In the first installment of Understanding Photoshop, we talked about how to start a new document. This installment will explain the layout of Photoshop and where to find necessary tools.
Before we can get going on our first project, you need to familiarize yourself with the Photoshop layout. On the left is the tool bar.
Most of the tools have shortcuts which will make them easier to call up, but if you forget the shortcut you can always find your tools here. We'll talk more about tools in the future, but for now it's just important to understand where to find everything.
On the right, you'll find a series of windows. You can add new windows or close the ones that are open by default depending on the project. By default, you'll have the Color/Swatch/Styles window on top.
Beneath that is the Adjustment/Mask window. You won't be using that for awhile, but it's important to know where to find it.
On the bottom is the Layers/Channels/Paths window.
It's very important to understand how layers work in Photoshop. The program allows you to isolate different items so you only affect individual parts of your image. Unless you have the correct layer selected, you won't get the desired result.
Just like any other program, there are several dropdown menus on the top of the window. You're probably already familiar with the File menu from other programs. There are a lot of options in the File menu, but don't get intimidated. On the right, you'll see the shortcuts for each command. Getting used to working with shortcuts instead of menus will speed things up a lot for you.
To the right of File is Edit. Again, there are a lot of options here but you'll only use a handful on a regular basis. You'll see the options “Undo, Step Forward, and Step Backward.” These are going to be your most-used options in the edit menu. Photoshop has a limited memory, but you can rewind 15 steps if you've made a mistake. Think of it as operating with a safety net.
The Image menu is a lot smaller than File and Edit, and contains the basic tools for photo editing. The Adjustments submenu holds the majority of quick photo editing and correction tools.
The Layer menu allows you to make wholesale changes to individual layers. We'll spend more time talking about layers in the coming weeks and months.
Select is an important menu, but all of the most common commands can be handled via shortcuts. Using selections is a good way of working on one section of an image without affecting anything else.
The Filter menu is usually used once a project is completed. Photoshop has an extensive filter library which can be used to create a unique finished product. Think of filters like you think about Instagram filters.
The Analysis and 3D menus are more advanced, so let's leave those alone for now. The View menu is similar to the Select menu in that it is important, but most tasks can be accomplished via shortcuts. You'll want to be comfortable using the zoom in (ctrl+) and zoom out (ctrl-) commands, as well as the fit on screen (ctrl+0) command, as using the shortcuts will save you a lot of time.
The last menu to discuss is the Windows menu.
In the beginning, I said you can always add or remove windows from the workspace. Here is how you do it. Just about every tool and menu in Photoshop has an associated window for fine tuning and greater control. If you're working with the brush tool, for example, you can always bring up the brush window to ease your navigation.
Now that you're familiar with the layout of Photoshop itself, you're ready to start your first project. In the next Understanding Photoshop blog entry, we'll get started on our first photo editing project.