Digital Dark; Welcome to Photoshop

Welcome to Photoshop, in the previous weeks I have been taking a look around some basic things you can do in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. To be honest editing in Lightroom is about as much as some photos need. Since I have had Lightroom and Photoshop, Photoshop is not opened as often as one may think. In saying that, Photoshop is a really powerful program that can make and break a picture.
cs6photoshopWhen I first opened Photoshop 7 nearly 10 years ago I was lost about what I should do first and how to do it. Photoshop is not like Lightroom or Camera Raw where you can follow and understand sliders; here you must select what you want. This week I am just going to look at layout and where things are.

The first thing to realise when you open Photoshop is that it is not just for photography; you can do painting, illustrating, 3d work as well as video editing. There are many things that I very rarely use in Photoshop and some that I never use.

Working in Photoshop is all to do with layers. Even if you don’t add new layers to a document you are always editing on the background layer. The layer sits on the canvas. The canvas is the area that is visible, will be seen or printed. Most of the time a picture, which is a layer, is the same size as the canvas. When creating composites components of layers may be smaller than the canvas. In the coming weeks we will be discussing a lot about layers and if you are afraid of them you won’t be for long.


Most other photo editing programs have similar layouts to Photoshop. On the left side of the window is the toolbar with all tools that you can control with the mouse. To the right are adjustment, layers and information pallets, these can be organised to what you want or need. You can change the layout with the preferences in the top right or make your own. I have two of my own one for duel screen when I am using both monitors and one for when I am using just a single screen. If you have Photoshop on two machines you can sync your presents and layouts between the two.


Tools for photography

With so many tools on the tool bar there do you need to use them all? Well here ismy list of the tools that are useful for photo editing.

moveMove – Lets you move the position of a layer on the canvas.


MarqueeSelection – Marquee Selection, let you select an area of in a square or circle shape. The single row/column marquee selection let you select only a row or column 1 pixel wide.


LassoSelection – Lasso selection, there are three lasso selection tools; Lasso which is free hand and will select any shape area you draw, Polygon where you click and then move the mouse and click again creating the boundary of a selection and Magnetic which as you move your mouse traces roughly the contours of shapes based on contrast and colour.

quick-selectionSelection – Quick/ Magic wand, these two selection tools are great for large areas. Clicking on the magic wand will select similar tones and the quick selection lets you mouse over an area and select it.

cropCrop – Crop/ perspective crop let you crop a picture.



eyedropperEye dropper/Ruler from this group these are the two I use the most; Eyedropper for choosing a colour in a picture and Ruler to check the straightness of pictures



healHealing tools – Healing/spot healing, copies the colour form a selected area and via a brush paints it to an area of your choosing.
Patch tool lets you select an object you wish to remove and via dragging the selection find the content to fill it with.
Content aware move lets you move an area or object to another area of an image taking into consideration surrounding elements.
Red Eye Reduction lets you remove red eye.

brushBrush – The brush tool is really useful when using layer masks (something we will be looking at later)



CloneClone – Copies directly everything from a selected area to and is pasted via a brush tool.

art-brushHistory brush – Allows you paint away an adjustment you have just made. To be honest I don’t use it often, yet it can be useful for photographers.


Paint-bucketFill/Gradient – lets you fill a layer or selection with a colour and the gradient lets you gradiate a colour on a layer or in a selection.


BlurBlur/ sharpen/ smudge – each let you selectively sharpen, blur or smudge a picture, once again not a tool I use often but can be useful for photographers.


dodge-burnDodge/Burn – these do what they say, dodge lightens areas and burn darkens areas. Not a huge fan of using these tools as I have my own way of creating the same effect, but can be useful.

penPen – The pen and all pen related tools are really great and much more powerful than the selection tools when making tricky selections. Sometimes a higher skill level is needed but something I use all the time.


hand-toolHand – great tool when zoomed in to move around an image without moving the position of the layer.


zoomZoom – lets you zoom in.

ForegroundBackgroundForeground/background colour – you can use this to select a colour that you want to apply, very useful.


quickmaskQuick mask– lets you enter a selection mode where you use the brush and gradient to make selections. I use it form time to time but not as often as in previous editions of Photoshop.

Screen-ModeScreen mode– lets you switch from full screen to windowed mode. This can be really useful if you need to get rid of distractions or make more space so you can fill your screen with the picture.


To the left of the screen are the pallets that you can customize to what you need. For me the most important are the; histogram, history, properties, layers, channels, brush and brush presets. You can choose which pallets to add from the Window menu. From time to time I will add a pallete just for an edit and remove it afterwards.

The picture

In the middle of the Photoshop is where your picture is. I like my pictures to take up most of the window. One of the reasons for having two monitors was to be able to fill one monitor with an image I am working on.

Photoshop has a lot of stuff and it maybe that you will only use a bit of this when editing. It is good to know where everything else but not to worry too much about them.

In the coming weeks I am going to be explaining how you can edit your photos concentrating on non-destructive editing to get the most out of you picture.

Spring path to a memorial

If you have any questions or comments please use the comment box below, all are welcome as this series is designed to help people learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom.

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15 thoughts on “Digital Dark; Welcome to Photoshop

  1. Nice info! I love LR for basic adjustments and photo organization. I use LR like I used to use Camera Raw for basic adjustments and you’re right, sometimes that’s all a photo needs!

  2. Great info. I like Lightroom. It is very easy to go overboard on the post processing, something that I am very guilty of at times. But with Lightroom I can do some light touching up with exposures etc. I just want to be able to use Photoshop for more artistic work – I want to unleash my inner artist. But I think I am going to have to wait a bit until I can work out how to afford a new computer.

  3. Ooops, my comment didn’t make it here… I’m ready to learn PS, I don’t have it, yet. Lr seems too easy. Thank you, Ben! 🙂

    • The series is written for beginners in mind but also those who are more advanced but interested in learning something new about the program. Basic adjustments in lightroom have already been covered if you want to check out earlier posts.

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