Quick Guide to the Photoshop Toolbar Essentials

Introduction: Quick Guide to the Photoshop Toolbar Essentials

Adobe Photoshop is a photo-editing program created by Adobe Services Inc. The software is an industry standard with professionals and consumers alike, and is particularly favored by Graphic Designers and Photographers. Adobe Photoshop specializes in letting users manipulate, crop, correct color, and resize images at a professional level.

For today we will be using the Move, Crop, Blur, Dodge and Burn tools as well as learning the basics of the layers panel.

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Step 1: Toolbar

The toolbar in Photoshop is essential to using the program to it’s full potential. The Move tool repositions items you select and moves them to where you choose. The Crop tool will re-size your canvas to a smaller size (Beware though you can only make things smaller not larger). The Blur tool will blur selected pixels in in your photo to give atmospheric perspective, add effects or to lighten sharp pixels. The Dodge tool will lighten selected spots around your image, and the Burn tool will do the opposite.

Step 2: Layers

Layers are the building blocks of Photoshop and the key to properly editing your photos. Not only do they allow you to easily organize and customize your photos, but also provides you with the ability to test different designs and looks with ease. To describe layers in a visual sense one must imagine an artist drawing. The artist builds up a drawing by adding layers of shading and lines stacking each on top the other in order to create depth and detail, this is the same for Photoshop. The layer panel is on the right side of the workspace window. Highlighted at the bottom right is the create a new layer function. After every edit you should start working on a new layer in order to preserve the last edits you made. To make a new layer with your full image as the layer, click the new layer button, then on the top toolbar click Image>Apply Image and this will apply whatever is on your canvas and compress it into one new layer letting you work directly on that.

Step 3: The Crop Tool

The Crop tool can easily change the composition of your photo using a function based off the Rule of Thirds. To use the crop tool, click the crop icon on the toolbar and the cursor will change to a reticle with a square crop symbol. Click and drag from one corner to the other to create whatever size canvas desired. Once the mouse is let go, the new canvas area is cropped, and the new area will be highlighted while the cut out portions will be darkened out until finalized. When happy with the new canvas size and position click enter and the newly cropped area is put into place effectively resizing. In the thumbnail you can see the Rule of Thirds grid.

To utilize the Rule of Thirds and the crop tool you should consider placing your focal point within or around one of the intersecting lines. This will strengthen the focal point, because the eye is naturally drawn to these areas.

Step 4: The Blur Tool

The blur tool is used to effectively create depth, and strengthen certain elements in your work. The Blur Tool selectively distorts pixels around the reticle at a strength of your choosing. To use the Blur Tool, click the blur icon in the toolbar, and again your reticle should change to a circle. This shows you what parts of the photo you will be blurring when clicking the mouse. To change the strength of your blurring use the top toolbar and highlight the percentage in the strength slot. 50% is the Adobe standard but feel free to play in order to get the best image in your situation. Then, click selective areas of your photo with the blur tool on a new layer to edit the sharpness.

Step 5: The Dodge and Burn Tools

The Dodge Tool, is a user specified, selective lightening of the photo. The Burn tool is the opposite, darkening areas selectively (to access the Burn Tool click and hold the icon for the Dodge tool in the left toolbar until a further prompt). When using the Dodge and Burn Tools, it will lighten or darken pixel values which can help with contrast and in highlighting focal points. It can wash out photos to your preference and add additional effects for photo manipulation

The dodge and burn tools can be found on the left toolbar again and the dodge button looks like a circle push pin while the burn looks like a hand. After clicking your mouse cursor should be a small circle that is showing you what areas will be highlighted once clicked. Just like in the blur tool the exposure is similar to the strength function and can change the amount of value adjustment per click. Another function of the dodge tool is the “protect tones” function, which I find very important and crucial to the overall function. When checked on, the protect tones function serves to preserve the colors of your pixels when lightening them, instead of washing them out with white.

I prefer to always use protect tones but feel free to play around with the washed out look as well.

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    2 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Where were you in 1994, Skywalkr? LOL ! I Started using Photochop 4.0 to do 4-color separations for screen printing back then, have upgraded to ver. 7.1, but never really used any of the tools you demonstrate! The on-screen toolbar "looks" are different now, but they are still in my version. Imagine printing separations from a Pentium 100 Dell with 16 Megs (Yeah, MEGS!!!) of RAM... bleeding edge back then! Thank you.


    3 years ago

    There is so much to learn! Thanks for posting these tips!