Have you been thinking about buying Photoshop, but are intimidated by the learning process? I understand how you feel. Photoshop is a powerful editor that can transform your everyday images into works of art, but it does take a while to learn. The best way to tackle this robust software is to commit to learning the basics. Before you know it, you’ll have an arsenal of editing hacks you’ll rely on time and time again. Let’s learn how to edit photos in Photoshop using the first 6 tools in the tool bar.
Table of Contents
What Is Adobe Photoshop?
Developed by Adobe Inc., Photoshop is a raster graphics editor compatible with both Windows and MacOS. Photoshop is an industry standard when it comes to editing images and graphics. In fact, it’s so popular and used by so many, that the noun “Photoshop” has also morphed into a verb “to photoshop,” which is now part of the English vernacular.
A rastics editor is a computer program where users can interactively create and edit a variety of graphics directly from their computer screens. These graphics can then be saved in various formats, including JPEG, GIF, PNG, and TIFF.
Raster images comprise rows and columns of dots that are referred to a “pixels.” These pixels are the standard form of digital cameras.
Photoshop is such a powerful and comprehensive editing program, there’s really no limit to what you can do. I’ve used it for 15 years and I can’t imagine life without it. It’s truly that indispensable of a tool.
Of course, you can’t learn Photoshop in a weekend course, so the best way to start learning is by familiarizing yourself with the interface, which is the main purpose of this post. I will link to several tutorials below. If one interests you, visit the link and start learning.
Let’s start by taking a peek at the interface and a brief introduction to each of the tools. This is Part 1 of my 4-part series where I’ll be covering the first 6 tools in the toolbar. There are 25 tools in total.
The first step is to create a new file so we have something to work with. Go to “File” then “New” or open an image you already have on your desktop. Right click on the image, and choose the version of Photoshop you’re using. Incidentally, I’m using Adobe Photoshop CC 2018.
If you’re creating a new file, you’ll see this window pop up. Keep all of the settings the same, but change the width and height, depending on your project. Since you’re likely not working on a project, leave the default dimensions as they appear.
If you are working on a particular project, for instance, creating a YouTube thumbnail, Facebook graphic, or logo, find the dimensions of those specific graphics, and fill in the width and height accordingly. Then press “Create.”
You’ll now have a blank white screen in which to use the tools we’ll be working with. See the “History” tab in the upper right? Every time you make an edit, it will be reflected in that box.
You can undo your edits by clicking on the edit you want to remove or by selecting the trash can icon. Your previous edit will then disappear. Or go up to the tool bar, click “Edit,” and “Undo.” Alternatively, you can use the quick command, Command Z.
If you decide you don’t want to undo the edit after all, simply click “Edit” and “Redo.” This ability to undo and redo edits is one of Photoshop’s most convenient features.
In the lower, right-hand corner, you’ll see the “Layers” editor. Every layer and element you add, will be added to this editor. As you can see, we have only one background layer. When you make a new layer, it will automatically be locked. To unlock it, click on the padlock icon to the right.
The First 6 Tools In Photoshop
Now let’s learn about the first 6 tools.
1. The Move Tool
The 1st tool on the toolbar is the “Move” tool. It’s looks like a plus sign with arrows on each end. You will use this handy tool time and time again. See how I’ve moved the white square in the screenshot below? That gray-checkered area you see underneath is transparent.
Transparencies are convenient for pasting elements of existing images. They also allow you to export files as PNGs of GIFs, with the transparent section removed. These files are good to use on social media, for example.
Read my post “How To Make A Round Photo In Photoshop” to learn more about transparent backgrounds.
The quick command, or shortcut, for the move tool is “V.” Click on it to move your image. It’s quicker than navigating to the tool itself.
2. The Marquee Tool
The 2nd tool in the toolbar is the “Marquee” tool. This is another tool you’ll use a lot. You can choose between a rectangular or elliptical marquee.
The Single Row Marquee and Single Column Marquee Tools are used for trimming small portions from the edges of an image.
I’m using the Elliptical or round marquee. See below.
The quick command for the marquee tool is “M.” You can determine what the quick command is by viewing the letter to the right. See the screenshot above.
Marquees are great for selecting areas you want to copy, crop, or cut. It’s also handy for selecting an area you want to add a filter, color, or special effect to.
3. The Lasso Tool
The 3rd tool down is the Lasso Tool. This is used to outline objects in order to move them. While I’ve used this tool quite a bit, it isn’t one I use every time I edit.
If you right click on a tool, you’ll see a visual demonstration of how the tool is used. The quick command for the Lasso Tool is the letter “L.”
You can see how I’ve outlined the apple in the photo below. The Lasso Tool is used to make selections of various objects on your image.
Try your hand at any of the three tools in the Lasso Tool section to see which one you like best. The Polygonal Lasso Tool is a combination of the Lasso and The Rectangular Marquee Tool. It’s used to manually make selections.
The Magnetic Lasso Tool takes awhile to get used to, but once you master it, it’s easy to make selections because of its ability to detect the edges of an object. You’ll see what I mean when you try it.
To deselect your selection, go to the toolbar at the top, and click “Select” then “Deselect.”
4. Magic Wand Tool
The 4th tool is the “Quick Selection” and “Magic Wand” Tools. The Magic Wand is one of the oldest Photoshop tools, and rather than selecting pixels like the other selection tools do, it makes selections based on color and tone.
The Quick Selection Tool is used to select objects as well, and true to its name, it really is quick. In the top menu, click on “Select” and then “Subject.” Now click on the area in your photo you want selected. The Quick Selection Tool will automatically outline your subject or object.
I find this tool much easier than trying to outline free hand with the Lasso tools. The shortcut for this tool is “W.” See below:
5. The Crop Tool
The 5th tool is the “Crop” tool, and it’ll be one of your most frequently used tools, because you’ll most likely be cropping each image you edit. The quick command is “C.”
The Perspective Crop Tool is used to alter perspective on an image. When using this tool, you’ll see a grid on your photo. By dragging the handles in the corners, you can fix the perspective by straightening the image.
This is what the grid looks like. Experiment with the corner handles to alter the perspective:
The Slice and Slice Select Tools are used to “slice” images for faster download times. You can create .html files, and save them to the web. I don’t use these tools much, but I’ve heard they’re quite useful, and simpler to use than the crop tool.
6. The Eyedropper Tool
Our last, or 6th tool, for this post is the “Eyedropper Tool.” The shortcut key is “I.”
The “Eyedropper” is used to sample a color from a photo in order to duplicate it. This way you can perfectly match the color you’re looking to duplicate. The tool takes all the colors surrounding your sample color to come up with an average color.
After selecting your color, you’ll see the match reflected in your “Color Picker.” You can then use that exact color in your project. Press “OK” to save it.
Watch the video below to learn how to use the “Eyedropper Tool.”
If you’re serious about learning Photoshop, check out my previous tutorials on how to create professional-looking images.
Here are some you may want to read:
Photoshop has 25 different tools in its interface, each with its own unique function. The first 6 tools will allow you to crop images, move elements, change perspective, match sample colors, and make selections.
I hope this brief overview gave you a taste of the tools within Photoshop. Have fun editing your images!
What are your favorite tools in Photoshop? Let me know in the comments:)