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Top 5 Photoshop Mistakes

Updated on June 6, 2012
Illustration made in Photoshop
Illustration made in Photoshop | Source


Adobe Photoshop is a powerful graphics editing software beloved by professional artists, designers and novices alike. In the past decade, Photoshop's popularity has increased exponentially, thanks to its powerful tools, intuitive interface and the rise of digital art media among the new generation of artists.

The points outlined below are what I see as common Photoshop mistakes that are keeping you from achieving optimal results with the program quickly and efficiently, and offering suggestions as to what you could do instead.

1. Not Using Pen Tool For Extraction

The Pen Tool is a great tool. However, to a lot of people it is very intimidating because working with paths, anchor points and using the Convert Point tool to fiddle with the anchor point handles just seems so foreign. There is a bit of a learning curve, yes, but once you get over that, it's tremendously useful. Cutting out objects from images with the Pen Tool is superior to using the Lasso Tool (Magnetic or otherwise) - those neat, sleek lines can't be beat, and a lot quicker too. It's also great for drawing geometrical shapes, some lineart and is a godsend for those of us who don't have steady hands.

2. Not Using Layer Masks

Sometimes, the object you extract from an image have intricate, detailed outlines or little spaces in it that need manual erasing (hair, for example). The most obvious solution is to use the eraser tool to clean up the edges. However, the better way to go about doing this is to use the Layer Mask tool because it is a lot lower in impact and editable. Use an opaque, hard edged round brush tool, toggle back and forth between black (hide layer) and white (show layer - as necessary), then when you're happy with it, you can finalize the changes by using the Apply Layer Mask command.

3. Not Using Adjustment Layers

When you want to adjust the colours, levels, or any element of the image, going to Image>Adjustments and choosing the command you want to open up that window works, but it is better to create a new Adjustment Layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer). The reasoning here is the same as #2; this is a much lower impact way to tweak your image. Of course, when you are done, you can merge the adjustment layer down to the image layer.

4. Not Making Backup Layers

When you decide to make any major changes, you should always make backup layers(s). That way, if you don't like the changes that you have made, you could always revert to the previous layer. You can even make several backup layers and experiment to see which version you like best. Of course you can delete the backup layers when you don't need them anymore. It's always better to be safe than sorry!

5. Not Using Shortcuts

Using shortcuts greatly boosts your productivity and saves you a HUGE amount of time. You can check and edit your shortcuts by going to Edit>Keyboard shortcut. Awesome! P.s. the shortcuts for adjusting brush sizes are "[" (decreasing) and "]" (increasing), and edge hardness are "{" (softer) and "}" (harder). Works for round brushes only. I learned this the long way :P.


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    • Kayness profile image

      Kayness 5 years ago

      Thank you very much! Yes shortcuts are very useful!

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 5 years ago from Washington state

      I live by Shortcuts... Nice hub.

    • Kayness profile image

      Kayness 5 years ago

      thank you autumn18!

    • autumn18 profile image

      autumn18 5 years ago from CA, USA

      Great tips. I need to play around with the pen tool some more. I hardly use it. Thanks for writing this.

    • Kayness profile image

      Kayness 5 years ago

      dragonflyfla - thank you for the comment! I'm not sure what other software you might be referring to. I have used Corel Photopaint before but it's only a few times and it's a long, long time back (10++ years ago).. I can hardly remember anything about it now! I guess it's what you're used to. I heard that GIMP is also very good!

      yougotme - thank you so much for the comment! I've been using Photoshop for around a decade and still haven't quite figured out everything, and also with all these new functions that come with newer versions.

      Stephen - you can of course go about without using masks, but imo once you start using it you might wonder how you even got by with it in the first place!

      Christin - thank you for your comment! Yes I think that the pen tool is a lot better in Illustrator than in Photoshop, but PS pen tool does the job adequately. I haven't explored the content aware features yet (I use CS5), it sounds like it will be really useful!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

      excellent tips here and I totally agree for the most part. I love the new "content aware" features in the newest versions of Photoshop because they give you a lot more control also. The pen tool I can take or leave honestly - I do understand its benefits because I use Illustrator also, but I feel I have more control with lassos and masking. This hub has inspired me though to continue giving the pen tool a try :).

    • stephenjm profile image

      stephenjm 5 years ago

      Excellent work on this! I have avoided getting involved with masks for years now, figuring I'd make do with what I have. I expect I've really been limiting myself.

    • yougotme profile image

      Renz Kristofer Cheng 5 years ago from Manila

      I'm guilty of #'s 3 and 5.

      If you didn't mention Adjustment Layers, I wouldn't know it exists. As for the shortcuts, I'm not fully aware of all the shortcuts, although I use some of them.

      Thanks for this! Great hub!

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 5 years ago from South Florida

      Nice article pointing out the power of Photoshop.

      I have been wondering lately, as a long time Adobe it still the most powerful software? It seems like most graphic editing software is starting to have the same tools such as the pen tool, layers and mask. Plus, they are a lot cheaper. What do you think?