Published on Wed, May-09-2012 by George

First steps in Photoshop

First time in Photoshop? Use this primer to get up to speed with the basics in our essential guide

The first time you open Photoshop, it can seem a bewildering mess of icons, menus and palettes. You no doubt realize that there are two flavours of Photoshop – Photoshop CS and Photoshop Elements. It is generally thought that Photoshop is for Professionals and that Elements is purely for beginners. The interface of elements is a bit more intuitive than Photoshop, and features such as the Quick Edit mode mean that it’s incredibly easy to make yur first edit. But Elements still has a lot of the same tools as Photoshop so don’t miss it is ‘Photoshop Lite’.

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It might be that the tool is called something slightly different or that it’s in a different palce, but there’s generally a workaround to give Elements users the same wealth of editing options as Photoshop users. In places where there is a difference between Photoshop and Elements, we’ve included the Elements way of carrying out a technique. If you don’t see an alternative way, then it’s the same.

There are three core skills that you need when you first start using Photoshop. You need to be able to load a file, open a new file and also save a file. These three task all require extra knowledge, such as understanding resolution and file formats.

The other essential ability that you need is to get access to all of the tools if you think the Photoshop interface is confusing as it is, it would cause your brain to explode if all of the tools were on display at once! To avoid this, a lot of tools are grouped together and hidden behind a major tool.

One other thing that is worth mentioning is shortcuts. We always give the menu commands for performing tasks as it’s a good way to get used to where things are and how things are organized. But once you get more comfortable with moving around the interface, you can start to use your keyboard to carry out the most common commands.

01 Open a file

To load an image, go to File>Open and then use the window browser to navigate to the file you want. Once found, simply click Open.

02 Create a file

To open a new file, go to Files>New and enter a name, a size and a resolution. Click OK to create it. In Elements, go to File>New>Blank File.

03 Save a file

Saving is also a straightforward affair. Go to File>Save As. You can rename the file if you want and, more importantly, set the file format.

04 File formats

Adobe has supplied a lot of different file formats for you to save your image in and we’ll be looking at this in more detail throughout this book.

05 Selecting tools

Adobe has bundled similar tools together. If you see a small arrow in the bottom-right corner of a tool, then there are other tools hidden behind.

06 Options

Tools and commands are found in a series of palettes. You can set which palettes are seen using the Window menu.


Quick save

The first time that you save a new file, use the Save As command as we have described, so that you can set the file name and format. Then, if you continue working on the image, you can just use File>Save instead, which saves your progress to the same file. It can be easier to get used to the keyboard shortcut, which is the Apple/Cmd key if you’re using a PC, plus the ‘S’ key at the same time.

File sizes

When you are creating a new file from scratch, you can use the Preset menu to see different pre-defined sizes. International Paper offers you A5, for example, for quick setup of new documents to the right dimensions.

Common file types

JPEG is the most common file format. It is used because it offers smaller file sizes but that can lead to loss of quality. When you choose to save in JPEG, you are given a slider to set the quality. PSD is a Photoshop document and is needed if you are saving a multi-layered document. TIFF results in larger but in good quality files. Use this when you need the optimum quality.

Resolution Get it right the first time

01 What is resolution

All images made up of square pixels. These pixels control how detailed an images is – put simply the more pixels the better the image.

02 Start with 72ppi

Photoshop measures pixels in inches (or ppi). Our screens work in 72ppi, so if you are doing something that will never be printed, 72ppi is fine

03 Go 300ppi for quality

If you need quality or you want to print an image, work in 300ppi. The exra pixles mean that an images has more information.


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