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Adobe Photoshop Tools for Beginners

Updated on September 23, 2011

Adobe Photoshop is a powerful tool that can create and edit photos to make stunning images used for several types of projects. To a beginner the vast amount of tools available can be overwhelming. For this reason it is good to get a crash course of the basics. For this article, Photoshop CS5 is used so the most up to date information is used.

Move Tool

The move tool is used to take one object and put it somewhere else; however, this tool is capable of moving more than just objects. It can also move layers and select areas for editing or designing. In certain cases this tool must be selected or types of actions are limited.

Marquee Tool

The marquee tool is used to select areas within a picture. The marquee tool comes in a few different shapes: rectangular, elliptical, single row, and single column. Think of this tool as a way to select and edit shapes or move a selected area to another place or picture.

The marquee tool is capable of many things especially if the image is rasterized. You can make a basic shape and use the marquee tool to cut portions out or make changes to the area. The marquee tool is useful in many situations with the proper application. In order to rasterize the layer right click and select "rasterize type".

Lasso Tool

The lasso tool comes in handy when you want to select something. This is different from other tools in that you can take a selection with the lasso tool, copy it, and use it as part of a design.

The lasso tool itself is freeform and completes the line when the end point is connected. The polygonal lasso tool draws straight lines and is great for making exact shapes. The magnetic lasso tool clings to borders as you move it along. This is good for cutting out objects or using them in other designs. For closer detail use the zoom tool for a better view.

Magic Wand Tool - And Quick Selection

Magic wand lets you select an area that is based off color levels. This means that tracing the item with a different tool is skipped. You can adjust the level of tolerance in the magic wand so it only selects colors that are closer or further in range from the original color. You can also increase or decrease the softness of the edges.

Quick Selection Tool

This tool is under the same tab as the magic wand. It is like the marquee tool in that it selects an area, but it starts out with a circle. From there you can click to add to the area until you are satisfied.

Crop Tool and Slice Tools

The crop tool is used to take part of an image and make it into its own picture. This tool is relatively easy to use and only requires a few clicks. First you click the tool and draw a box over the area of the image you want to select. From there you just move the edges until you have the wanted area captured.

Slice Tool

The slice tool is most commonly used in web design, and in CS5 is found with the crop tool. To use the slice tool you draw a rectangle over the image you want to select. You can resize and reshape the area if needed. In web design slices are used to make up the different parts of the web page.

Slice Selection Tool

The slice selection tool wont let you slice images, but it does give access to image information. This gives the user control over how the image is stored, the name of the image, and the ability to upload it to the url if known.

Eyedropper Tool

Eyedropper selects a color from an area and uses it as the new main color. It is useful in color correction and color banacing a photo. You can also use the eyedropper function when selecting colors in the palette. All you need to do is open the palette and move the cursor out of the area. If hovering over a picture just click and the color is duplicated. This also works in other image files.

Spot Healing Brush

This brush retouches images by matching the area around the brush. There is a spot healing brush and a healing brush. The difference is that the healing brush requires you to select an area before you can make corrections to an image.

Brush Tool

The brush tool paints on the layer selected. You can adjust the hardness or softness, the area it takes up, and the opacity. The pencil tool makes hard likes as a pencil would. Again, you can select the thickness of the line as well as opacity.

Clone Stamp Tool

The clone stamp tool duplicates a selected area and paints it over another. This can be in the same document, a different document, or another layer. This tool is used for touching up photos with damaged areas and also in duplicating images.

History Brush

This tool uses a previous source and paints images with the same type of style. Users can change the style, tolerance, size, and colors used to paint. If a painting has a preferred style this tool is useful in recreating it with your own unique touch.

Eraser Tool

The eraser tool corrects areas by changing it to either a transparent state or the background. Users have a choice of eraser style by changing it to a brush or pencil. Changing the hardness of the edges and the width gives even more control.

Paint Bucket Tool

This tool fills in the selected area with a color or pattern. Users can set options that specify how smooth the edges area and the level of transparency the color has. There is also a gradient tool in this area. Select the colors and type of gradient wanted and drag the mouse on the canvas in the direction you want the gradient to flow.

Blur Tool

This tool blurs the edges or areas of the image the user selects. It acts like a brush and even allows different brush sizes and levels of opacity. Users also have a choice between making changes to all layers or just the selected layer.

Dodge Tool

The dodge tool and burn tool are found within the same area. These tools were implemented so designers can have the same affect that photographers used in developing film. The dodge tool lightens the area of the image by increasing the amount of exposure while the burn tool darkens the selected area.

Pen Tool

The pen tool allows users to create designs that are done by connecting points. These points can be altered with the add/delete point tool. There are different modes of the pen tool: the default one offers the most control, free form pen acts as a planning tool, and magnetic pen acts like the magnetic lasso. The picture shown is the point convert tool.

Text Tool / Type Tool

The type tool takes care of all your text based needs. There are other buttons within the same tab that change the direction of text from vertical and horizontal. You can change the font type, color, effect, alignment, and size.

You can also delete parts of text by rasterizing the layer and selecting the marquee tool. Draw over the area you wish to delete and hit the delete button. Make sure the layer with the rasterized text is selected.

Path Selection Tool

Use this tool to select paths and alter the appearance. This can be done by adding, deleting, or moving current selection points. The selection can be made by drawing over it with the marquee tool, or by selecting the direct selection tool.

Shape Tool

The shape tool has several tools in it to dictate the type of shape drawn. These are pretty self-explanatory, but the last shape on the list is the custom shape. By right clicking with this tool selected additional options are displayed giving you control over the type of shape selected as well as color fill, and draw style. You can also download additional shapes by looking around online.

3D Object Tool

This tool is only active when a layer has 3D options enabled. It allows the user to adjust the position of the 3D object through rotation and size.

3D Camera

Like the 3D object tool, the 3D camera can only be used when a 3D layer is present. This allows the user to position the camera for the desired view of the 3D object.

Rotate View Tool

While there are ways to alter the perspective in Photoshop they can cause issues and damage to the quality of the image. The rotate view tool allows the user to move the canvas without harming the image.

Zoom Tool

Sometimes work is very detailed and it helps to zoom in for a more defined view of the area. The zoom tool moves the camera angle in and out so you can work on the detailed areas and see the overall picture.


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