Photoshop is an incredibly powerful but also intimidating application. If you’ve wanted to start using Photoshop but didn’t know where to start, we’ll be teaching you the basics all week long.
The video above is your lesson. It’s short considering how much it covers and long considering it’s on the internet. In the video, we take a look at every tool in the toolbar, your palettes on the right side of the screen, and what you’ll find in the menus. Below you’ll find a reference for this lesson. Once the lessons are over, we’ll provide everything all in one place and a downloadable PDF file containing references for each lesson.
Wait! I don’t have Photoshop!
Are you not currently a Photoshop user? Adobe offers a Photoshop 30-day trial that you can download right now and it will provide you with plenty of time to learn how it works. If you don’t want to eventually purchase Photoshop because it’s too expensive, much of what we’re going to discuss in these lessons will apply to not just to Photoshop but pretty much most of the standard photo-editing and design tools you’ll find (Pixelmator is a great $30 alternative on the Mac, and GIMP is a free, open-source cross-platform option). We’ve chosen Photoshop because it’s the most commonly used, but you’re welcome to follow along using other software as well. Today’s lesson is pretty Photoshop-specific, but as we move along you should be able to use other software to do most of what we discuss.
Ready? Let’s get started.
We’re not going to take a look at every single tool but we are going to look at almost every one of them. While this overview will give you an idea of what each tool does, go find yourself a photo and start playing around with them.
Move Tool (Keyboard: V)
The move tool simply lets you move objects in a given layer around the Photoshop canvas. To use it, click anywhere on the canvas and drag. As you drag, the Photoshop layer will move with your mouse.
Marquee (Keyboard: M)
The marquee lets you select part of the canvas in a specific shape. By default you get a rectangular (or perfect square if you hold down shift while selecting), but you can also select in the shape of an ellipse (or a perfect circle if you hold down shift while selecting).
Lasso (Keyboard: L)
The lasso is a free-form selection tool that lets you drag around the canvas and select anything the lasso’d area covers. Within this tool you also have access to the polygonal lasso, which lets you create a selection by clicking around on the canvas and creating points, and the magnetic lasso, which works the same as the regular lasso but attempts to detect edges for you and automatically snap to them.
Magic Wand (Keyboard: W)
Clicking an area with the magic wand will tell Photoshop to select the spot you clicked on and anything around it that’s similar. This tool can be used as a crude way to remove backgrounds from photos.
Crop Tool (Keyboard: C)
The crop tool is used to (surprise!) crop your pictures. You can specify the exact size and constrain the crop tool to those proportions, or you can just crop to any size you please.
Eyedropper (Keyboard: I)
The eyedropper tool lets you click on any part of the canvas and sample the color at that exact point. The eyedropper will change your foreground color to whatever color it sampled from the canvas.
Healing Brush (Keyboard: J)
The healing brush lets you sample part of the photograph and use it to paint over another part. Once you’re finished, Photoshop will examine surrounding areas and try to blend what you painted in with the rest of the picture.
Paintbrush and Pencil (Keyboard: B)
The paintbrush is a tool that emulates a paintbrush and the pencil is a tool that emulates a pencil. The paintbrush, however, can be set to many different kinds of brushes. You can paint with standard paintbrush and airbrush styles, or even paint with leaves and other shapes as well.
Clone Stamp (Keyboard: S)
Like the healing brush, the clone stamp lets you sample part of the photograph and use it to paint over another part. With the clone stamp, however, that’s it. Photoshop doesn’t do anything beyond painting one area over a new area.
History Brush (Keyboard: Y)
The history brush lets you paint back in time. Photoshop keeps track of all the moves you make (well, 50 by default) and the history brush lets you paint the past back into the current photo. Say you brightened up the entire photo but you wanted to make a certain area look like it did before you brightened it, you can take the history brush and paint that area to bring back the previous darkness.
Eraser Tool (Keyboard: E)
The erase tool is almost identical to the paintbrush, except it erases instead of paints.
That’s all for today! In the next lesson we’ll be learning about color correction, touch-ups, and photo enhancement.