Get Started with Adobe Photoshop

Get Started with Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a complex graphics and image editing software and paint program. Chances are, you've heard of Photoshop frequently in the past even if this will be the very first time that you use the program. Adobe's Photoshop program has become a mainstay with graphics designers, professional photographers, and even hobbyists to edit graphics as well as create and manipulate images.

If you've ever used any software program to edit graphics or images before, then the Photoshop interface may seem familiar to you and some things may be quite easy to learn. The reason is because most image editing programs on the market today are based on the Photoshop program. Everyone wants to copy it because it is simply that convenient and effective. However, Photoshop is by far the most extensive program available and offers the most features and options.

What's New in Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop CS6 is the sixth generation of the Photoshop program, and it's come a long way! CS6 boasts of a lot of improvements to an already impressive program. These improvements include major updates such as:     

  • Improved Blur Gallery. For those who like to add special effects and filters to their photos, such as blurs, Photoshop CS6 gives you a new blur gallery with on-image controls .      
  • Content Aware Patch. Retouch images even faster than before using the Content Aware Patch.
  • Less panels for less confusion. The Properties panel does away with the need for so many panels. You can now access masks through the Layers panel - then use the Properties panel to edit and create them.
  • New crop tool gives you greater control and precision when cropping images.
  • Mercury Graphics Engine makes editing quicker than before - and Photoshop more powerful. See things like Puppet Warp, Liquify, and lighting effects in real time - instead of waiting for the program to process the changes like you have to in other programs.  
  • Improved auto corrections for even better photo adjustments.
  • A new, modern look to the user interface.
  • And much more!

    Navigating Photoshop

    In the snapshot below, you'll see the main Photoshop CS6 window. This is what you'll see whenever you open the program.

    At the top of the window is the Menu bar (pictured below).

    Throughout the article, we'll use this menu bar to perform functions, utilize features, and execute commands.

    The menu bar includes the following menus:

  • File       
  • Edit
  • Image
  • Layer  
  • Type  
  • Select
  • Filter      
  • 3D       
  • View
  • Window
  • Help

    The workspace is all the space below the menu bar. It includes the area where you will open images, as well as the tool bars and panels that we'll learn about in just a few minutes. In CS6, the workspace is darker than earlier versions.


    In Photoshop, panels help you edit or modify your work. There is a different panel for different tasks that you want to accomplish. Panels are located in the Panel Dock, which is located to the right of the workspace:

    Whenever you open a panel, it appears in the Panel Dock. Below you can see the Color panel, which is open by default in Photoshop CS6.

    Some panels are grouped together. If you look at the Color panel above, you'll see a tab for another panel, the Swatches panel. This tab appears as a darker gray.

    If you wanted to open the Swatches panel, you'd simply click on the Swatches tab.

    You can view all available Photoshop panels by going to Window, then selecting the panel you want to open. Panels that have a checkmark beside them are already open.

    Collapse the Panel Dock

    If you want to collapse a panel to an icon so that it's not displayed on the right side of the Photoshop window, click the in the upper right hand corner of the panel.

    Close a Panel

    To close a panel, click and select Close.

    Hide All Panels

    To hide all panels, press Shift+Tab

    The Toolbox

    The toolbox is located on the left side of the workspace. It's pictured below.

    Every tool in the Toolbox allows you to edit, paint, view, or alter images or documents open in the workspace.

    Open a New File

    To open a new file in Photoshop CS6, go to the menu bar and select File> New.

    1. In the Name text field, enter the name for the new file. "Untitled-1" is the default name Photoshop CS6 gives a new file.

    2. Next, you'll determine the size of your new file. You can click on the downward arrow in the Preset field and choose a preset size, or you can specify the dimensions yourself. When you specify the dimensions yourself, you can specify whether you want the size to be measured by pixels, inches, centimeters, millimeters, points, picas, or columns.

    3. Next, select the color mode. 

    Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Adobe Photoshop course?
  • Bitmap creates a bitmap image. A bitmap image uses rectangular elements (or pixels) to create the image.
  • Grayscale . Choosing Grayscale means that the image you create will be in black and white.
  • RGB images contain three color channels: red, green, and blue. RGB should be used for any images that will be displayed on screen, such as on the web or in a slide show.       
  • CMYK should be used for images that will be printed. CMYK contains four color channels: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.         
  • Lab Color contains all the colors of RGB and CMYK. This is good to use when you're going to individually edit luminance and color values. It's also useful when creating images when working with photo CD images.

    4. Now, let's choose a bit depth. The bit depth tells how much color information is available for each pixel in an image. The more bit depth you have, the more accurate your colors will be.

    Here's an example of bit depth:


  • A bit depth of 1 means the pixels have two color choices: black and white.       
  • A bit depth of 8 has 2 to the eighth power, or 256 color choices.

    The larger your bit depth, the larger the file.

    5. After you select the color mode and bit depth, you can then choose a background color by selecting a color in the Background Contents field.

    6. If you click on the Advanced tab, you can further specify color and pixels.

    7. When you're finished, you have two options. You can click Save Preset to save the new image size as a preset image. This is helpful if you'll be using this size frequently. Click Save Preset, select a name, then check the aspects of the new image that you want to save. Click OK.

    If you don't want to save the new image as a preset, you can just click OK. The new file will then open in the Photoshop workspace.

    Open an Existing File

    To open an existing file in Photoshop CS6, go to File>Open.

    Locate the file on your computer, then click Open.

    View Open Documents or Files

    You can easily view what documents you have open as well as toggle back and forth between multiple files. All documents that you currently have open will appear in the Document Bar, pictured below. The Document Bar is located beneath the Menu Bar and Control Panel, but above the workspace.

    Simply click on the tab with the file name you want to open. The file then opens in the workspace.

Now that you've learned your way around the Photoshop interface a little bit, we're going to jump right in and start teaching you how to use the program.  Although some parts may be easy to gloss over, everything you learn from here on out will be crucial to being able to adequately use Photoshop CS6.

The Toolbox

The Photoshop Toolbox is located on the left side of the workspace. Every tool in the Toolbox allows you to edit, paint, view, or alter images or documents open in the workspace.

Each tool in the toolbox is represented by an icon. Beside each icon is a downward arrow. By right clicking a downward arrow, you can see variations of the tool that basically have the same purpose, but perform slightly different functions. For example, there is a Rectangular Marquee Tool. An Elliptical Marquee tool is grouped with it and is accessible by right clicking the downward arrow. Even though they are both marquee tools, one produces a rectangular marquee and the other an elliptical. These different tools are grouped together in the Toolbox.

Learning all the tools in the Toolbox can seem like an overwhelming task because there are so many. For that reason, Photoshop broke up the tools into different sections to make it easier to get a basic idea of which tools perform what functions, as well as to make them easier to find. 

In the first section (at the top), you'll see all of the selection tools. These are tools that you'll be able to use to select areas of an image. The selection tools are pictured below.

Below the selection tools, you have all of the paint tools. The paint tools allow you to paint, change the colors in an area of an image, or even erase colors all together.

The paint tools are pictured below.

Next, are all of the path, shape, and text tools. You will use these to add shapes, text, and determine paths.

Lastly, the bottom section of the toolbox contains the different view tools that allow you to view your image, as well as the background/foreground color tool.

 For the time being, it's just important that you become familiar with the toolbox and the different sections it contains.

The Options Bar

The Options Bar is located in the upper left hand corner of the workspace below the Menu Bar and above the Toolbox. It contains preferences and settings for the different tools. For example, if we select the Text tool, the Option Bar would contain options and preferences available for the Text tool. See the snapshot below.

Exploring Panels and Context Menus

You can edit or modify your work by using any of the several panels that Photoshop provides. All panels can be found by clicking Window in the Menu Bar. To make a panel appear in the workspace, simply place a checkmark next to it.

Whenever you select a panel to appear, it will be docked to the right side of your workspace where it is grouped with other panels. However, there may be times when it would be more efficient and convenient to have that panel closer to your image. For that reason, you can undock panels and place them elsewhere on the Photoshop screen.

Let's show you what we mean.

In the snapshot below, the Color and Swatches panels are docked together.

Let's say that we want to undock the Color panel and move it onto our workspace. To do, we are going to click our mouse on the Color tab and then drag it to the area on the workspace where we want to place it. In other words, drag and drop.

The snapshot below shows us dragging the panel. Notice where our mouse pointer is located as we drag.

Now, place the panel where you want it in the workspace and release the mouse button.

When we want to dock the Color panel again, we simply drag it back to the docked panels until the Color tab is over the active panel (the Swatches tab), then release the mouse button.

Context Menus

Context menus are different than the menus located in the Menu Bar. Context menus show commands that are relevant to the tool, panel, or selection that you're currently working with.

To view a context menu, right click on the image whenever you are using the tool, selection, or panel to apply changes or modifications to an image.

For example, in the snapshot below, we were using the Eyedropper tool (from the Toolbox) and right clicked. The Context menu appears.

The Context Menu gives you more options for whatever feature or tool you're using.

Customizing the Workspace

Photoshop CS6 gives you several options that allow you to customize the workspace. We've already learned how to close and collapse panels, as well as how to create floating (or undocked) panels.

In addition, you can change the document view.

Go to View> Screen Mode and select the option you want. You can choose from:

Standard Screen Mode shows the panels, Toolbox, Menu bar, and everything you see in the default view in Photoshop. You can also still access other open programs and documents on your computer or to your computer's start menu.

Full Screen Mode with Menu Bar simply means that Photoshop takes over your entire screen, as shown below:

If you select Full Screen Mode , Photoshop displays this message:

It lets you know that panels will be hidden. To access them, press Tab.

To return to Standard Screen Mode, press "F" or Escape.

Let's click Full Screen.

You can also change screen modes by going to the bottom of the Toolbox and clicking the Change Screen Mode tool . Right click on the tool to select Full Screen Mode or Full Screen Mode with Menu Bar.

Setting General Preferences

The preferences that you choose will determine a variety of settings within the program and will also affect the way Photoshop operates. That said, the best way to show you the preferences that you can set is to go ahead and show you how to set them.

To edit or set general preferences, go to Edit>Preferences>General. The dialogue box pictured below will appear.