can also use the Selection tools to add or subtract from an existing selection by holding down the Shift or Alt/Option key while making your selection.
Selection layers in Photoshop allow you to save and work on a selection as its own independent layer, which can be useful for making complex or precise changes to specific areas of an image.
For documentation on selections, head over to Adobe’s user guide website.
Paths in Photoshop are a powerful feature that allows you to create and edit precise shapes and lines using Bezier curves. Paths are created using the Pen tool or other Paths tools, and are stored in the Paths panel.
You can use paths to create custom shapes, mask out specific areas of an image, or create vector graphics. To create a path in Photoshop, you can use the Pen tool to click and drag on the canvas to create anchor points and control handles. These anchor points and control handles allow you to fine-tune the shape and curvature of the path.
You can also use the Paths panel to edit existing paths by adding or deleting anchor points, adjusting the curvature of the path, or closing the path to create a shape.
Once you have created a path, you can use it to create a selection, a mask, or a shape layer.
Working with Text and Shapes
Working with text and shapes in Photoshop is a common task for many designers and photographers. Photoshop offers a range of tools and features for adding and formatting text and shapes in your images and graphics.
To add text to an image, you can use the Type tool and click on the canvas to create a new text layer. You can then type your text and use the options in the Character and Paragraph panels to customize the font, size, color, alignment, and other formatting options.
You can also use the Character panel to add special effects such as drop shadows and strokes to your text.
For a great introduction video see below:
To add shapes to an image, you can use the Shape tools and draw the desired shape on the canvas. You can customize the shape’s fill and stroke color, as well as its size and position, using the options in the Properties panel. You can also use the Paths panel to create and edit custom shapes using Bezier curves.
Saving and Exporting Files
There are several common filetypes that you can use to save and export your work in Photoshop, including JPEG, PNG, and TIFF. Each of these filetypes has its own unique characteristics and uses, so it’s important to choose the right one for your project.
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a common file format for saving images that will be displayed on the web or used in print. It is a lossy format, which means that it compresses the file size by sacrificing some image quality.
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is another common file format for saving images that will be used on the web. It is a lossless format, which means that it does not compress the file size and preserves the image quality.
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is a high-quality file format that is often used for printing or professional photography workflows.
To export a file in Photoshop, you can use the “Save As” command and select the desired file format from the dropdown menu. You can also use the “Export” command to save your work in a specific file format or to optimize it for a particular use.
To save your work in Photoshop, you can use the “Save” command or use the “Save As” command to save a copy of your file with a different name or file format. It’s important to regularly save your work as you go to avoid losing any progress.
Additionally, it’s a good practice to save a copy of your work in a different file format or location as a backup in case the original file becomes corrupt or is lost.
Understanding Image Resolution
Image resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image, and is typically measured in pixels per inch (PPI). Higher resolution images contain more pixels, which can result in more detailed and clearer images.
However, higher resolution images also tend to have larger file sizes, which can make them more difficult to work with and take longer to save and export.
Lower resolution images have fewer pixels, which can result in lower image quality and a less detailed appearance.
When working with images in Photoshop, it’s important to consider the intended use and audience for the image, as well as the available file size and resolution. For example, images that will be displayed on the web generally require a lower resolution (72 PPI) than images that will be printed (300 PPI or higher). By understanding image resolution, you can ensure that your images are of the appropriate quality and size for your specific needs.
Image resolution can be set in Photoshop when creating a new file or via the Image Size command under the Edit menu.
For a more detailed explanation, head over to Adobe’s article on the topic here.
Whether you’re learning Photoshop for your new side-hustle or another purpose, knowing which skills to learn first will give you a strong foundation before moving onto more advanced techniques.
Featured image: SergeyKatyshkin / stock.adobe.com
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