20 Top Photoshop Tips for Beginners
Photoshop is a powerful photo editing software which offers us many of surprises. There is a huge amount of possibilities which you need to explore in order to become a master in this field. Here I am sharing 20 tips I wish I knew before making my first steps as a photographer and photo editor.
1. Getting Started
First of all, open the image you want to work with.
There are several options to do it:
- use the upper menu of your Photoshop (File-Open)
- use the hotkey ctrl+O (cmd+O for Mac) or
- simply drag the file to Photoshop window.
If you need to create new document use File-New or ctrl+N (cmd+N for Mac). You can create a file with transparent background in order to use the image in png format on the websites etc.
Simply follow the path File > New and choose Background Contents > Transparent. Zoom in the file with ctrl+ (cmd+) and zoom out ctrl- (cmd-).
2. Image Resizing
To resize an image in Photoshop go to the image menu in the menu bar along the top of the screen and chose Image Size. You will see the dialogue box like on the picture below.
You can find more information on how to resize your image here.
Another option you may need while resizing the image is setting up Canvas Size. If you want to add some more space on the edges of your image go back to the Image menu: Image > Canvas Size. With this option, you can create a frame or just make sure important details will not be cut off while printing.
3. Crop the Image
This step could improve the composition of your image. Try to cut off all the trash on the photo. You don’t need details on the sides, which don’t give us information about the photo itself.
Select the Crop Tool from the toolbar. Crop borders display on the edges of the image. You will see a net with 9 squares which help to crop a photo using the rule of thirds or the “Golden Rule” of the composition.
Drag the corner to choose the area you want to crop or just draw a new one. You could set up the crop options using the control bar on the top. If you need more information on how to crop? You'll find it here.
4. Adjust Lights & Shadows
If your photo is too dark or too light you can use multiple options to adjust it. Let’s start with the Levels. Go to the Image – Adjustments – Levels and the dialogue box as on the picture below will pop up.
Go to the Image > Adjustments > Levels and the dialogue box as on the picture below will pop up.
On the histogram, you will see black to white gradient bar. Drag the black and white Input Levels sliders to adjust shadows and highlights accordingly. Read more on how to work with levels.
Another way to get dark details from the shadow is this option: Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. You will get the dialogue box as below. While changing the amount for shadows you will see more of details popping up.
5. Portrait Touch-Up
If there are blemishes on the skin of your model you can use spot healing brush tool to make them disappear.
You can find it on the toolbar. You will get a circle which could be adjusted by the size, hardness to remove the items. Make the size of the tool as big as the blemish to be removed and just spot on that item. This tool uses the surrounding pixels to replace the blemish.
Another tool is Patch Tool which is helpful when you need to replace bigger part of the image. Select an area you need to retouch and drag the selection to choose the perfect skin which fits the area with color.
See this video tutorial on how to use these tools:
Sometimes you can play the role of a make-up artist and retouch the makeup of your model in Photoshop. For this purpose, you could use the brush tool.
There are a variety of brushes to choose, but here we will use the simple rounded one. You will get a circle which could be adjusted by size, hardness, and opacity.
Choose the necessary color on the color palette or by clicking alt to get the Eyedropper tool which enables you to take a color you need from the picture. Now you are ready to paint.
7. Dodge and Burn Tools
If you have small areas in the photo which are too dark you can use dodge tool. You can set up the size of the circle and adjust the flow on the top menu bar.
Depending on the picture try not to use dodge tool with the flow more than 25%, otherwise, the working area will get a red tone. For instance, you can use this tool to whiten eyeballs or teeth of your model.
Don't worry if some of your pictures are a bit blurring. You can fix it with the sharpen tool – use the small triangle on the toolbar in case you need to sharpen only selected areas. For instance only eyes and eyelashes of the model like on the picture below.
You can adjust the size of the tool and strengths. Try to keep the strengths less than 50% or you may get noise on your photo. If you want the whole picture to be sharper you can use filters on the top menu bar Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen.
Here is video tutorial on how to make the object sharp:
9. Content Away Move-Tool
If there is an object you want to remove to another place on your photo you can do it easily with this tool. Choose the area you want to replace while dragging the tool close to the edges of the object then move it to another place where you want to put the object and press enter.
Have a look on the video how it works:
10. Selective Tools
To select the necessary object on the photo you may use such tools as:
- the polygonal lasso tool and
- the magnetic lasso tool.
Lasso tools would be useful if you need to select an object without many of details and edges.
Polygonal Lasso tool is good for selecting curvy objects and the Magnetic Lasso tool works better when the object has a high contrast with the background. The cursor will stick to the edges of the object and make the ideal selection.
If the object was not cut perfectly, you can use the eraser to remove the remains of the previous background. Before starting the next work, make sure you deselect all the areas on the picture.
11. Replacing the Background
Now, you know how to cut the object with the help of selective tools, so what to do next?
You can move the selected object to another background easily. Just open one more picture and drag the selected object to it. You can resize the new layer with the help of Ctrl+T and by checking the box on the top menu bar you can maintain the aspect ratio in order to avoid object deformation.
Use the eraser tool to remove the remains of the previous background.
12. Layers & Text
You can put a text on your image and decorate it or make the text pop up with the help of additional layers.
Follow these steps:
- Create a new layer: Go to the top menu bar and chose Layer > New > Layer. Use the paint bucket tool to give the color to your layer.
- Change the opacity to make it a bit transparent on the layers panel in the right corner.
- Use the rectangular marquee tool to select the necessary area of the layer.
- Select it or select inverse then delete the selected area and you will get the result like on the picture below:
Learn more about the layers watching this video:
Apply text tool from the toolbar on the left and choose the font, size, style, color on the top menu bar.
13. Black & White
Do you want to make you photo in black and white? It's just as easy as the 1-2-3 click. Go to the top menu bar: Image > Mode > Grayscale.
The dialogue box will pop up and ask you to discard the colors. Then you can adjust brightness and contrast of the photo by applying Auto Ton or adjust the brightness/contrast on your own.
Follow the path Image > Auto Ton or Image > Adjustment > Brightness/Contrast.
With the help of filters, you can do a lot of manipulations and one of the most popular is blurring the background. Duplicate the existing layer by clicking Layer > Duplicate Layer.
Select the object you don’t want to be blurring (you already know how to use selective tools). Then go to the Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
Select the necessary radius for blurring your photo. Here is a video example of how to do it:
15. Color Enhancing – Saturation versus Vibrance
Do you want to make your photo brighter? Photoshop offers you many options how to do it. Let’s try the easiest ways:
Let’s try the easiest ways:
- hue / saturation
If you want your photo to have soft pleasant colors you can try Image > Adjustment > Vibrance. This option will keep your photo more natural and pleasant for the eyes.
Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation will bring more color contrast to your photo and you can compare the results on the picture below.
16. Automatic Color Correction
Something which I discovered to be useful not long time ago is adjusting the photo with automatic Photoshop options:
- Auto Ton,
- Auto Contrast,
- Auto Color.
Try this by following the path Image > Auto Ton / Auto Contrast or Auto Color and check if you will like the result.
Sometimes you may get an absolutely stunning color tone or quite a professional contrast … if you don’t like the result just recall the action or use Ctrl+Z combination (Cmd+Z for Mac).
There is also one little trick you can do to adjust the opacity of just applied photo manipulation, which I will share with you in the next passage.
So you just applied Auto Ton, or Saturation or maybe the Blurring Filter but you think it’s too much for this photo? Don't worry, it is not necessary to go back, you can use fading to just applied photo manipulation.
Go to Edit > Fade. You will get the dialogue box where you can fade the applied filter or image adjustment which was the last you’ve applied.
You can apply this trick to any of the filters, adjustments, layers or tools until you will be satisfied with the result.
18. Layers – Color Correction
There is one more way to make the colors on your photo more vibrant. Create a new layer (we have already discussed how to do it above). On the right Layers Panel choose the Soft Light option for it.
Then follow the path Image > Apply Image and you will get the dialogue box where you need to choose channel: RGB > Red, Green or Blue.
Try to apply them all one by one and check which one fits your photo the most. After this, you can go back to the Layers Panel and adjust the opacity of the newly created layer to make colors and contrast more natural.
19. Double Expose
Do you like the images which are double exposed? It is easy to make your own picture using Photoshop.
You will need two photos to get started.
Open them both in Photoshop and drag one of them to another photo so you will get two layers. Now you can manipulate with these images on the right Layers Panel while changing the opacity of the upper level, cutting off necessary items and resizing photo layers with Ctrl+T (Cmd+T for Mac).
Here is video tutorial how you can make stunning double exposed photo:
20. Create a Frame
Sometimes you may need to make a frame around your photo, for instance, to create an outstanding banner. For this purpose, you can use the rectangular marquee tool.
Select the area for the frame and with mouse right click Select Stroke. You will get a dialogue box where you can choose the color for your frame and border width by a number of pixels.
I hope these 20 Photoshop tips will help you to post-process your images better and more efficiently!
Photoshop can help you to improve your images, but don't forget to practice photography with your camera because the way you shoot your pictures in the first place are more important than editing them later on your computer.
About the Author: Lidiia Kozhevnikova is a photographer with extensive experience in fashion, weddings, commercial and macro photography. She has been an advanced user of Photoshop for over five years now. To find out more about Lidiia, you can visit here personal photography website.
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