A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Photoshop

Are you new to Photoshop? Do you want to create stylish graphics and expertly edit photos? You’re not alone. Statistics show that 54% of people edit their skin imperfections.

But Adobe Photoshop is an extensive program, so how do you know where to begin? What if you’re on a Mac? Some tutorials can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t understand the basics yet.

That’s why we’re here to help. Follow along as we go through a beginner’s guide to learning Photoshop so you can start creating superb images in no time.

What is Adobe Photoshop? What Can You Do With It?

Photoshop is an application made by Adobe as part of their Adobe Suite. It’s powerful image editing software and is one of the market’s most widely used editing programs.

Photoshops’s tools are extensive and have everything from Marquee selection tools to a Magic Eraser tool. But you don’t have to learn everything immediately, so don’t pressure yourself to take on mammoth graphic tasks while still learning Photoshop.

Photoshop can be used to design impressive graphic images, which you can use for art prints or T-shirt designs. As photo editing software, Photoshop allows the user to enhance and correct their photos with powerful tools such as Liquify and Spot Healing.

What’s in the Toolbar

When using Photoshop, you’ll notice a bar on the left-hand side with several icons. This is your toolbar and where you’ll access most of the tools in this article. In addition, some tools on the toolbar will have a little arrow in the bottom left corner, which means you can expand this menu to see further options for that tool.

For example, with the Marquee selection tool (second tool from the top), your default is a square, but when you expand the menu, you can also select the circle, oval, etc. However, when you start using Photoshop, the default tool icon will switch to your last-used tool.

Shortcut Tip: Right-click on the tool icon to expand (Win) or Control-click (Mac)

Using Layers

The next aspect of learning Photoshop is becoming familiar with layers. Think of layers as sheets of paper. Some can be transparent and others opaque, and can be layered on each other.

Layers are useful for adding filters to an image and keeping the original image intact on its own layer. To add a layer in Photoshop, you can do this in a few ways:

  • Open the Layer menu > New > Layer
  • Click on the + icon on the bottom of the bottom right side of the screen.
  • Open Layer menu > Duplicate Layer

Layers also help preserve the original image by using layers on top to edit and add to. For example, if you opened a photo, altered something, and then saved the file. When you reopen that same file, there is no way to undo or change those edits you did previously (unless you made a copy of the file before editing).

If you had your original image as the bottom-most layer and made your edits on a duplicate layer on top, once you saved and reopened, you can still access the original image and change or delete the layers you created last time.

Removing Spots and Blemishes

A common reason people use Photoshop is for its powerful editing abilities. It’s an ideal program if you want to remove blemishes or spots from your photos. These spots can be caused by dust on the sensor, or maybe you want to edit out a bird in your landscape photo.

For this, duplicate your layer (name it “edits”) and select the Spot Healing tool found on the toolbar (the icon looks like a bandaid with a marquee selection behind it, just below the Eyedropper tool icon).

Next, ensure Content-Aware is selected under the Type menu at the top of the screen. The mode should be set to Normal. With your “edits” layer and the Spot Healing tool selected, you should also have brush settings.

Find the correct size for your edit by dragging the adjustment bar. You want it to be slightly larger than the part you’re editing out. Finally, click and drag your mouse over the section you wish to remove. Release the mouse once you’ve covered all of it (the affected parts will display as black) and watch the magic unfold.

If you don’t like the edits, you can always Undo (Ctrl+Z/Cmd+Z) and try again.

Optimizing Your Photoshop Experience

Now that you’re familiar with a few tools, you’ll want to set up your preferences so that using Photoshop is a smooth experience. To get to the Preferences dialog box, open the Edit menu > Preferences > General on Windows or Photoshop>Preferences>General on Mac.

Here are some optimization and custom settings, tips, and tricks:

  • Under the General tab, check the box for “Zoom with Scroll Wheel,” which speeds things up when you need to zoom in and out for speedy editing.
  • Under the Sync Settings tab, if you use Photoshop CC on multiple devices, you can set up how you want the devices to communicate with each other. We recommend setting What to Sync to “Everything.”
  • Under the Performance tab, you want to set your Scratch Disks to a drive with sufficient space. Bonus if the drive is an SSD.

Pro Tip: If you use Photoshop extensively, you may encounter a Scratch Disk Error. You can visit setapp.com for more info on how to handle this on Mac or visit PiXimperfect on YouTube for a Windows solution.

Learning Photoshop Can Be Easy

Learning Photoshop doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you take it little by little. We learn quickest when we need to know something, so learn as you use. Don’t worry about using the Liquify tool if you don’t need to manipulate or distort your image.

Instead, spend time learning the basics to have an excellent foundation to rely on when you start branching out into more complicated edits and designs.

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