6 Things to Know About Photoshop

Elise Bowen

June 24, 2013

Have you ever wanted to make your friends believe you went on an amazing vacation or had an epic battle with a wild beast? Or maybe just get rid of that zit on your forehead in that photo so you can use it as your Facebook profile pic? As most of us know, you can actually do that with a little help from Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is widely accepted as the program of choice for graphic designers, photographers, and artists in this same predicament.

Here are six good practices and things to know about Photoshop that will help improve your workflow and create better images:

1- Raster Based

Know the difference

First of all, Photoshop is a raster based program. Basically that means it uses blocks of information called pixels. A photograph is a raster file. When you zoom in close you will be able to see this grid of little colored pixels. A raster image will become pixilated or blurry when blown up too large. When sizing in Photoshop you can always shrink these images down just fine, but remember when you take away pixels, you can never add them back.

2- Label Your Layers

Good Housekeeping

Opening a PSD file with hundreds of layers and no organization, or way of knowing which layer is which, can make one feel like this. Being clean and organized is not just for Martha Stewart, but for good designers too. Organize from the top down, create groups, and label everything.

3- Nondestructive Edits

Past the point of no return

All beginning Photoshoppers have run into a situation where they wish they could go back, but they have clicked the brush tool far passed what the Undo button will allow. This is where nondestructive practices can help. Copy your original image layer, turn off its visibility, and leave it there so you have the original data available if and when you need it. Also learn to make your edits or filters on masks. Masks are layers that you can cut away to reveal what’s underneath. Here is a more in depth article that explains masks and more nondestructive editing techniques.

4- Make Selections

The pen is greater than the wand

The way you select pixels is important and there are many ways to make a selection in Photoshop. Each have their own implications and some should be avoided all together. My favorite way to make a selection for an image with a good solid edge is the pen tool, but mastering this tool can be frustrating at first.

How to use the pen tool

When first using the pen tool you will make lines that curve the wrong way and points won’t be where you want them. Make the [alt] and [spacebar] keys your best friends while using the pen tool. If your curve is wrong, hold [alt] to click to drag your handles and change the curve. This will help you make tight corners or sharp points. If you placed your point in the wrong spot, hold [spacebar] and drag till you have it in the correct spot. Once you have a selection, right click and create a vector mask. This is a mask that you can continuously edit, change density, and feather the edge.

5- Use Actions

Set it and forget it!

The actions panel can be your best friend if you will let it. Let’s say you have 30 photos of you and your fixed gear bicycle that you want to have the same grainy, filtered 80s film look. In the actions panel, record everything you do to one photo. Open the next photo, press play and sit back; your work is done. Actions will even Save for Web or rename your images. New with Photoshop CC are conditional actions that function with if/then statements.

6- Use Keyboard Shortcuts

At least you will look like you know what you are doing

Learn the keyboard shortcuts. There are so many ways to speed up your processes with shortcuts beyond Command – S. Even if you are not in a hurry, it will at least give your hand a break from navigating the mouse all over the screen and through menus. If there are functions that you use often create your own shortcuts. Oh and don’t forget the secret shortcuts!

Know raster based, implement nondestructive edits, label your layers, learn the pen tool, record a new action, and use those shortcuts! I promise, you will thank me.