Getting Started With Photoshop (Part 1)

It doesn’t matter if you are new to the world of graphic design, or you are a photographer and you want to enhance your photos, you will eventually encounter the need to use Adobe Photoshop. Remembering when I first started out, I wondered how I would ever begin to know how to work my way through Photoshop and create professional quality, eye-dazzling work, L.O.L.  Later on, I use Photoshop on a daily basis, keep looking on internet how to use this one, that one, and looking for many words that sounds alien to me. But I keep doing it though. I keep practices whenever and wherever I have time, and I download many tutorials from YouTube on campus. I won’t lie to you. Learning Photoshop is difficult, you can only make it if you keep trying and learning on daily basis. And one thing for sure, you won’t be able to go from getting started, to pro overnight, but you can take comfort in knowing that everyone has to start somewhere, just like I do.

Getting to Know Your Way around Photoshop

It is good to have a general idea of where everything is, so that you can work your way around the Photoshop interface. To get started, I will list some terminology, and where you can find it in Photoshop.


1.    Main Menu

This is where your Options, Image Adjustments and Filters are. When you run filters in Photoshop, they will be found in this section under the Filters Menu.
2. Options Bar

This menu is most used when you have a tool selected. It allows you to adjust settings that are specified for the active tool.

3. Toolbox

By default, this sits on the left side of your screen and contains all of the different tools that are available in the program. If a tool contains a black triangle in the bottom-right corner, then there are other tools related to that one stored in a sub menu. All you have to do is click and hold your mouse over that tool to reveal the submenu.


Terms That You May Hear When Learning Photoshop

When learning Photoshop, you may be watching video tutorials, reading a book, or reading a blog tutorial online about how to do something in Photoshop. Most writers have an assumption that the reader has a general idea of the basic terminology involved with using Photoshop.


This refers to each window inside of Photoshop, which contains controls over different aspects of your document. Good examples would be the Color Panel, the Layers Panel, the Paths Panel, and anything else besides the toolbox that is open alongside your actual Photoshop document. What is great about Panels is that you can arrange them however you desire. You can dock any panel with another set of panels, so that you can consolidate your workspace. This is especially handy for people who are working on a laptop or a smaller monitor. All you have to do is click and drag the title tab of any panel over another panel. The bottom panel will outline in blue, letting you know that you can dock this panel with another set. Release your mouse, and now you will have multiple panels in one small window.


A good rule of thumb is to dock alike items. I tend to dock Swatches, Color, Styles and Kuler together. Then, I dock Layers, Channels, and Paths together. I also dock brushes and brush presets together, and I dock the Character and Paragraph panels together.

Document Window

This is the actual image or file that you are working on in Photoshop. This also refers to any other open document inside of Photoshop. You can have multiple images open in Photoshop at once.


Dialog Box

This refers to a popup box that opens when you select choose to use a filter or certain options in Photoshop. Dialog boxes usually contain options and settings for the filter or action that you just selected.


Get Comfortable With Your Surroundings

Adobe loves to make it easy to set things up how you like it. They have integrated a feature called workspaces. Workspaces allow you to set up your Photoshop panels how you like them. You can arrange your workspace exactly how you like it and save it for later as a preset.

Photoshop already comes with workspace presets that are geared towards different professionals. The presets are Essentials, Design, Painting, Photography, 3D, Motion, and New in CC. You can save your own presets easily. Simply arrange your panels and workspace exactly how you’d like it. You can close certain panels that you don’t use frequently, and if there are panels that you want to be active, but you don’t see them, you can make them visible quickly. Simply go to Window> and then select the panel that you want to make visible. Once you have everything how you like it, click the double arrow next to your list of workspaces, and select New Workspace.

Screenshot (5)

A dialog box will pop up, allow you to name your workspace so that you can activate it later. You will also have the option to remember your keyboard shortcuts and your menu setup as well. This enables you to have the ultimate flexibility you need, and you can switch workspaces with a simple click of a button. This speeds up your workflow, and saves you time, because you aren’t constantly opening and closing panels, moving them, rearranging them, etc.


New Documents

Simply go to File> New to open a blank document. A dialog box will come up with several options. You can choose a custom file size, resolution and the color mode for your document. If you are brand new to the world of Photoshop, then you will want to know what these are, and what they mean.


Width and Height

The width and height of your document are important. You can select whether you work in inches, pixels, centimeters, millimeters, points, picas or columns. A pixel is the smallest block of color information that makes up an image. You would most likely choose pixels if you are designing for the web, because dimensions are set in pixels. Inches will be useful in print design, because you are referring to the physical size of the document.

Centimeters, millimeters, points, and picas are also used for print, but aren’t as widely used anymore.


The resolution of your document is as equally important as the size. Work that you do for the web is usually done in 72ppi or pixels per inch. This is the resolution in which most monitors display their images. If you are designing your work for print purposes, such as commercial photography, or anything that you want to print, such as photos, business cards, flyers, and brochures, then you will want to choose 300ppi. This is denser and gives a sharper image.

Color Mode

Your color mode is important, because just as in resolution, your color mode will depend on your intended outcome. The most commonly used color modes are RGB and CMYK. Lab Color, Bitmap and Grayscale are the other options for color modes. LAB mode is used for a lot of professional color correction, and you can do some things in this color mode that are harder to do in other modes. This is usually for more advanced users that understand Photoshop well already, because LAB color mode is a completely different animal.


RGB Color Mode is made up of 3 color channels- red, green and blue. RGB is mainly used for web design and for screen or monitor purposes. Monitor colors are made up of red, green and blue light in order to display images, so RGB mode is most suitable and true-to-life to work with. It is good to keep in mind that all monitors are different though. One monitor may display blue slightly different than the next monitor, and both of those could be different than the next in line.


CMYK mode is used mainly for print. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These are the colors of ink that make up an image in most conventional printers. You will find it interesting that the different combinations of Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow will make red, green and blue. When designing in Photoshop, it is important to keep in mind that an image in CMYK mode won’t look exactly the same printed as they do on a monitor. Designers have been battling this issue for years. There are color calibration tools that high-end professionals use, but it is still a good idea to use something called a proof.

A proof is a printed sample of the image or design that you want to have printed. You compare this to your intended work on the monitor, and you make adjustments to your design based on the outcome of the proof. Your design may look perfect on your computer, but when it is printed, it is more yellow than it is supposed to be. Before the final print is approved, you would adjust your colors to compensate for the extra yellow, and you might even order a second proof.

Some printers charge for hard copy proofs of your work, which some might argue isn’t worth the extra expense. It really depends on your project, because you might order 10,000 copies, and if they are all ruined, then you have to absorb the costs, or you could spend the extra $ and be on the safe side.

New document Presets

Other than resolution and color modes, Photoshop makes life easier, and incorporates document presets, so you don’t have to remember dimensions for all of your documents. A good example would be if you make a lot of mockups of tablet screens, and you didn’t want to have to remember the dimensions of an ipad screen, a Samsung Galaxy, an iPod touch, and a dozen other devices. You could dial in the dimensions once, and save them as a preset. Photoshop already incorporates some presets out of the box, such as paper sizes, and normal web site sizes.




One of the most important aspects of Photoshop is the feature called Layers. Layers is where you can stack images on top of each other, blend images together, add color, take it away, merge layers together and much more. In the example below, the document is made up of 3 layers: the black background layer, the middle texture layer set to the blend mode of hard light and then the type layer on top. How layers stack will greatly determine the look of your work.


Well, in this chapter i’ll end at this point and we’ll continue it later on the next post. In the next post we’ll discuss about shortcuts, opacity, tools, etc. See you in the next post and good luck.


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