Photoshop is a very versatile, useful program in the right hands. It allows a variety of photo editing options which would otherwise require hours of painstaking work to achieve. However, at first glance, it can look very intimidating. In the coming months, I will take you through the basics of the program so that you can perform the most popular and useful Photoshop tasks.
Lesson 1: Getting Started
What good is a powerful program if it's too complicated to even get started? When you first open Photoshop, you will see a blank window like this one:
Don't wait for a start menu to pop up; you have to manually tell Photoshop what to do. To start a new document, go to file/new or press (ctrl+n). Shortcuts are essential to working quickly in Photoshop, so I would suggest committing as many to memory as possible. After starting a new document, you will see this screen:
It looks like there are a lot of options here, but don't get overwhelmed. You can name your document here if you want, but it's not necessary. You can always name the document before you save it.
Photoshop has a number of document size presets, including US Letter (8.5 x 11), US Legal (8.5 x 14), and Ledger (11 x 17). You can also manually input your own dimensions in either pixels or inches. You may have heard the term "pixel" before, but were unsure of its meaning. A pixel is the smallest unit of measurement on a screen. A single pixel is just a square of solid color. When you put a bunch of pixels together, you can create what is called a "raster image." In future blogs, I'll explain the difference between raster and vector images, but for now let's just work with rasters.
You can see that my Photoshop preset is "Clipboard." That means that I've copied an image from somewhere else (this can be from the Internet or from another program on your computer) and that Photoshop has kept a record of the dimensions of what I've copied. This is useful because it allows you to make a frame perfectly sized for the image I've copied.
Resolution is a very important part of your Photoshop setup. Resolution refers to the number of pixels crammed into a square inch. The more pixels you can fit into one inch, the sharper and clearer your image will be. Standard screen resolution is 72 pixels/inch. Standard print resolution is 300 pixels/inch. As a rule of thumb, if you ever plan on printing your document, start it out at 300 pixels/inch. If you only plan on having your document visible on a computer screen (if you're making a website or a Facebook cover image, for example), keeping the resolution at 72 pixels/inch is fine.
Color mode and resolution are cousins in this program. You will primarily be working in one of two color modes: RGB and CMYK. RGB color is used on a screen, whereas CMYK color is used on paper. If you have 100% red, green, and blue (RGB), you will get white. If you have 100% cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK), you get black. If you ever plan on printing your document, use CMYK color mode. If your document will only be visible on the screen, use RGB color.
Background content is a personal preference. I tend to work with a transparent background. Doing so allows me to work with the other Adobe design programs without having a white square behind whatever it is I've designed.
I've worked with Photoshop for a decade and have never messed with the advanced settings. Color profile refers to the appearance of colors on your screen and will change automatically dependent on your color mode. You can also change the color profile before you print if you save your file as a PDF. Standard pixel aspect ratio is square. I've never found a need to alter the aspect ratio of the pixels.
This is how the document will appear immediately after setup. Photoshop represents transparency with that gray-and-black checkerboard pattern. If you chose to use a white or colored background, the checkers will not appear. Your document may or may not have the rulers on the left and top margins. If you want to bring up the rulers, just press (ctrl+r).
In my next blog, I'll be discussing the tool bar on the left side of the page.