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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Soh

Photoshop 1101e: Crash Course Introduction on PS

Photoshop – love it, hate it, you got to use it, whether you’re a university student who needs to edit photos for your PowerPoint, and especially if you’re a CNM major who needs it to work on your assignments. Photoshop is one of the most versatile software used to work on raster images – from editing photos to drawing to creating graphics to even animating and videography, photoshop does it all! It might be daunting to someone starting out, but no fear! Here’s a handy beginner’s tutorial to help you get started, and some of my personal favourite shortcuts.

Opening new document

When you need to work on a new project, you can either set a custom size for your image by inputting your measurements, or choose from the pre-sets available at the top. Here I want to point out resolution and colour mode – you can set them to whatever suits your purposes, but my rule of thumb is this:

  • Resolution 72 and colour mode RGB when working for web

  • Resolution 300 and colour mode CMYK when working for print

Made a mistake? No worries! Click on Image > Mode > and change it to whatever colour profile you like.

When you are done editing your image or want to take a break, save your file. Save it as a .psd to continue editing and have editable layers (more on that later!), or save it as .jpg/.png/.pdf to export.


Here is an overview of all the tools Photoshop offers.

You will realise that there are default tools and a bunch of other tools under each category. On the toolbar, the default tool will be shown on default. To pull up the other tools, right click on the little triangle at the default tool, and the other tools will pop out.

There is a lot of tools and for all purposes, so you can just open a blank canvas or a random photograph to play around with all of them. If you ever lose any of your tools, go to Windows and select whatever tool you want to appear by clicking on them. Active tools that are on your workspace will have a tick next to them.

Colour adjustments – the basics!

Photoshop has a lot of advanced tools to help you correct the colours of an image, and if we cover all of them we will be here all day. Instead, I will just cover a few.

To bring up the adjustments, go to Image > Adjustments.

To bring up the brightness of an image or darken it, select Brightness/Contrast. There will be sliders for brightness and contrast respectively. Adjusting the brightness slider will increase or decrease the brightness of the image, while adjusting the contrast will make the bright areas brighter or dark areas darker. Play around with the sliders until the lightning of the image looks the way you want it to!

To adjust the colours of an image, select Hue/Saturation. When you adjust the hue, you are changing the dominant colour in the image, and when adjusting saturation, you make the colours more vivid or duller. Again, play around until you are happy with the image.

Bear in mind that there are multiple ways to get the end result you want! For example, if I want to edit the brightness of my image, I can use Levels, Brightness/Contrast, Curves, Exposure, to name a few. So just choose the method that you like the best!

Cropping images

Select the Crop Tool and play with the anchors of the image until you are happy with the crop. Then double click and viola!

Pro tip: use rulers! Either go Windows > Rulers, or Ctrl+R (Command for Mac users) to bring up the rulers. From the rulers, click and drag your mouse to bring up guides. These guides are a gauge for you visually, and won’t be there when you save your image. By using guides, it’s easier to see when you are cropping images, or even placing other elements on top of your image.

To clear the guides, either drag them away, or go to View > Clear Guides.


One of the most powerful functions of Photoshop – layers! To understand layers, think of it as layering clothes. Placing a jacket on top of your shirt does not affect how your shirt looks like, but visually you look different than when you did with just a shirt. By removing your jacket, you are not affecting your shirt – just like how edits made on a layer will not affect the whole image. When working with layers, you will need to save the image as a .psd extension in order to preserve the layer information for future editing.

To edit an image you opened, you need to unlock it under the Layers tab. Go wild creating new layers!

Now, let’s change the background of our image. Go to the Quick Selection tool and click and drag over your background. You will see a fuzzy outline for the area selected.

(As you can see I added a text layer above my image!)

The Quick Selection tool is not perfect – it accidentally selected my cable, and we need to subtract that selection. With the Quick Selection tool still active, hold Alt. the tooltip will change from a + to a -, meaning that when you click on an area that’s surrounded by fuzzy outline while holding Alt, that area will be removed from the selection.

To change the background, I have chosen to cut out the background (Ctrl + X). I will add a new layer under my cable, and viola!

My crop is less than perfect, but you can adjust these yourself when you are playing around with editing images 😉

Bear in mind that there are multiple ways to select background and parts of the images – ranging from lasso tool, the rectangular tool, magic wand, pen tool, and even clipping masks! But those are really advanced and if you are interested in finding out more, play around with the tools or leave a comment asking for help.

Special effects

Want to create a fancy drop shadow or an outline around elements of your image? Right click the layer and click Blending Options, or when you are on that layer, go to Layer (at the top toolbar) > Layer Style > Blending Options. This will come up:

Again, there are many effects, many possibilities – the main ones I use are Stoke and Drop Shadow, to add outline and create shadows. Play around and see what each effect does!

Bonus: shortcuts!

What’s a guide without some shortcuts?

  • Ctrl + ‘+’, and Ctrl + ‘-’ to zoom in and out. Ctrl + 0 to fit image to screen. (Mac users, Command!)

  • When using the Move Tool, hold Alt and drag the image/element to duplicate it.

  • Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V to copy and paste, just like any other programmes!

  • Ctrl + S to save. Please, please, please save your work. Don’t be one of those losers who have to redo their stuff (read: it’s me; I’m one of those losers.)

  • To quickly move around in your image, hold the spacebar. Your cursor will turn into a hand, and while holding the spacebar, you can click and drag around the canvas without painstakingly selecting the Hand Tool and switching back to whatever tool you are using.

  • To batch process images, go to Windows > Action > Create New Action > Hit the record button and do whatever you want to edit the image (play with brightness etc) > Hit the stop button when you are done. Now your new action is saved. The next time you open another image and want to process the image the way you did previously, find the action you saved, and hit play. And viola! Same editing processes, different images, one click.

And that's a wrap! We hope that this article has helped you pick up a few tricks, grasp the basics necessary for that pesky project deliverable, and realise that Photoshop is not that scary at all. Drop us a comment for some SOS, or tell us which other software guides you'd like to see next. Happy designing!

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