Basic Photoshop CC training by Digital Tutors
Feeling like you need some direction in your Photoshop CC skills? Well, Digital-Tutors wants you! We’re going to turn you into a lean, mean, rasterizing machine with our Photoshop Basic Training Boot Camp. To get you manipulating pixels as quickly as possible, we’ll start with identifying the program’s user interface, manipulating layers, mastering the Move Tool, and finally learning how to crop an image. These are the basics that every Photoshop user must master at some point. So, ten hut! Fall in!! And grab your gear because DT’s Basic Training Boot Camp starts now….
One term you should be familiar with when working with Photoshop’s user interface (UI) is the word “panel.” The term usually refers to a group of controls that do similar things. Below are the names of some basic Photoshop UI bars and panels, their location, and general function.
- Tool Panel: Choose your weapon, Soldier! The Tool Panel is located on the left side of the UI and contains a large variety of controls you can use to manipulate your image. Manipulation can range from simply moving the image with the Move Tool to something more complex like selecting very specific parts of the image with the Magic Wand Tool. You can think of your Tool Panel as your weapons cache, the place where you store and select your WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Design).
- Options Bar: Know your weapon! It’s one thing to pick up a rocket launcher, and quite another to know how to use it. After you’ve selected the appropriate tool from the Tool Panel, you now will need to know what options you have and how to use it. Information about your tools’ controls is accessible in the Options bar, located below the menu bar, at the top of your work space. The Options bar provides controls for each tool and changes to fit which tool you currently have selected. For example, if you choose the Brush Tool, your options panel will display choices for controlling the brush’s size, shape, opacity, and flow.
- Layers Panel: What has layers? Onions, Orgres and Photoshop. Your Layers Panel, located in the bottom right corner of your screen, is one of the most often accessed panels in Photoshop. Like an onion, a Photoshop project can be made up of many different layers. And also like an onion, the top layer is the only one you will usually see. This onion layer analogy will help you prepare for those future moments when you suddenly can’t see an element on the canvas when you can clearly see the layer in the Layers Panel. The reason you can’t see it is most likely because you’ve placed its layer below another layer that is covering it up. Being unaware of this potential complication can, like onions, bring tears to your eyes. But there’s no crying in Photoshop! Move out!!
- History Panel: Remember where you came from!! It’s important to know how to move forward with your project by using tools, controls, and layers. But just as important is to know where you’ve been. Inevitably, you’ll need to undo something you’ve done either in the disastrous category or a simple mistake. Sure you can Command+Z (Mac) or Ctrl+Z (Win) to go back one step, but these shortcuts will only get you so far. What if your problem is 5, 10 or even 15 steps backward? This is where the History Panel can be a time saver. Located on the upper right-hand side of your work space, your recent history of moves, additions, selections, etc. are all recorded and laid out for you. Selecting on any one spot in your history will revert you there immediately. Sure you can use the short cut Ctrl+Alt+Z to go back one step at a time, but the History Panel can get you there in a snap.
The Tool, History, Layers panels along with the Options bar are just a few of the basic interface features of Photoshop CC. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and getting to know these panels, their locations, and functions will ensure your basic training success. Knowing the lay of the land, so to speak, is the first step in your march toward Photoshop domination.
The image below of a packaged monster is made up of multiple layers. (Click here to follow along). To manipulate the parts of this image, you must know how to work within the Layers Panel. Remember that layers are organized from bottom to top (or, if you prefer, top to bottom) with the top layer being the top-most element you see on the canvas. In this example, the “tentacles” layer sits on top of the “package” layer that sits on top of the “Background” layer. Re-arranging these layers will have different effects. For example, if you click and drag the “tentacles” layer below the “package” layer, the image would now look like this:
What has happened is that the green tentacles have moved backward behind the package. They’re now partially hidden, sandwiched between the package layer and the white background. The result is sub par so we’ll move the “tentacles” layer back to the top making it the top onion layer once again. However, this is the basics of moving layers within a Photoshop project. You can also move multiple layers simultaneously by selecting and highlighting more than one at a time.
Take a look once again at the Layers Panel. You’ll notice that the “package” layer is a little different from the other two. It’s smaller and has a folder icon on it. That’s because it’s technically a group, which is exactly what it sounds like–a group of layers inside of a folder. You might think of a group as an onion within an onion. To open any group to view its sub-layers, you simply click the drop down arrow on the left hand side of the panel. As you can see in the image below, doing this reveals the “package” group’s contents:
- UP text
These individual layers inside of the “package” group can be easily manipulated to fit your needs. Their order can be rearranged, which would also affect the look of our mail monster image. For example, can you guess what would happen to the image if you moved the “FRAGILE” layer below the “Box” layer?
“Move it!! Move it!!… Move Tool!!”
Any Photoshop soldier worth his or her salt knows how to correctly select and move elements in a multi-layered document. Of course, it’s easy to move things in Photoshop, but without the right training, you’ll have many undesired adjustments to your composition. This will result in the overuse and abuse of your undo shortcut keys or in constantly going to your History Panel. This takes up precious time you probably don’t have. So stomach in…chest out..mouse button at the ready, let’s get familiar with the Move Tool.
The first thing you want to do is locate and select the Move Tool in the Tool Panel. After selecting it, you can see that the Options bar changes, indicating all of the options that apply to it. The two Options bar adjustments you’ll probably deal with first are the “Auto-Select” check box and “Layer/Group button”. For the moment, check the box for Auto-Select and set the option for the other button to “Layer”. We’ll discuss more about what these mean a little later on.
We’ve seen how to move layers and the effects of doing this. Now we can look at how to use the Move Tool to move elements within the image. Before you move elements, however, you need to select the layer itself. This can be done several ways, but let’s look at two of the common ones: from the Layers Panel or on the canvas itself.
Moving with the Layers Panel
Selecting and highlighting a specific layer within the Layers Panel will activate that layer for movement by the Move Tool. For example, if you select the FRAGILE layer, which corresponds to the word “FRAGILE” on the side of the package, you’d be able to move the font around the canvas by clicking on, holding and dragging it.
Let’s say you wanted to offset the word “FRAGILE” on our package to the right a bit. You can move that individual element by first selecting its layer in the Layers Panel. Then clicking and dragging it slightly to the right. Before moving it, however, you need to make sure that only the “FRAGILE” layer is highlighted in the Layers Panel. If there are more layers selected, you’d be inadvertently moving those as well.
Note: If you’ve got snapping enabled, you can fine-tune your movement and override the snapping feature by holding down Ctrl while clicking and dragging with the Move Tool. This makes it easier to put your element exactly where you want it. You can see the result of selecting and moving the word “FRAGILE” slightly to the right in the image below.
You can use this layer selection strategy to move any of the elements within the image. So far we’ve only moved one element within the image: the word “FRAGILE”. What if you wanted to move two or more elements at the same time? Well, that’s just as easy. You just need to select more than one layer at a time. This is accomplished by holding down Ctrl and clicking on the layers you want to move. For example, you could select to move both the tentacles and the box by selecting their layers simultaneously.
As you’ve probably guessed, you can move an entire group by highlighting its group, which in this case would be the “package” group. So selecting just the “package” group would automatically select all three layers that make it up. This would allow you to move the word “FRAGILE,” the “UP text,” and the “Box” elements at the same time.
Moving with the Canvas
You can also select elements (and their layers) directly on the canvas by simply clicking on an element or a part of an element. This selection feature is known as Auto-Select. This is why we checked the “Auto-Select” box along with the “Layer” setting before we began. If Auto-Select is not enable, Photoshop requires you to select elements in the Layers Panel first before manipulating them. When enabled, Auto-Select will automatically select the top layer that you select on the canvas. You can set this feature to auto-select by layer or by group depending on your needs. If you change the setting to “Group,” then when you selected any part of the “package” group (i.e. “FRAGILE,” “UP text,” or “Box”), Photoshop would select the entire group rather than the individual layers. This feature gives you more freedom in how to choose what to move on the canvas.
“Crop and Give Me 20!!”
At Photoshop Boot Camp there’s one skill that is a must for all new recruits. And that skill is cropping. Many times you may have taken a photograph that was too far away from your subject, contains unwanted elements like your finger, or maybe it’s just off balance and uneven. It happens to the best of us, but cropping can be a simple answer to all of these unwanted issues.
Let’s take the image below as an example of a picture that needs some cropping (click here to download if you want to follow along). Not only is the picture a little angled, but there is a large finger shadow in the upper left hand corner that we don’t want. Despite these imperfections, the image is one we want to keep. We can use the Crop Tool to fix both of these issues in a matter of minutes and rescue the lighthouse photo in 7 easy steps.
- Step 1. Select the Crop Tool in the Tool Panel. After selecting you should notice that the Options bar changes accordingly to reveal all of the Crop Tool’s control settings. You should also see a dotted line surrounding the picture’s perimeter and form a highlighted crop box. This highlighted area designates the new cropped picture. There should be four adjustment handles on each of the four corners of your crop box as in the image below. There are also four handles for each side of the crop box. You can use any of these handles to change the shape and size of your crop box by clicking, holding and dragging them.
- Step 2. Grab one of the four corner handles and begin dragging it towards the center of the picture. Since we want to remove the finger shadow in the upper left hand corner, you might want to grab that handle first. Immediately, you should see that your dotted line forms a smaller box that changes shape as you drag around your handle. Again, this box represents the shape and size of your cropped picture. It should be highlighted while the areas outside its perimeter should now be darkened. These darkened areas will be cropped off. You can adjust the box so that the dark finger shadow is in the darkened, cropped off area. You may want to shorten the height of the box as well to keep the picture in roughly the same height-to-width proportions as the original.
- Step 3: At this point, you might want to check the box in your Options bar that says “Delete Cropped Pixels,” which will eliminate those shaded areas after you’ve cropped the image. Don’t worry, you can always undo the deletion by going into your History Panel. You’ll probably also notice that our box now contains a grid of vertical and horizontal lines. This is called your overlay and is used to help you compose and position elements within your image. Photoshop’s default overlay setting, (also located in the Options bar), is the “Rule of Thirds,” which is a very standard way of composing subjects.
- Step 4: The overlay setting can be changed by selecting and accessing the drop down menu. Since you’re also going to straighten your picture just a bit, let’s choose a more appropriate overlay that will help with this. You can access the overlap drop down menu and choose “Grid” instead. This should change the overlay into something that looks similar to the image below. You’ll now have many more lines to work with, and you can use these lines to help straighten the picture.
- Step 5: If you move your cursor outside the area of the picture (onto the gray backdrop of your workspace), it should change to a curved, two-pointed arrow. This is the cursor setting that will allow you to rotate the picture. You can click and slowly start to move your cursor up or down, which should begin to slightly rotate the picture. Your crop box area will remain stationary. The picture can now be adjusted until the harbor’s land line is parallel with one of your closest overlay lines. You’ve just used the grid overlay as a guide to help balance the picture.
- Step 6: After you’ve gotten your picture aligned, you need to accept your changes. To do this, with the Crop Tool still selected you should notice on the Options bar in the upper right hand corner a set of three buttons. Reading from left to right, the buttons correspond to:
- Resetting the Crop Box
- Canceling the Current Crop Operation
- Committing to Current Crop Operation
To apply your adjustments, select the “Committing to Current Crop Operation” button.
Step 7: At this point your new picture should be reformatted with the finger shadow removed and a much more balanced composition. Below you can see the difference between the original picture and your newly cropped image. If not satisfied with your crop, you can simply hit the “Reset the Crop Box” button and try again.
Congratulations! You’ve just made it through Digital-Tutors’ Photoshop CC Basic Training Boot Camp. You’ve learned how to locate a variety of basic panels and bars within the user interface, looked at how layers function, mastered the Move Tool for both layers and canvas work, and achieved the ability to crop photos. If you would like to reach the next level of skill with, check out our tutorials on Photoshop basics for beginners and expand your newly gained powers. Go forth young Padawan and be at one with the Photoshop!