Skip to main content

Adobe Photoshop for Beginners

I am a Web Marketing Manager, Graphic Designer, Web Developer, Internet Marketing Manager, and Event Photographer.

Get some beginner tips for using Adobe Photoshop more effectively.

Get some beginner tips for using Adobe Photoshop more effectively.

Learning the Basics of Adobe Photoshop Software

Adobe Photoshop is a tool that is incredibly complex and can do amazing things. A lot of graphic designers and photographers use this software as a staple in their arsenal of tools, and it can take years to fully learn the software. It is helpful to learn software by using it, but it can be a daunting task when you first launch Photoshop.

What This Guide Covers

This article will guide you through some of the main tools that Adobe Photoshop offers, as well as the processes for creating a new document, saving in different formats, and working with swatches.

  • How to Create a New Document
  • How to Use the Main Tools
    • Rectangular Marquee Tool
    • Polygonal Lasso Tool
    • Magnetic Lasso Tool
    • Magic Wand Tool
    • Eraser Tool
    • Brush Tool
    • Eyedropper Tool
    • Paint Bucket and Gradient Tool
    • Blur Tool and Sharpen Tool
  • What File Format to Choose

How to Create a New Document

When you launch Photoshop, you will notice that a lot of windows and tool bars appear, but a document will not appear. You need to create a new document (or canvas) to work with in the software.

To do this, go to File → “new” and you will see a new box pop up with several options.


To start, there are only a few things that you need to pay attention to in this prompt screen.

  • The “name” is where you will type the name of your file. Remember, Apple computers have a max of 32 characters for any file names; keep your file names as short as possible, but relevant enough that you know what they are and where they need to be filed.
  • The width and the height fields are where you type in what size you want your canvas to be; you have a choice on the what kind of metrics you would like to use. Primarily “inches” are used for any print projects and “pixels” are used for web projects.
  • Resolution is how clear the image will appear in print or on the web. Primarily if you are printing a photograph you do not want the resolution any lower than 300ppi. For any editorial images 170ppi is normally used, and for the internet and web based projects a resolution of 72ppi is normally expected.
  • Color mode again will depend on where you intend to publish your photoshop project. Any printed projects should be created in CMYK color, and anything being created for the web should be RBB Color.

Once you have all of your options set up, choose “ok” and your canvas will be created for you.

How to Use the Main Tools

Adobe Photoshop is a very useful tool, and as I said earlier it can take years to fully learn the capabilities of the software. There are a few basic tools that are important to know how to use and understand why they are important to be able to further learn the software.

You can find all of these tools on the main tool bar that should automatically launch with the software. If it doesn't automatically prompt for you, go to “window” → “tools”, and this will launch the tool bar for you.

Rectangular Marquee Tool

The first tool is the “rectangular marquee tool” which is used for selecting things within a specific shape (in this case either a rectangle or a square). To make a selections, click your curser on the canvas, hold down and drag to create a square or rectangle. Release the mouse when you have created the shape that is needed.

Polygonal Lasso Tool

Polygonal Lasso Tool

Polygonal Lasso Tool

Another form of selection is by using the Polygonal Lasso Tool. This tool is available in the tool bar and is right below the rectangular marquee tool. When you click and hold down you will be presented with three options—choose the Polygonal Lasso Tool.

Scroll to Continue

This tool will allow you to select more than just four sides, such as a rectangle and allows you to place your own anchors while still drawing straight lines.

Magnetic Lasso Tool

Magnetic Lasso Tool

Magnetic Lasso Tool

The magnetic lasso tool which is found in the same tool bar does a similar job, except it has a little more selection power. This tool is great for images that have prominent blocks of color or specific shapes.

This tool once you set your first anchor will follow the outline of a color automatically placing anchor points. It automatically adheres itself to the seam of two colors, and follows that shape / color until the lasso is completed.

Magic Wand Tool

Another way to select by color is to use the magic wand tool, which looks just like a magic wand in the tool bar. It is to the right of the lasso tool in the tool bar images I am using as examples. This is the easiest approach if you have large chunks of color in the image that you are manipulating. You simply click on a color and it will select all of that color that touches. If you wan to continue selecting, hold down the “control” key and continue clicking.

Eraser Tool

Eraser Tool

Eraser Tool

The eraser tool is just as it is named. It will erase using whatever color is selected in the background swatch (highlighted in example). If you are working within a layer it will erase to invisible, and there will not be a background color.

Brush Tool

Brush Tool

Brush Tool

The brush tool is a tool that you are able to write or draw with in the software. Adobe photoshop offers a wide variety of brushes as well as others that create their own and allow you to download and use.

To access all of the brushes go to “window”—“brushes” and a new window will option with several options. You can choose calligraphy tips, artistic, grunge and so on... the list is really endless. Since there are several artistic brushes you will find that a lot of digital artists use these brushes for their illustrations. You can also create your own brushes and clone brushes to continue editing.

Eye Dropper Tool

Eye Dropper Tool

Eyedropper Tool

Sometimes when you are working on special projects, such as overlaying text onto a photo, you want to match your text to one of the colors in the image. You can do this by using the eye dropper tool for color selection. When you click on a color with the eyedropper tool it automatically becomes your top level swatch as shown in the example. If you want to save this color as a swatch to come back and use again, click and drag the main swatch in the tool bar and drag it to the swatch palate. You can then double click on it and rename it something that is relevant to you and your project.

Paint Bucket and Gradient Tool

Paint Bucket and Gradient Tool

Paint Bucket and Gradient Tool

Your paint bucket tool will fill the selected space with the swatch that is shown in the tool bar. If nothing is selected, the paint bucket will fill the entire canvas. Your gradient tool will fill the same way, however it will be a gradient between two or more colors.

To use the gradient you click and drag a line on your canvas and it will gradually fill the color according to the space you have between your two points. You can change the colors of your gradient in your swatch palate as well as the swatches in the main tool bar.

Blur Tool and Sharpen Tool

The blur tool allows you to do just that—blur specific parts of your photograph. There are filters that will affect the entire image, but this tool allows you to work on small specific areas.

To use this tool all you need to do is click and drag. You can choose the size of the brush as well as the strength of the blur depending on the project at hand. When you click and hold the blur tool in your toolbar you will see that you have other options. The smudge tool allows you to “push” and “pull” parts of your photograph distorting it from it's original form. The other choice that you have is “sharpen” which allows you to specifically sharpen parts of your image. You may here people say that a photo has been “over sharpened”. You will see this when you push the photo farther than it's original state to a point where you will see the contrast be blown out of proportion.

Save Options

Save Options

What File Format to Choose

There are a few main formats that are most common in both print design as well as web design.

  • Photoshop is a .psd, and allows the user to save the layers as separate layers so that they can go back in and edit.
  • A photoshop eps is the best version for publications that are printed to a post script printer or any industrial printer.
  • Last is the jpeg which is the most common image type. This is best used for multiple platforms, some online content and image sharing.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


dappledesigns (author) from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest on April 17, 2012:

jravity1 - I am happy to hear that this came in handy for you. Thank you for the kudos!

Peggy W - I'm glad you find this useful, and am happy to hear you will be working with the software. I'm sure you will find that it more fun than "work" :)

debbiepinkston - excellent news! I am so glad to hear this was worth the effort.

johnjfernado - I am happy that this is useful for you. I am currently working on a series that will hopefully make it easier for users to begin using the software without feeling overwhelmed.

jkchandra on April 16, 2012:

This has been very helpful because I'm also trying my hand at working with photoshop. I hope you can post another on how to work with live-shot pictures of people or face as well. Anyway, I really admire the basics that you have put into the article. Thanks and voted up!

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on April 16, 2012:

Very helpful!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 16, 2012:

I'm also going to print this to be able to easily refer to it when trying to learn Photoshop. Thanks! Voted up and useful. Hope that I am smart enough to figure this out.

jravity1 from bellevue, MI on April 16, 2012:

thank you..this was very useful for me. Great job.

dappledesigns (author) from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest on April 16, 2012:

thank you for reading barryrutherford - I think you will find that it is not only a powerful tool, but it is a lot of fun as well.

Brian Slater - thank you for your kind comments. It took me years to get a good grasp on the program, and I still learn something new all the time!

BRIAN SLATER on April 16, 2012:

Thanks for writing this, photo-shop is quite tricky to learn and your hub makes it easily understandable. Looking forward to your next article on this topic, voted up well done.:)

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on April 16, 2012:

Very useful. one day i'll find time for photoshop

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on April 16, 2012:

My pleasure, dappledesigns! :) I look forward to reading more of your tutorials and hubs. :)

dappledesigns (author) from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest on April 16, 2012:

thank you for reading this - I am so glad it will come in handy in the future! Happy photoshopping :)

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on April 16, 2012:

Great hub! I'm actually going to print this out and keep it handy! Thank you! Voting this up and everything else. :)

Related Articles