Photoshop is such a powerful tool that today there is the verb "photoshop". It is one of the most popular software applications on the planet, but it has a reputation for being very difficult to learn. This wikiHow will debunk that myth. Photoshop is over 20 years old, and while it has become increasingly powerful, the interface remains clean, logical, and easy to learn. Here you will first learn the basics using Photoshop CS6 and then you can move on. Continue reading!
Method 1 of 4: Basic Photoshop Tools
Step 1. Open Photoshop
If you don't have this program yet, you can download a free trial version from the Adobe.com site. Click the button Try for free at the bottom of the page. This is a 30-day free trial for you to evaluate if Photoshop is the right tool for you.
Step 2. Open a document
Press Command (Ctrl if you use Windows) and click here to open an example image in a new tab. Use it to follow this tutorial. Drag the photo to the desktop and then open it with Photoshop.
- Once you do, your screen will look like this:
Step 3. Select the Marquee Tool (M)
You can select it by clicking on its icon or by pressing the letter M (in the rest of this tutorial the shortcut key will be shown after each tool). The "Frame" tool is the most basic of all. Surely you know it, since it is present in almost all applications and operating systems and in all of them it is used in a similar way: you click and drag the cursor to select a section of the screen. Photoshop is no exception.
- If you click on the "Frame" icon and hold down the button, a small pop-up menu will appear from which you can choose different variations: "Rectangular frame"; "Elliptical frame" to select circles and ovals; "Single row frame" and "Single column frame" to select single pixel rows and columns.
- For now select "Rectangular Frame", place the cursor anywhere in the upper left quadrant of the image, click and drag the mouse. You'll see a selection with pixel values expand to its right. Drag the cursor to the center until the values are approximately W (width): 300 and H (height): 200. Then release the button.
- Click in the middle of the selection and move the cursor. Notice how the selection moves next to the cursor. Drag the selection around the brown house on the hill, as shown in the image:
- From here, you can copy the selection, move it, apply filters to it, etc. Almost every task you can do in Photoshop begins with a selection.
Step 4. Select the Lasso Tool (L)
This tool is closely related to the "Marquee" tool. Like the frame, the lasso also serves to make selections. However, this last tool allows you to do it freely. Its variants are the "Polygonal Lasso" and the "Magnetic Lasso". Select the basic bow and try it out.
- Click and hold the mouse button. Then draw a selection around the little white sailboat in the upper left corner of the window. When you get to the bottom, release the mouse button and the selection will be completed automatically. Now press Command + D (Control + D in Windows) to disable the selection. Note that this can be done with any selection.
- Press Shift + L. The cursor will change to that of the tool Polygonal lasso (When you press Shift plus a tool's shortcut, the next related tool is selected.) Notice the black arrow that appears at the top left of the polygonal lasso cursor - that's where the click point is.
- Click anywhere on the image. Notice how when you move the mouse the start point remains fixed while the dotted lines extend towards the cursor. Click again and the next point will remain fixed. You can keep clicking until you complete the selection with shapes as simple as a triangle or as complex as you like. When you reach the last point, double click (instead of one) to automatically close the polygon.
- Press the Escape key at any time to cancel the current selection.
- Press Shift + L again. The Magnetic loop. Like the other lasso tools, the click point is represented by the black pointer to the upper left of the cursor.
- Try this: click and hold the button with the cursor pointing towards the water line on the bow (front) of the sailboat and slowly drag it around the sailboat. Watch the selection adjust to the sailboat as you drag the line!
- At the top of the Photoshop window, you will see some modifiers for each tool: "Feather", "Anti-aliasing", "Width", "Contrast" and "Frequency". Try each of these modifiers as you progress to see the effect they have on your selection. You can hover the mouse pointer over any element of the interface to see tips on that particular tool or setting.
Step 5. Click the Quick Selection Tool (W)
It is the advanced version of the magic wand (which is still available as an alternative tool).
- Try this: click on the brown house in the middle of the image and hold down the mouse button. Without releasing the button, drag the cursor left or right scrubbing the house with the cursor. Notice how the selection gets bigger when you do it. Make sure to select the roof, the balcony, and the rest of the house. Once you are done, you will see that some bushes have also been selected:
- There are two ways to remove shrubs from the selection with the Quick Selection tool. The first is by using the "Subtract" version of this tool.
- The other way to remove part of a selection is to hold down the Option (Alt) key, which temporarily switches the tool to the remaining version (when you do, watch the tool's modifiers change at the top of the screen).
- Either way, click and drag the cursor over the bushes that obstruct the selection to remove them from there:
- You can adjust the sensitivity of the selection by adjusting the size. The larger the size, the larger the selection. Try the following: click the standard quick select tool, set the size to 100, and then try selecting the house again:
Step 6. Select the Crop Tool (C)
This is the most used Photoshop tool according to Adobe. It is one of the tools that, in the absence of the rest, can significantly improve the composition of your photographs. When you select the "Crop" tool, small controls will appear in the corners and at the edges of the center of the image:
- To crop an image you can drag the controls around that part of the image that you want to keep or click inside the image and drag the cursor to draw the area to be cropped. Regardless of which method you choose, the area to be preserved will be displayed in normal colors and the area to be cropped in dimmed colors. Make a selection similar to this and press the ↵ Enter key:
- Notice how the focus changes in the image. Before doing anything else, click "Undo" (Command + Z if you are using a Mac or Control + Z if you are using Windows) to restore the original image dimensions. If you've made other changes, you can go back through the edit history by pressing the Command + Option + Z (Control + Alt + Z) keys.
- Cut out with perspective. Unlike traditional rectangular cropping, perspective cropping allows you to adjust the relative perspective of images while cropping. While it is an interesting and powerful tool worth trying, it is an advanced feature so it is generally explained in tutorials for more advanced users.
- The "Slice" tools, which are also in the "Crop" menu, are designed to split an image for the purpose of uploading it to a web page. Like perspective cropping, this is also an advanced tool that is often explained in user-level tutorials.
Step 7. Select the Type Tool (T)
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes pictures are not enough and you need words too! Photoshop's text tools include several options.
- With the text tool selected, click in the lower left of the image. You'll see a blinking insertion cursor. Write "Sailboats in the Bay." The text may be too large, too small, or a color that is difficult to read. It all depends on the configuration. The editor for text attributes is at the top of the Photoshop window:
- Source. In this menu, as in all font menus, you can select the desired font. You can choose it directly from the list or start writing its name. It will be completed automatically as you do it. For the purposes of this tutorial, the "Helvetica" font will be used.
- Font style. If the font has multiple styles (eg bold, italic, soft, medium, etc.), they will be available from this pop-up menu. If the menu is disabled, it means that there are no variations for the selected font. For the purposes of this tutorial, select "Normal."
- Font size. Here you can adjust the font size. You will have the option to enter a specific size or choose one from a small list. To make quick, flexible and easy changes to the font size, click on the icon of the T located to the left of this field, hold down the button and drag the cursor to the right or left. The size will change noticeably when you do.
- Smoothing. This option determines the intensity of the border blur. If you choose "None", no effect is applied and the text will display as a 1984 graphic, with staggered blocks. The following image shows a comparison of the different levels of smoothing:
- Justification. The icons say it all. Changes the alignment of the selected text layer to the left, to the center, or to the right.
- Colour. When you select the text tool for the first time, the background color tab is selected by default. To change the color, select the text layer or place the cursor anywhere in the text field. Click on the tile and select a color. All selected text, and what you write from now on, will be that color. Note: If you select a text field that has multiple colors, the color tab will display a question mark (?). The other attributes will be shown in white.
- Deform. This option bends or "warps" the text about the vertical or horizontal axis. To use it, just select the text layer, click the "Warp" button, and adjust the style and sliders to the desired look. In this tutorial we will use the "Flag" style and it will be 100% deformed.
- Panels. The panels button opens two more palettes, "Character" and "Paragraph". Use these panels to fine-tune the final details of the look of your text.
Step 8. Create an adjustable text field
To create it, click in the upper left corner of the place where you want to put the box and drag the cursor to the lower right corner. A rectangle will appear on the screen with side and corner controls.
- Write some sentences in the box. Don't worry if the text looks too big or too small. Once you finish typing, press the ↵ Enter key. If it's too small, use the "Text Size" control (at the top) to make it bigger. On the contrary, if it is too large, use that same control to reduce it.
- You can also adjust the size of the text field. Hover over any of the controls for a few seconds until it changes to a double arrow. Then drag the arrow to resize the box. The text will fit within the limits of this.
Step 9. Close the window
Save the file if you want (or discard the changes). One way or another you can download the original file from here.
Method 2 of 4: Painting Tools
Step 1. Create a new document
In the "New" dialog box, set the width to 1024 pixels, the height to 768 pixels, and the background color to white.
Step 2. Select the Brush Tool (B)
This tool is in Photoshop since version 1.0 and in all the image editing applications out there!
- In the brush menu, there are also the tools "Pencil", "Color replacement" and "Mixer brush".
- The "Brush" tool draws lines of different thicknesses, and while you can use different brushes, this tool does not include anti-aliasing options. Everything is drawn as on a bitmap.
- The "Color Substitution" tool can be very useful for replacing one color (or a variety of colors) with another.
- The "Mixer Brush" mixes different colors in a similar way as artists do in their color palettes.
- Select a color for the brush. Click the background color tab at the bottom of the tool list. A dialog box will appear with a color picker. Choose the one you like best. Red will be selected for this tutorial. Once you have chosen the color you want, click "OK" to close the window.
- Choose a brush. The easiest way to do this is by using the brush selector in the upper left of the Photoshop window. You can choose the one you want. Look at the "Size" and "Hardness" parameters. The size sets the diameter of the brush and the hardness is related to the edges. If the hardness is 100% the edges will be well defined while if it is 0% they will be blurred. Set the brush size to 30 and the hardness to 50%. You can use the sliders or directly enter the number.
- Scribble with your chosen color to see how the brush works. You can also adjust the "Opacity" and the "Flow" at the top. Opacity determines the transparency of the color. Flow determines how much color is printed on the canvas with each brush stroke.
- To see the difference between opacity and flow, set the opacity to 50% and draw a few squiggles over an area, over and over again without stopping or clicking. If you are going to use the color red, you will see a pink stain. If you lift the cursor and start scribbling again, you will see that where the old scribbles overlap with the new ones, the color will be darker. In the new scribbles it will be clearer. The opacity increases with each stroke, but not with the first. Now set it back to 100%.
- Set a flow of 25%, an opacity of 100%, and scribble again. Now observe how the color builds each time you give a new brushstroke until it is completely red. The opacity quickly increases to 100%. At 100% flow, the color is applied immediately to the canvas.
- Once you're done experimenting, clean up the canvas by pressing Command + Delete (or Control + Delete. The canvas will be filled with the background color. If you press Option + Delete (Alt + Del), it will be filled with the foreground color.
Step 3. Select the Shape Tool (U)
The "Rectangle" tool will be selected by default. Click on the "Shape" menu to select the "Polygon" tool. So you can specify the number of sides you want and automatically draw the desired shape.
- Look at the settings at the top. The "Shape" menu (which is open) allows you to select "Shape", "Path" or "Pixels". If you select "Shape", you can make a filled shape (like the ones you can create with the Pen tool). The fill color is selected from the "Fill" pop-up menu. The border color (if there is a border) is selected from the "Path" pop-up menu. The width of the plot is selected from the plot width menu. Finally, the plotting options (solid, dotted, and others) are selected from the "Plotting Options" menu.
- Another option that you should keep in mind regarding the "Polygon" tool is the "Sides" field. This option allows you to specify the number of sides of the polygon (any value between 3 and 100). You can directly enter the number of sides or click, hold the button on the word "Sides" and drag the cursor left or right to increase or decrease the number of sides.
- To create a polygon, click anywhere on the canvas and drag the cursor. The polygon will expand outward from the center of the point where you clicked. Before releasing the button, it will look similar to this image:
- Once you release the mouse button, the polygon will be filled with the selected fill color. The border will have the attributes you have set.
- Alternatively, you can quickly and easily create a polygon with a single click anywhere on the canvas. A dialog box will appear on the screen in which you can set all the parameters at once. Below is the table and the final result next to it:
Step 4. Select the Paint Bucket Tool (G)
As this is the second tool on the menu, you will first need to click on the icon in that tool's palette and then select "Paint Bucket", as shown below:
- This tool is likely to be familiar to you, as it is found in almost every application on the planet. What it does is fill a certain area with the color of your choice. Although in most applications the area to be filled should be a solid color, Photoshop allows you to adjust the tolerance level. This will also fill in pixels that fall within the color range where you originally clicked. For example, the right side of the following image has been filled with blue using the "Overlay" mode and a tolerance of 165:
- Press D to select the default foreground and background colors, and then press Command + Del (Control + Del) to clean up the canvas and fill it with white.
Step 5. Select the Gradient Tool (G)
If the "Paint Bucket" or "Place 3D Material" tool is selected, press Shift + G until the "Gradient" tool is selected. This tool allows you to fill an area with a uniform mixture of two or more colors.
- At the top of the window, click on the gradient palette and select the blue, red, and yellow gradient from the top right row by double-clicking on it.
- Click in the upper left corner and drag the cursor to the lower right corner. The canvas will look like this:
- Like the paint pot tool, the "Gradient" tool can be applied to images with different overlapping styles. Experiment with these options to see how they interact with blends in the gradient.
- If you want to edit a gradient, click on its palette. The "Gradient Editor" will open. Click the color tabs to choose a color for each point, and then move the points to set the start and end of each color. Click on the black tabs at the top to set the opacity.
- Close the "Gradient Editor".
Method 3 of 4: Retouching Tools
Step 1. Go back to the example image
Open the sample file SamplePic.jpg. If you followed the previous steps in this tutorial and saved your changes, you will now have some text boxes. Under the "Layers" tab located on the right side (if it is not there select Layers on the menu Windows), click the eye icon for all layers except the current image. Once you've deselected the text layers, click the image layer to make it the active layer.
Step 2. Select Clone Buffer (S)
The clone stamp allows you to choose one part of the image and copy it to another.
- Select a brush. At the top of the window, to the right of the clone stamp icon, is the brush palette. Click on it and select a brush as shown in the image.
- Set the brush size to 50 using the size slider.
- Set the area to clone. Before cloning an image, you must select the area that you are going to copy. Now you are going to hide the white sailboat in the middle with water. Holding down the Option (Alt) key, click on the part of the image where the water changes its texture as shown in the red crosshair:
- Doing so will transform the cursor into the image to be cloned. Move the cursor and bring it next to the white sailboat, as close as possible to the place where the texture of the water changes. It won't be perfect, but it will look pretty good. The cursor and its location should be as shown in this image (enlarged):
- Click and hold the mouse button. Now paint the boat covering as much surface area as possible. You will start to see repetitive patterns, but then you will see how to minimize them. Once you've finished clearing the pot, the screen will look like this:
- Smooth the edges of the cloned area. To soften them, click the brush palette at the top again, but this time set the hardness to 0%. In this way, the edges of the tool will gradually disappear. Select the same origin to clone again and now go over the outer edges of the cloned area. Click on different parts of the water as you clone to minimize repeating patterns. Once you're done, it will look something like this:
- If you want a real challenge, try disappearing the mast using cloning. You will need to use smaller brushes and clone areas very close to the mast.
- In the clone buffer menu there is also the motif buffer. Like the clone stamp, the motif stamp paints over an image but instead of using part of the image, it uses a motif.
- To create your own motif, select a part of the image using the "Rectangular Marquee" tool and then select Define reason… on the menu Edition. Give your new pattern a name, select the "Pattern Stamp" tool and click on the pattern palette (see image above). Paint on the image and you will see how the motif is "stamped" on it:
- If you check the "Aligned" checkbox, the pattern will be applied in smooth squares like a checkerboard, even if you brush several times.
- If you uncheck the "Aligned" box, the boxes will reset each time you click the mouse. This will make the subject look more natural.
- If you check the "Impressionist" box, random dots of pattern color will be added. The size of the dots will be determined based on the size of the brush.
Step 3. Select the History Brush (Y)
The history brush takes you to previous versions of the image, but instead of simply saving a copy and then having to open it again, the history brush allows you to paint in previous versions.
- Scroll to the top of the "History" tab. If it doesn't appear, select History on the menu Window. At the top of the "History" window you will see a thumbnail of the image. Click the checkbox next to it - that's where you are going to paint.
- Do you remember the white sailboat that you had made disappear? Now you're going to bring it back! With the history brush selected, use the brush palette to set the brush size to 100 and its hardness to 100%.
- Click and hold the mouse button where the sailboat used to be. Now start painting. The sailboat will appear again!
- Use the history brush to paint the current image and return to the original.
Step 4. Select the Spot Healing Brush (J)
It works in a similar way to the clone buffer. What it does is paint over an image using another part of it. However, in this case the origin is the area around the place where you paint. The results can be surprising.
- With the Spot Healing Brush selected, choose a 50 pixel round brush with 50% hardness.
- Look for the brown house on the hill in the middle of the image. Make small strokes from the trees towards the house starting from the right side. The house will start to disappear under the pines!
- Keep making the house disappear until it can no longer be seen. You can work around the edges to make the slopes of the hill look more natural. Once you're done, you'll be left with an image similar to this:
Step 5. Select the Dodge Tool (O)
The "Dodge" and "Burn" tools date back to the days when photographers developed their films in a dark room. When a part of the photo is overexposed, the light reaching it is blocked to brighten that area. When an area is underexposed, more light is let in in order to darken it. Photoshop's dodge and dump tools work in a similar way, only with much more reliable methods than what a piece of cardboard with a hole in the middle can provide!
- With the "Dodge" tool selected, set the brush size to 50 and the hardness to 50%. On the right of the brush palette, set the "Range" to "Highlights" and the "Exposure" to 50%.
- Now add some light to the sailboat located in the lower right. Paint the sailboat starting around where it says "The Saint." Watch how it gets brighter. If you go by and paint the wooden cabin you will notice that the change is almost imperceptible: the highlights are selectively applied to the whitest tones. The beam of light at the rear of the cabin does shine noticeably.
- Switch to the Burn tool by pressing Shift + O. You can leave the brush palette and exposure settings as is, but change the range to "Shadows." Darken the water around the sailboats. Watch the water turn much darker but the shiny sailboats are still intact. Using the dodge and dye tools well can make an image stand out.
- Switch to the Sponge Tool by pressing Shift + O. The "Sponge" tool allows you to selectively increase the saturation (enrich the colors) or reduce it (dim the colors). With the Sponge Tool selected, set the "Mode" to "Desaturate" at the top. Remove saturation from the back of the sailboat until it is black and white. Then change the mode to "Saturate". Paint the bow of the sailboat to saturate the colors. At first, the colors will get richer a bit, but they will quickly start to look cartoonish. Leave the central part of the sailboat as it is so that it can be compared.
Method 4 of 4: Advanced Tools
Step 1. Select the Pen Tool (P)
This tool is ideal for making very precise selections editable. Learning to use this advanced tool well requires a lot of practice, but it is worth doing. Select it by clicking its icon or pressing P. The cursor will look like the point of a fountain pen.
- Using the sailboat in the middle left again, click on the bow where the hull touches the water and drag the cursor over the water line until you reach the middle of the sailboat. Two controls will now extend in a straight line from the starting point of the click (anchor point). Once you get to the middle of the helmet, release the mouse button.
- Notice how the controls are still there. Now click and hold the button on the stern (rear) of the sailboat following the water line and drag the cursor up until you reach the middle of the sailboat's rear line. Don't release the mouse button yet.
- The initial controls will disappear, but others will appear that will extend from the second anchor point. Note that there is also an arched line that runs from the initial anchor point into the water and up to the second anchor point.
- If you move the control under the cursor around the second anchor point, you will see that the line bends like a rubber band. For now, do not worry if it is connected to the sailboat, you will soon solve it. Using the image below as a reference, finish adjusting the anchor points around the hull of the sailboat and then click on the initial anchor point to close the circle:
- The line that goes around the sailboat will surely look similar to the one in the previous image, only closer to it. Now you will solve it with the "Direct Selection" tool.
Step 2. Click the Direct Selection Tool (A)
Make sure the cursor is white and not black. If it's black, press Shift + A or click "Direct Selection" in the selection tools menu.
- Click on the first anchor point. The controls will appear as shown previously. Click on the far right control and shake it - watch the left and right controls move together around the anchor point. Now press Command + Option (Control + Alt, click the control on the far right and drag it up.
- Notice how only the right control moves and how the line between the top anchor point of the arc and the point you are going to edit now begins to move closer to the hull. Drag the control to about the middle of the case and leave it there for now.
- Click on the lower anchor point at the stern of the ship. When you see the controls appear, click the right one and slowly lift it up. You will see how the line begins to coincide with the line of the water. Adjust that control and the left control of the first anchor point until it matches (as much as possible) that line with the water line.
- You may have to adjust the anchor points themselves. You can adjust them by clicking on them and dragging them, or by clicking on them and moving them in any direction using the arrow cursors. Once you're done, the bottom line should look like this:
- Keep adjusting the line as much as you can around the sailboat. Now it is not so important that the selection is perfect, the important thing is that you understand how the anchors and controls work. Stop when you get to this point:
- There will be places where you don't want the corners to be smooth and rounded. In those cases, you will need to disable the controls to make the corners look harder. The front edge of the cabin is one of those places. Find the anchor point you placed there, hold down the Command + Option (Ctrl + Alt) keys and click on that anchor point and the one below it. Notice how the controls disappear and the line between those two points becomes straight and not rounded.
- Once you're done adjusting the controls, right-click on the line and choose Make selection on the menu. Click on To accept in the dialog box that appears. The ship will now be selected. If you want to edit the selection, you can do it from the window Tracings. Press Command + D (Control + D) to erase the current selection, click on the path (Work Path), make sure the "Direct Selection" tool is active, and start editing! Once you finish you can make a new selection.
- Keep in mind that, if you wish, you can save the path for later use by clicking on the words Work Path, giving it a name, and pressing ↵ Enter. The layout will be saved in your document.