Photoshop Training: Lesson #1 - Your Workspace
Level: Novice ◊
Photoshop is a powerful image-editing and digital painting program. With practice, Photoshop can open a whole new world for professional artists and beginners alike.
For first-time users, however, the sheer number of tools available can be overwhelming. Where do I begin? What does this button do? How can I possibly make something when I don't even know what I'm looking at?
This tutorial is designed for such users. It will guide you through your Photoshop workspace and explain all the bits and pieces.
What is a workspace?
The Photoshop workspace is what you see when you open up the program. It contains all the tools you need to work. Just like any artist's work area, you'll find canvas, brushes, paint, erasers, and many more tools. Your exact workspace will vary from version to version, but the most important components will remain. For my tutorials, I'll be working with a copy of CS2.
If you want your own copy of this software, Adobe has it available for free on their website.
The very first time you open up Photoshop, your workspace will look something like this:
A little intimidating, isn't it? Break it down into the various parts (follow the red letters), and you'll find:
- (A) Menu Bar
- (B) Options Bar
- (C) Toolbox
- (D) Active Image Area
- (E) History Window
- (F) Layers Window
If you have some experience with computers, you've seen a menu bar before. Photoshop's menu bar will have a few new options that you may not recognize, such as “Image,” “Layers,” and “Filters."
When you click on these options you get dropdown menus, with even more options you may not be familiar with. At the very beginning, we'll stick to what we know: “File > New” “File > Open” and “File > Save” These three options are the same as they are in any other computer program.
This bar is a little trickier to get the hang of than the other parts of your workspace. Every time you select a new tool to use, the options bar will change.
For example, when the brush tool is selected, you're given options to change the size, shape, and opacity of the brush. The text tool provides options for the font, font size, and color.
As the name indicates, all of Photoshop's most basic tools can be found right here. The tools can be selected by right-clicking on them, or by a shortcut key.
Looking closely, you'll notice that almost all of the tool buttons have a tiny black arrow in the corner. If you right-click and hold, or left-click on these buttons, a new menu box will appear.
These menus give you variations of the tool to choose from. Once selected, the icon for the new tool will replace the former one. So if a tool isn't behaving the way it should, make sure it's the tool you want!
Active Image Area:
This is your canvas, and it's where all the magic happens. Once you create a new file or open one you've already got, this window will appear.
Along the bottom of the window, you'll see the status bar. The status bar gives you information on the current image. On default, it will show your zoom (how far you're zoomed in or out of the image) and your document size.
This little window will soon be your best friend. It allows you to undo multiple actions. So misplaced brushstrokes and accidental erasures are cured with the click of the mouse!
The number of actions that Photoshop saves for you can be adjusted as well. So you can save more if you're making lots of small changes on your canvas, or fewer if you need to improve the program's performance.
A Photoshop file allows you, the artist, to work on multiple pictures, or layers, all on the same canvas. These layers can be a very powerful tool once you learn how to use them to their full potential.
When you start on a picture for the first time, you'll see one of two things in this window. Either a small image of your canvas labeled “Layer 1” or a small image of your canvas labeled “Background” and a small picture of a padlock.
If your background layer is locked, you'll notice that a lot of options in the Layer window are grayed out. But don't worry, it's normal! Many digital photos you take and some pictures from the internet will have a locked background. The solution is as simple as a double-click on that layer.
Click “OK” on the box that pops up, and you have a shiny new layer to work with!
Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting:
- My workspace vanished!
It happens – sometimes you hit the wrong button, sometimes your cat runs across the keyboard – but all of a sudden, all of your palettes and your toolbox are gone!
You're the victim of an errant keyboard shortcut. Luckily, it's just as easily fixed as it is to cause. The Tab key will show/hide all the windows in your workspace except for the Active Image window(s). Shift-Tab will show/hide all the little palettes on the right side of the screen.
- I moved things around, and now it looks weird!
If you want to return your workspace to its original form without carefully dragging and dropping, you can find the default option under “Window > Workspace > Default Workspace”