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Photoshop Basics

By Shile Road Photography, written 1489065080



To set up your preferences like a power user go to Edit - Preferences – General

Click on Interface and turn off all borders. You really want to see what the image is like against a white, grey or black background.

Click on File Handling and make sure save in background is checked. You can change the time from 5 min upwards. This will save a lot of effort in the even that Photoshop crashes,

as it does use a lot of PC resources.

Click on Performance and change how much RAM Photoshop uses. The more you allocate the quicker it will work, but the more likely it is to crash. Lower values will mean that it

will run slower, but be more stable. History States is how many undo’s you are able to do. Please be aware that these are stored on your computer and will affect it’s performance,

but as a new user you may wish to increase this and as you grow more familiar reduce the number over time.

Click on Scratch Disks, this is where Photoshop uses to store temp files while moving from one image to another etc. It is best to have these set to an external hard drive if possible.

The rest of the preferences you can leave as they are.

Colour Settings

By default, Photoshop loads up and uses sRGB colourspace to edit images. This is the smallest colour space and gives you a lot less information to work with. I recommend changing the colour space to PROPHOTO RGB

Go to Edit - Colour Settings and select ProPhoto RGB. Later in this lesson I will show you how to save your image so that it can be up loaded to the web and wont distort the colours.


The Move Tool.

The move tool will not affect the background layer, but will move any additional layer. It is good practice to not change or alter the background layer when making any changes to images. I always

make a copy of the background layer by using Ctrl-J and making background invisible by clicking on the “eye” symbol to its left.


You can use Ctrl-T to transform any layer (change its size and/or shape) and drag the control boxes to change the size. You can also use the options at the top of the screen as well. To change it’s size in perspective click on the chain link symbol between height and width.


As the name suggests this will allow you to make selections of your image. Selections on their own will not change an image in any way. The selected area will have “marching ants” around the selected area by default. You can deselect by either going to Select-Deselect or by clicking Ctrl-D on your keyboard. The basic selection tools are:

Marque – Which makes uniform shapes like squares or circles.

Lasso – Which is a way of defining your own shape to select.

Magic Wand – Will select areas of similar colour.

Pen Tool – A more advanced selection tool for defining exact shapes.

The Shift button will allow you to add to a selection and the Alt key will allow you to minus unwanted selection areas.

Any changes made to an image while there is a selection active will only affect the selected area. You can hide the marching ants by clicking Ctrl-H but the selection will still be active, just hidden.

Brush Tool

The brush tool is a very, very powerful and versatile tool in Photoshop. Not only can it paint on your image, but it can be used with a layer mask to make parts of your image either visible or invisible. Brushes can be any number of shapes, sizes and hardness’s. As with just about everything in Photoshop brushes can be controlled in several different ways.

Using either [ ] keys will make the brush smaller or larger.

Clicking Alt-Ctrl-Right mouse key will make the brush smaller or larger if dragged to left or right and softer and harder if dragged up or down.

You can use the option toolbar at the top of the screen as well.

Opacity V’s Flow

When you use a lower flow rate with a brush and paint on an area it will build up every time you brush the same spot. If you use a lower opacity it wont build up no matter if you hit the same spot again and again.

Layer Masks

Layer masks are also a very, very powerful tool within Photoshop. They make areas of a layer either visible (White) or invisible (Black). Within the Layers panel on the right, the layer mask icon is down the bottom (square with a circle in it).

Click on the icon and you will get a white layer mask (everything is visible) and you will have to paint black to hide things.

If you click Alt-Layer Mask Icon you will get a black layer mask (everything invisible) and you will need to paint white on areas to show them.

Healing Brush Tool

Healing brush tool will help to remove small imperfections in your image by blending colour and texture from an area you select. Press the Alt key and select an area that you want to blend and then click on the imperfection.

Spot Healing Brush Tool

This is very similar to the healing brush tool but Photoshop decides on what is required to get rid of the inperfection.

Clone Stamp Tool

This will not blend anything it will just copy from one area to another.


It’s good practice to save a layered file of your work so that at any point in the future you can always come back to the image and change it if required without starting from scratch.

Go to File – Save As and choose either PSD or TIF format.

Save for Web

Go to File – Export – Save For Web (legacy) this will automatically convert to SRGB (which most web sites use) and you will be able to change the dimensions of the image as well.