Photoshop Basics

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Photoshop CS 5 Beginner Tips

Key Terms:

PSD= Photoshop file. Keeps your layers intact and allows you to edit your image.
Jpeg = Joint Photographic Experts Group. Image format designed to produce photorealistic images. You will normally bring jpegs into Photoshop, manipulate them, and then export them again as jpegs.
Gif = Graphics Interchange Format. Image format which works best to output images with flat areas of color.
Canvas = the working area in Photoshop
Image Size = This menu displays the Image's dimensions in pixels or inches and allows you to change its resolution.
Save for Web = This interface will help you optimize a file for the web.
Optimize = This process involves taking an image and finding the proper balance between a small file size and good image quality.

Opening an Image

  1. From the File menu, drop down to Open
  2. Locate and select the image
  3. Click Open

Rotating / Flipping the Image

  1. From the Image menu, drop down to Image Rotation
  2. Select the degree of rotation you need

Adjusting the size of the image

  1. From the Image menu, drop down to Image Size (to change the size of the canvas select Canvas Size).
  2. In order to keep the proportions of the original image, check "Constrain Proportions." If you do not check this box, you will stretch the image.
  3. (Note that the average screen is 800 x 600 pixels).

Free Transform

Free Transform allows you to manipulate your image in a variety of ways. You can either go to Edit>FreeTransform Path or ⌘T. When you select this, a box will be drawn around your image. You can scale it, shrink it, twist it, just about anything. To constrain your proportions, hold down shift before you scale your image. To finish, hit return.

Cropping an Image

  1. Select your Crop Tool from your tools palette (refer to the tools palate diagram).
  2. Begin at one corner, click and drag the selection you would like to keep.
  3. Releasing the mouse button highlights the selected area. Hit the "return" key to execute the crop.


Layers are the framework on which Photoshop is built. The way you manipulate and transform your images is through various layers that build upon one another. A good way to think about this is to imagine acetate layers, with something on each one, building up until you have your final image.

The layers palette is usually found in the bottom right hand corner. If it is not there, pull down the Windows menu and select "layers."

The "eye" - Clicking on and off the "eye" in the layers palette will allow you to view what is on individual layers. This becomes helpful when you are working with many layers.

To add a layer, click the layer icon on the bottom right hand corner of the layers palette. To delete a layer, highlight the layer you want to delete and click the trash icon in the bottom right hand corner.


Photoshop has a very extensive tool palette. For beginners however, there are only about 4 tools necessary to know before moving on.

Drawing Freehand

  1. To draw lines freehand select the brush or pencil tool from the tools palette. To switch from the brush to the pencil, and vice versa, click and hold down the cursor over the brush/pencil icon in the tools palette.
  2. Select the tool that you need
  3. Add a new layer in your layers palette
  4. Begin drawing

Creating shapes (lines, arrows, polygons, etc.)

  1. Select the shape tool
  2. Specify the shape desired by clicking and holding the cursor down over the shape icon in the tools palette. A list of shape options will appear. The same options will appear in a tool bar at the top of your screen.
  3. If "custom shape" is desired, including arrows, select the custom shape tool then, from the top tool bar, pull down the "Shape" menu.
  4. The arrow in the top right corner of the "Shape" option will allow you to select other lists of custom shapes.


  1. Select the eraser tool from the tools palette
  2. From the top tool bar for the eraser tool, specify the size of the eraser tip and begin to erase. (Make sure you have selected the correct layer)

Magic Wand and Marquee
The Magic Wand (located underneath the Quick Select option) and Marquee are both selection tools. They serve only one purpose, to select areas in your document.

The Magic Wand will simply select areas of similar colors.

  1. Select the Magic Wand tool
  2. Click anywhere on an open image in Photoshop.
  3. A selection is created based on the color you clicked on.

The Marquee tool allows you to select either a rectangular area or an elliptical area.

  1. Select the Marquee tool.
  2. Specify the type of marquee by clicking and holding the cursor down over the shape icon in the tools palette. A list of options will appear.
  3. Drag and create a selection area.

The Lasso tool is another selection tool, but allows you to be more precise in your cutting out of an image. Think of the lasso tool as your scissors.

  1. Select the Lasso Tool.
  2. Click along a hard edge and begin to outline what you want to cut out.
  3. Draw all the way around it till you reach the beginning.
  4. Let go of the mouse button, and you should have a highlighted selection area.
  5. To add to your selection, hold shift and the mouse button. To subtract, hold "option" and the mouse button.

Magnetic Lasso
The Magnetic Lasso allows you to be more precise in your outlining of your selection by dropping anchor marks along the way.

  1. Select and hold the mouse over the Lasso Tool. The box will expand, and choose the Magnetic Lasso.
  2. Begin by clicking along the hard edge and outlining what you want to cut out.
  3. Periodically click to drop an anchor, especially around edges and curves. You will notice the line beginning to snap to the hardline around your selection.
  4. Complete the circle.
  5. Again, to add hold shift and the mouse button. To subtract, hold "option" and the mouse button.

Saving an Image:

If you are saving your image in order to work on it later, you must save your file as a Photoshop document.

  1. From the File menu, drop down to '''Save As'''
  2. Name the file (please refer to the file management sheets regarding naming conventions) and choose "Photoshop" in the Format drop menu. This should automatically change or add the suffix ".psd" to your file name.
  3. Select your folder
  4. Click Save

Saving your final image in .jpg or .gif format will flatten your layers. This compresses the file size and allows the image to be used in other programs. However, you will not be able to return to this image in order to re-manipulate it. It is generally a good idea to keep your image in both Photoshop format and in JPEG format.

  1. From the File menu, drop down to Save As
  2. Under the Format drop menu, choose "JPEG"
  3. This will automatically change or add the suffix ".jpg" to your filename, depending on what format you have chosen.
  4. Select your folder
  5. Click Save
  6. In the new window that appears, choose the quality and size of your file to optimize your image
  7. Click OK

For best optimization - from the File menu, select Save for Web & Devices

  1. Switch the view in the upper left hand corner to 4-Up so that you can see how the different settings you choose will affect the quality of your image.
  2. Change the number of colors in the palette on the right and set the image to either gif or jpeg.
  3. Find a happy medium between image quality and loading time, which you can see at the bottom of each version of the image.
  4. Click Save and be sure that you put the file somewhere that you will be able to find it.


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