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Photoshop Tutorials For Beginners | Lesson 1: Getting Started

In this tutorial I'm going to introduce you to the amazing image editing application that is Photoshop. If you're new to Photoshop, or have been using it for a while but still feel a bit confused by certain things, this should be really useful for you.

This is lesson 1 in my series on Photoshop, so I will not assume that you're familiar with any best practices or unusual terminolog yet. By the end of this tutorial you'll understand how the various areas of the workspace operate, as well as a few other tricks for setting up and getting the most out of Photoshop. So let's get going...

 

1. What am I looking at?

When you open Photoshop you will see the toolbar on the left, an empty gray space in the middle (where images appear when opened) and the panel area on the right (with tabs like "Adjustments" and "Masks"). That's the basic set-up, and we'll look at each of these areas independently below.

 

2. Opening images in Photoshop

Opening images is really easy. There are several ways to do it:

a) Go to File>Open and select an image from your computer.

b) Hit Cmd/Ctrl + O and select an image from your computer.

c) Drag an image straight from your Desktop into Photoshop.

d) Open an image from Bridge or Mini Bridge.

Screenshot for options a) and b) above

 

3. Viewing images in Photoshop

When an image is opened it fills the main area in the middle of the screen.

To quickly resize it so that it fits the screen, and is not too small or too large, press Cmd/Ctrl + 0. If you wish to zoom in to take a closer look at a certain area, just hold Cmd/Ctrl and tap "+" a few times. When zoomed in you can move around the image by holding space to use the hand tool, and drag with the mouse. To zoom out hold Cmd/Ctrl and tap "-".

When you have more than one photo open in Photoshop, you can choose how to display them. Click on the Arrange Documents icon at the top and choose from the options. The default setting is to display each image independently (the first option, a blank rectangle). I almost always use this. But try out the other options too, which allow you to display images side-by-side in a grid.

Using a grid display can be useful if you wish to add one image to another as a layer. To do this, select the Move tool (the top option on the left hand toolbar) and drag the image across on to another one.

 

4. Setting Photoshop preferences

Before you get going with Photoshop, it's well worth setting as few Preferences. Go to Photoshop>Preferences if you use a Mac, or Edit>Preferences if you're on a PC. Choose General, then Performance from the options on the left hand side. This Performance section is really important, because it lets you control the Memory Use, Scratch Disks, GPU Settings and History & Cache.

Under History & Cache look at the History States option. This refers to the number of available 'undo' steps. The default setting of 20 is not likely to be enough, and you'll probably end up stuck with some edits that you don't want before long, if you leave this as it is. So increase the number to something more useful. I set mine at 100, because I'm never likely to need quite that many.

Next look at the Memory Use section. This determines the amount of your computer's memory that's used for Photoshop, which impacts the speed at which operations are performed. I've had enough infuriating delays when making edits to increase this significantly above the default setting. I suggest you increase memory too, because it will make life easier for you.

5. Using the panel area

Back in the main workspace, take a look at the panels on the right hand side. These are a really important area of Photoshop, and you can customize them to suit your own preferences. It's important to set things up in a way that you're happy with.

You'll notice lots of different sections to the panel area, with tabs like Adjustments, Layers and Masks (we'll look at these in more detail in a later lesson). There are lots more panels available, which you can choose whether or not to display. Here's how:

Go to the Window menu and choose from the long list of options. For example, click Histogram, a panel which it's always important to make regular use of.

It will appear as a floating window which you can move around the screen:

You can choose where to dock it in the panel area. This is completely your decision. You might like to put it just above the Adjustments panel, for example.

I like to add panels to the thin bar in-between the main panels and the image area. Drag it into position to dock it. A little icon signifying the histogram will appear. Click this once to expand the histogram, and again to close it. This is a really good system because it's uncluttered and simple:

 

6. Using the toolbar

The toolbar is on the left hand side of the workspace. It features a long list of tools, represented by little symbols. Tools like the Move tool, brush tool, clone tool, dodge tool, burn tool and lassoo tool are all incredibly useful (we'll look at them in detail in later lessons).

Click and hold on any one of the tools that has a little arrow next to it (almost all of them) to see the alternative versions of that tool that are available. For example, clicking and holding on the dodge tool will produce a submenu with the burn and sponge tools.

The brush tool sub-menu

The options for each tool are displayed across the control bar at the top when it is selected (for example size, hardness opacity for the brush tool).

At the bottom of the toolbar are 2 little colour squares, for which the defaults are black and white. These are your foreground and background colours, which are very useful when making subtle changes to layers, in conjunction with the brush tool (again, explained in a later lesson!).

 

7. Using keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop

You'll soon find that you use certain commands a lot of the time in Photoshop. So knowing a few keyboard shortcuts makes life a lot easier. Here are some common ones that you'll find useful:

Step Forward: Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + Z

Step Backward: Alt + Cmd/Ctrl + Z

Open Image: Cmd/Ctrl + O

New Document: Cmd/Ctrl + N

Save As: Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + S

Fit Image To Screen: Cmd/Ctrl + 0

Zoom In: Cmd/Ctrl + "+"

Zoom Out: Cmd/Ctrl + "-"

Temporarily View Full Image When Zoomed In: Hold "H" and click

 

It's even possible to customize keyboard shortcuts to make them easier to remember. Go to Edit>Keyboard Shortcuts. Choose a command and then enter the keys you wish to use for the shortcut.

You'll be told whether those keys can be used, or whether they clash with an existing shortcut (if they do clash, you can still set them, but they will only work once you've changed the keys for the other command they were originally used for). It's a good idea to use F1, F2, F3 etc. for your most commonly needed shortcuts.

 

8. Saving workspaces in Photoshop

Having set up the workspace with your customized panel area and keyboard shortcuts, you can save this set-up as a "Workspace". Just click on the double arrow in the top right and choose "New Workspace".

Give it a name. This could be relevant to what you'll be doing in the workspace (if you intend to create more than one, e.g. "Printing" and "Editing"). I just have one workspace, called Josh Austin. Be sure to tick the Keyboard Shortcuts checkbox. Your new workspace will appear along the top, next to "Essentials" and "Design".

 

So that's about it for lesson 1 on using Adobe Photoshop! You now know how to: Open images, arrange the layout of multiple images, set Photoshop preferences, customize the panels area, use the toolbar, use/customize keboard shortcuts and save a workspace.

I hope this was helpful. You can now start learning about organizing and editing photos.

For a beginner-friendly book with step-by-step Photoshop tutorials, I recommend "Photo Nuts and Post" by Neil Creek.

Photoshop Tutorials For Beginners

Lesson 1: Getting Started In Photoshop

Lesson 2: Introducing Photoshop Layers

Lesson 3: Organizing Photos In Adobe Bridge

Lesson 4: How To Read A Histogram In Photoshop

Lesson 5: Photoshop Blending Modes and Techniques

Lesson 6: Having Fun With Adjustment Layers

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