7 Things You Should Know About Photoshop

Photoshop: A name that has become the go to for anything even relatively connected to photo manipulation or editing. In fact, the program is so incredibly adept at its purpose that the name has (whether Adobe accepts it or not) become the generic term to reference any sort of photo editing regardless of how it was done. I’m sure you’ve heard phrases like “Oh, they just photoshopped it,” or “Yeah, that’s clearly photoshopped.” It seems like everyone and their dog has used it. However, don’t let the hype mislead you into thinking it’s just a pick-up-and-go suite. Most designers spend years learning its complexities and nuances, and I firmly believe no one has fully mastered everything this enigmatic application has to offer. I like to say that if CC programs were games, Photoshop would be the open-ended sandbox throwing you in with no tutorial.

Now that I’m done scaring you, fear not! I can’t help you master the program, but I can supply a few tips and tricks I wish I had known in the beginning to make the adjustment process pass by much faster.


Photoshop file menu

I know it’s a lot to take in, but practice using those keyboard shortcuts you see in the menus for your actions as much as possible. They’ll soon become second nature, and the extra time and complications of navigating the UI you’ll save yourself from enduring will enhance your productivity more than you can imagine.

Here are some of the most used commands:

  • V = move tool
  • D – sets the foreground/background colors to default
  • X – swaps between background and foreground color
  • B – paintbrush tool
  • E – eraser tool
  • S – stamp or clone tool
  • W – quick selection tool
  • Ctrl/Cmd+j – duplicate selected layer
  • F – toggle display screen modes

2: The pen tool is really weird, but it’s your best friend.

Photoshop pen tool in use

Photoshop’s pen tool has become a love-hate relationship for me but no matter how irritating, it will save you countless amounts of time. It lacks the usability features of Illustrator’s equivalent, and pressing the alt key to remove handles will never stop being a frustrating experience, but the amount of time you’ll save using it over the lasso or quick selection tool is well worth figuring out its quirks. Just remember that you have to select your paths panel and hit “make selection.”

3: Know the difference between Vibrance and Saturation.

Photoshop saturation tool
Photoshop vibrance tool

At first glance, these tools seem very similar. However, knowing the difference can be what separates your piece from looking like either a bright day or an early Warhol print. Vibrance increases the saturation of only those colors that are less saturated within the image, which adds a natural brightness to the photo as a whole. Saturation, on the other hand, increases all colors which can be realistic in small levels but distorts an image and adds a surreal glow when turned higher. Each has its use, but those uses are very different in most cases.

4: Don’t rotate the image, rotate the view.

Photoshop rotation tool

Say you need to rotate and image to better touch up certain areas. Simply press R to get to the Rotate View Tool. You can use this to spin the image to whatever position you need on your screen without actually moving it within the document. That way there’s no more fighting to get it back into a level position!

5: You can drag and drop between tabs AND APPLICATIONS!

Photoshop and Illustrator syncing
Image being dragged into Photoshop

If you’re in the situation where you want to try an image, filter, smart object, etc. from one object in another, there’s no need to recreate of import it. You can simply select it in the original documents, drag it out of the pane, and drop it into the tab containing your second document. But in the immortal words of Billy Mays, THAT’S NOT ALL! This nifty trick also works across application! Say you’re editing a vector in Illustrator and want to incorporate it into a Photoshop document. You can simply select it, drag it off the artboard, and drop it into an open Photoshop document where it will paste as a smart object. Though off topic, this also works between Corel and Illustrator to avoid color management issues cause by exporting from Corel. This is probably one of the most helpful discoveries I’ve come across in my personal use.

6: You can add more undos!

Photoshop preferences menu

Photoshop limits how many times your can undo (Cntrl/Cmd + Shift + Z), but you can circumvent this by going to Preferences (Cmd/Cntrl + K), clicking Performance, and adjusting the number to anywhere from 1 to 1000 History States.

Fair Warning: Higher History State settings can slow down Photoshop depending on your computer’s specs.

7: There’s a quick way to straighten a crooked image.

Photoshop image orientation adjustment

And lastly: If you select the Ruler tool (I), it will then let you drag a line across an edge in your photo that you want to be level (such as a sidewalk or horizon line). On the control bar, you’ll see a “Straighten Layer” button. Click it. This will align the image to the line you created. Then, you can just crop away the transparent edges.

These are just a few tips that helped me along the way. I hope they benefit you, as well. Have fun Photoshopping!

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