10 Essential Tools & Tips All Photoshop Beginners Should Learn
Are you new to Photoshop? We’re here to help!
Learning Photoshop takes time, and there are so many things I wish I knew when I first started. So today, I’m bringing you ten helpful tips to make designing with Photoshop a whole lot easier! Learn about essential tools and tricks any beginner can master.
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1. Discover Your Favorite Tools
This is Photoshop’s Tools panel.
Did you know you can customize it?
Though many of its greatest tools are in plain sight, if you only stay on the toolbar’s surface, you may miss out on the extras hidden beneath the lower right triangles.
So customize the toolbar as a helpful reminder to try out new tools!
Go to Edit > Toolbar to drag and drop your tools. Group them according to different priority levels dedicated to learning or actual use.
Establish Your Core Set
You won’t need every tool for every situation. So it’s important to build a strong foundation with a few flexible tools that work in a variety of scenarios.
While the first project is solely an illustration, the second still depends heavily on my illustrative skills. So don’t panic if you don’t know these tools yet! Your core set should reflect your own design, photo, or illustrative interests.
Keep in mind that many of Photoshop’s tools also serve more than one purpose. You can use the same Pen Tool to extract your friend from a photo that you would use for a vector illustration.
There are other tools that you’ll need too, but think of them as secondary. The Pan and MoveTools, for instance, may not seem as creative as brushes, but they’re needed (often a lot more) for a better workflow.
What are your core tools?
In the beginning, you’ll always have a favorite. But as you progress, challenge yourself to try out new tools with creative experiments.
The Layers panel is efficient and helpful. It’ll change the way you think about design by showing you endless results in Photoshop.
But how does it do it?
Well, the panel gives you control over several options. Opacity, Fill, and Color are just a few. You can use these settings to modify your layers for many awesome effects.
Text effects, for instance, often use brilliant Layer Styles to achieve their result.
At first, you’ll probably use the Layers panel for its basic function, to hold your artwork in separate layers, but I really recommend studying it further. Explore the panel as much as you can and discover new ways to make detailed designs.
Having trouble with color? Study Layer Blend Modes.
Quality matters. So before you save and close, consider a few things first:
What do I need this file for?
Where can I store it?
Which format do I need it in?
How should I save it for the best quality?
What and Where
Whether or not your design will be used online is a huge part of the answer to the first question. Visuals for online posts can sacrifice some quality, while printed materials require high-resolution files. Research printing guidelines to understand important settings like Color Modes to learn how to navigate these scenarios.
Store your files in a location on your computer that you can access easily. Photoshop may display an error if a file is missing certain elements (like fonts), so try your best to keep everything together.
Format and Quality
Now that you know what the design is needed for, you can proceed by saving it at the right format and size. Many designers will save their work in several formats for more flexibility.
To Save for Web:
Go to File > Export > Save for Web.
Explore how your work looks under different compression settings. Avoid quality loss! Learn how to manage jpeg compression for social media posts:
Another big reason you should save your work in several formats is to understand print quality. If you paint, design, or edit with bright neon colors, for instance, you may be disappointed by the physical result.
Minimalist design is a huge trend, partly because of its versatility for printing. Clean designs are often easier to print and therefore more widely prevalent in the industry.
What looks great online doesn’t always look great on paper. There are many reasons for this, but one great factor is how the ink actually prints onto the paper. And knowing the difference between RGB and CYMK Color Modes will be crucial to this step.
Not sure where to begin? Learn more about Color Modes in this quick video:
Chefs love clean kitchens. It adds to their overall cleanliness and productivity. So why not create a clean workspace for yourself in Photoshop?
Organization is conducive to a healthy work environment. And even when it feels very artistic to be messy, an organized workspace can help improve your work.
First,close out of all those extra tabs!
After that, there are many ways you can make things even tidier. Dock and undock your favorite toolbars and panels to get started.
Then go to Window > Arrange.
Choose from the different list options to help display your Photoshop documents neatly. Keep inspiration nearby for easier access.
The standard is to Consolidate All to Tabs,but you can also use options like 2-up Vertical to display references next to illustrations.
Need to reset your workspace? Go to Window > Workspace > Reset Essentials.
Every artist’s workspace is different. Some may want to see more panels than others. I typically like less to minimize clutter. But no matter your preference, you can create the environment you need for successful design.
9. Conquer the Pen Tool
The Pen Tool (P) can be quite intimidating, but you can master it completely with time.
First, study the tool itself. The Path setting is great for creating selections while the Shape setting allows you to create custom shapes.
Then get to know the Path Operations, Alignment, and Arrangement options. Designers who are more experienced with Adobe Illustrator may have an easier time with this.
In fact, our very own Yulia Sokolova creates brilliant flat designs using this tool. Check out one of her tutorials below:
The best way to master anything is to experiment! Create tons of lines and swirls and play around with different settings under Blending Options. The possibilities are truly limitless! Remember to use the Pen Tool to create awesome text effects, illustrations, and more!
Got a minute? Learn more about the Pen Tool with this quick video:
But designers still have trouble remembering them. Want to learn a quick trick to improve your memory of keyboard shortcuts?
Try this ancient mind trick to help think of the tools. When you think of a keyboard shortcut, think of a visual that explains what it is or how it’s used.
Hitting the letter B, for the Brush Tool, automatically makes me imagine this:
Memorize keyboard shortcuts according to priority level. Just like our first tip, it’s important to establish which shortcuts you’ll need the most. You’ll also need to memorize additional shortcuts pertaining to your favorite tools.
To increase Brush Size, for instance, hold the left or right brackets: [ or ].
Your favorite keyboard shortcuts will be easy to memorize because you’ll use them often, but you should also explore new options.
Want to create things a lot faster? Study these keyboard shortcuts to improve speed and creativity: