PhotoShop Basics

Ball State University provides several resources for students to take advantage of on campus. One of those resources is, which offers online software training and tutorials. Students have access to thousands of videos that they can access at their convenience anywhere on campus.

As a Marketing major, it is important to understand the basics of design. With limited knowledge of Photoshop, I decided it would be a good idea to use the tutorials to learn a little more. I selected the course “Up and Running with Photoshop for Design”. Outlined below are the elements of Photoshop that I was able to learn about.



Understanding the Image File

  • This section instructs you on how to start an image. You learn the different ways to open and close single as well as multiple images.
  • Next you learn how to get around inside an image. You learn to zoom in, zoom out and pan around an image. He provides you with keyboard shortcuts and tips in order to move around more fluidly in an image.
  • Finally, he introduces selections and layers. A jpeg image is a flat file and contains no layers. Working with layers inside Photoshop enables you to easily make changes to an image.

Selecting and Compositing

  • He introduces the most basic selection tools within Photoshop, the marquee and lasso tool. The shortcut for the marquee tool is m. He details how to register a selection by pressing the spacebar as you drag with the tool. When ensuring you are dragging exactly vertically, the shift key should be held. Next he details how to use the lasso tool to encompass objects. Pressing alt + click gives you better control to surround an object more closely.
  • Next we learn to select regions of color within an image. He details how to use the magic wand tool as well as work with the more detailed color range command. To access the magic wand tool, press shift w. This tool enables you to click within a region of color and select whatever Photoshop considers to be similar. To select more colors you can shift click inside them. To use the color range tool, go to select and choose color range. The color range command is generally better than the magic wand tool, especially when working within a continuous tone photograph.
  • Finally, he teaches how to refine selection outlines and preview adjustments on the fly. He does this by first selecting the color range command and selecting the background. To make sure the image will work on another background, go to the select menu and choose the refine edge command. This command allows you to preview the quality of your selection and adjust the quality. View should be set to default, which is on white. The edge detection feature allows you to revalue edges. The show radius feature should be turned on to see areas that are reevaluated.

Working with Layers

  • We learn to create a layered composition inside of Photoshop. The three ways to create a layer within Photoshop are by clicking ctrl + J to “jump”, the new layer command, or copy and paste.
  • Next we learn to blend layers within Photoshop. This means you can see through one layer inside another layer. We learn how to change opacity by pressing “0-9” on the numberpad.
  • He then shows how to use the adjustment layer to correct the luminous and color of a scanned piece of artwork. He does this through the use of blending modes.
  • He shows how to scale and rotate a layer within Photoshop. To toggle between images you press ctrl + tab. We learn to move and copy a layer.
  • Next we learn to duplicate a series of layers. We learn to copy a layer as you scale or transform it in other ways.
  • Finally, we learn to take an image set against one background and move it onto an entirely new background. To do so, deselect the current background layer and perform a drag and drop.

Working with Type and Effect

  • We learn to create and format type inside Photoshop. Type is always vector based, so you can re-size text anytime that you like so that it will match the resolution size of any image you like. To get to the text tool press the “t” key.
  • Next we learn to apply an automated drop shadow. A drop shadow can be added to any layer within Photoshop. Select the fx icon at the bottom of the layers panel and then choose drop shadow. Multiply is the blend mode you often want to use in the case of a drop shadow.
  • He shows how to create letters that appear to be carved out of a background. Select the fx icon at the bottom of the layers panel and then choose inner shadow.
  • He shows how to create beveled type inside of Photoshop. Select the fx icon and select bevel and emboss.
  • The last exercise he shows how to create 3D type in Photoshop extended.

Using the Paint and Pen Tools

  • He introduces us to the brush tool that is a practical free form painting tool in Photoshop. He recommends to paint on a new layer (ctrl + shift + n). The b key selects the brush tool. Soft press produces a smaller line, while firmly presses produces a thicker line. Right clicking in the image gives you the size and hardness menu. Increase brush size press “]” key. Decrease brush size press “[“. Decrease brush hardness by 25 shift +[, increase brush hardness by 25 shift +]. Switch foreground and background colors, press x key.
  • We learn how to paint inside a selection outline and how to paint in perfectly straight lines. Create a new layer every time you paint a new part of your object. Default foreground and background colors press d key. Go to window, brush command or F5 , then brush tip shape. Take spacing value down.
  • Next we learn to apply fills and gradients inside Photoshop. You can apply them as static modifications so pixels are permanently changed, or as layer effects. To fill an area with a foreground color press alt + backspace. To fill an area with a background color press ctrl + backspace. Gradient/paint bucket tool press g.
  • Finally, we learn how to use the pen tool that is an incredibly flexible drawing tool that allows you to draw one shape at a time.

Working with Layer and Vector Masks

  • We learn how to create and modify a layer mask that allows you to temporarily erase portions of a layer so you can integrate the layer into a larger composition. Right click in layer and make a duplicate composition. Add a layer mask by clicking button that is in the bottom of the layers panel. Temporary modifications are called nondestructive. The gradient tool is great for layers, press g key. Constrain movement by holding shift and drag.
  • We learn to draw shape layers which are essentially path outlines that you put on independent layers and outline with color. The shape layers are vectors based so they can be scaled and transformed without loss in quality.
  • Finally, we look at clipping masks that allow you to take the contents of one layer and mask them with another. Hide/reveal tool palettes by shift + tab. Press tab to hide/reveal toolbar. Press the spacebar to get the hand tool. Go to layer menu and select create clipping mask command to make layer behind it.

Using Smart Objects and Filters

  • We learn to work with smart objects. They enable a huge degree of flexibility. They are containers that protect images. Once a container is inside an image, the image cannot be harmed. Ctrl t to get to the free transform command. To maintain scale while resizing a selection press shift + drag. You are never supposed to scale an image more than once inside Photoshop as the pixels are rewritten. File, place allows you to place an image from disk within an existing composition.
  • Smart filters are dynamic modifiable filter effects that you can apply elusively inside of smart objects in Photoshop.
  • Finally, we learn how to combine many filters together in order to create a smart filter effect.

Saving and Prepress

  • We learn how to save an image from Photoshop. There are three main file formats that you need to know about: the psd, tiff, and jpeg. The asterisk means the file has not been saved. To save everything, then you want to work with Photoshop format. Check the ICC Profile box and click save. To save a flat version of the image to send out to a commercial printer or placement in another design program, use tiff. Turn off layers checkbox. In TIFF options, image compression should be set to LZW. If you want to email this file to somebody, set the format to jpeg as it will deliver the smallest format possible. Apply lossy compression. Save image with a quality setting of 10 or above.
  • Finally we learn how to prepare an image for commercial output so the image can be placed in illustrator or indesign. Go to the image menu and select image size or press ctrl + alt + i. This shows you how big the image is going to print or place. Turn off the resample image textbox. The ideal resolution is 300 pixels per inch. Recommendation for resolution: do not drop below 240.



Upon Completion of the online tutorial, I would highly recommend “Up and Running with Photoshop for Design” to individuals who have minimal knowledge of Photoshop. The instructor made the assumption that viewers had never used Photoshop before; therefore,  the material was explained at the most basic level. I found this extremely helpful being a Photoshop novice. He showed multiple ways of performing actions. Not everyone works the same, so it is good to know the various ways to go about working in Photoshop. The instructor made sure to show how to perform all of the functions on a Mac and PC. This makes the tutorial work for everyone who wants to learn Photoshop. After viewing the tutorial, I now know the basics of Photoshop and will be able to further my skills as I spend more time working in Photoshop.


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