Photoshop is by far my favorite image editing program. There’s so much you can do with it and it’s a never-ending learning process. If you’re just starting out with Photoshop and you’re looking at the list of tools and adjustments with confusion and anxiety… don’t worry. Everyone started off that way. This article will show you the top tools and adjustment layers to create your best image.
- First things first. When I open an image in Photoshop I Crop it. This is a really easy tool, and makes a huge difference. Sometimes I crop the image to be a square format if it’s going on Instagram, other times I just crop out the distractions until I like the composition. Quick tip! If you hold the shift button while making your selection, it will be a perfect square. Shift also preserves your aspect ratio if you’ve already made a selection.
- Next, is the Clone Stamp Tool. This is one of the most important helpers in the toolbox. This little fixer-upper cleans up blemishes on skin, removes dust, fixes glare on metal, and any other spot that you want to soften or remove. Just hold ALT and click to choose the source area, and then simply click to duplicate it.
- The Navigator isn’t an effect or really a tool, it’s just a really great way to view your image when editing. When you move the slider to the right, you can quickly zoom in really close to an unwanted spot and then remove it with the clone stamp tool, for example. Also, you can move all around the picture to see how sharp it is and see colors up close.
- The Burn Tool is my friend especially if I shoot landscapes on a sunny day. Again, you can choose to burn (darken) the highlights, midtones or shadows. For instance, if parts of my sky are a little too light, then I go in with this nifty tool and fix it. Just above it is the Dodge Tool, which does just the opposite, lightening the area. Both tools are essential for photo editing.
- I rarely use standard image adjustments because a layer isn’t created, and I can’t go back and edit it unless it’s still in the history, which is limited to a certain number of actions. With that in mind, I much prefer creating Adjustment Layers because you can always change them as long as the image isn’t flattened. Also, if you decide you don’t like it then you can just delete the layer entirely. Keep in mind that when you have multiple layers, they affect each other. The top layer affects the layer below it and so on.
- When I want to boost the contrast or tone down highlights I create a Curves Layer. As a general rule of thumb, making an “S’ shaped curve will add more contrast to your image. That isn’t useful for every photo, however… you have to do what works for your particular image. This takes some experimenting to get a feel for how it works, but in the end it’s an excellent tool for quick adjustments.
|CURVES LAYER||MAKE ADJUSTMENTS TO HIGHLIGHTS AND SHADOWS|
- When I’m working on a nice landscape, I generally want to boost the saturation a bit. The Hue/Saturation Layer is the perfect tool for that. Not only can you alter the color saturation, but you can also change the hue of the entire image, or certain colors. This can greatly change the mood of the picture… perhaps you want the image to have a warm sepia tone or a moody blue tinge. Plus, you can saturate specific colors, great for showcasing autumn leaves, a blue sky or someone’s eyes.
- Sometimes I want to fine tune my color adjustments, and I do this by applying a Color Balance Layer. You can make specific adjustments to the shadows, midtones and highlights. Also, you can adjust cyan, red, magenta, green, yellow and blue in the image or in a specific tone. I especially like this if my shadows are too blue or if I want my sunset highlights to be warmer.
- After I have completed all of my retouching and I’m happy with my image, I always sharpen it. For me, the Unsharp Mask works best. Choose the bottom layer (your original image or a duplicate layer), then click on Filter -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask. These are the numbers I input. Amount: 70-80; Radius: 1.0; Threshold: 0. This does add a bit of grain to the image when magnified, so use it sparingly, or just lower the amount of sharpness if it’s too much.
- Resizing your image is important depending upon where your final image is going to end up. If you’re going to make a large print to hang on the wall then you want a large image with a lot of resolution, but if it’s going on the web, then a smaller image is just fine and won’t take as long to load. Since most people nowadays put their pictures on social media, here’s a quick and easy way to resize your image. Click on Image -> Image Size. Make sure Scale Styles, Constrain Proportions and Resample Image are checked. Change the width or height to the amount of pixels you want. Since Constrain Proportions is checked then the dimensions will automatically adjust to keep the proportions the same. Make sure to check that they fit within the proper sizes for whatever platform you’re working with. Here’s a good resource that will help you choose the correct sizes.
*Note: You can’t make an image larger. I mean, you can, but it will get pixelated and lose sharpness.
- OK, you have a final image that’s sharpened and resized…now what? Assuming this is going on the web, now it’s time to Save Your Image. Click on File -> Save for Web. You can now choose the file type (JPEG is the most common), quality level (which determines file size as well as image quality), and you can even resize from here if you wish. Just click on Save when you’re ready, rename your file, and you’re done!
I hope these 11 tips have helped clear up some of the uncertainty with Photoshop. It’s such a fun program to use and there are soooo many ways to get the same outcome. Everyone has a recipe that works for them, and I hope that mine can help you get started with Photoshop.