Launching Adobe Photoshop for the first time can be quite intimidating and overwhelming experience, with such a powerful application at you fingertips the possibilities are endless. But then reality strikes in, you realize that you have no idea where to start or even worst, you don’t understand the basic functions of your new favorite toy. In this first tutorial of the Adobe Photoshop Essentials series we are going to dissect every available tool, palette, and menu in Adobe Photoshop.


File · Here you have the regular, open, save, and close operations.

Edit · Like in most applications here you can find the copy, cut, undo functions.

Image · Your canvas and layer adjustments are found here, most of the adjustments found here are also available through the Adjustments Palette.

Layer · Here you can do almost everything you can also do in the layer palette, plus you can create adjustment layers and smart objects.

Select · Your main means of selection will be the marquee and lasso tools, here you will refine that selection, or make a new selection based on a different criteria.

Filter · Filter brings you a wealth of built-in (and, if installed, third-party) Photoshop filters that can blur, sharpen, distort and alter your image (or layers of the image) in many different and unique ways. The best way to get acquainted with these filters is to try them all. That can take a little time, but it’s fun to play around with them and see what they do. We’ll be getting into the specifics in subsequent lessons, but only looking at a few commonly useful filters.

Analysis · In order to make accurate modifications you will need precise measurements, which you can find them here.

3D · As i said earlier, i will not cover 3d in this series, so for now you wont be interested in this.

View · Here you can make various view adjustments, such as show guide lines and grid, or make Photoshop snap to edges and corners.

Window · Here you can select what windows and palettes to be shown, also you can make and save different presets of window arrangements.


The image on the left represents almost every available tool in the toolbar and their shortcuts, now I will go over them and describe their primary function.

Move Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: V )

The move tool will let you move your selected layer around the canvas. In order to use it, simply select a layer, then click and drag your mouse around. The movement of your mouse will correspond with the movement of the layer.

Marquee ( Keyboard Shortcut: M )

The marquee is in a way a selection tool, it enables you to select part of the canvas in a predefined shape. By default you will get the rectangular shape, or form a perfect square if you hold down shift while selecting.Alternatively by holding the left click on the marquee tool you will be able to select a different shape such as ellipse, with the ellipse shape selected, hold down shift while selecting and you will form a perfect circle.

Lasso Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: L )

The lasso just like the marquee is a selection tool, but unlike the marquee its a free-form selection tool, meaning it doesn’t follow a predefined shape. With the lasso tool selected, click and drag around the canvas, when done the lassoed area will be selected.If you click and hold on the lasso tool, you can also get the Polygonal Lasso and the Magnetic Lasso. The Polygonal lasso will let you create a selection by clicking around the canvas, and the Magnetic lasso attempts to detect the edges by itself so it will automatically snap on them.

Magic Wand ( Keyboard Shortcut: W )

Click anywhere on the canvas with the Magic Wand selected, then Photoshop will automatically select the similar surrounding area. For now you can use this tool to crudely remove backgrounds from images.

Crop Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: C )

As the name implies the Crop Tool is used to crop your image, if you want you can specify the size and limit the crop tool to those proportions. Within the Crop tool you can also find the Slice tool, we will cover that one a bit more in-depth latter.

Eyedropper ( Keyboard Shortcut: I )

The Eyedropper tool will let you sample the color on the exact spot you click. Once you click on the image with the Eyedropper tool, your foreground color will automatically change to the sampled color.

Healing Brush ( Keyboard Shortcut: J )

The Healing Brush will let you sample part of the layer, and use that sample to paint over another part. Once you are done, Photoshop will try to blend the newly painted area with the rest of the surrounding.

Paintbrush and Pencil ( Keyboard Shortcut: B )

Basically the Paintbrush will try to emulate a Paintbrush and the Pencil will try to emulate a Pencil. The Paintbrush could be modified almost endlessly, from standard paint and airbrush styles, to all kinds of shapes.

Clone Stamp ( Keyboard Shortcut: S )

The Clone Stamp is just like the Healing Brush, except Photoshop wont try to blend the newly painted area with the surrounding.

History Brush ( Keyboard Shortcut: Y )

The History Brush will let you erase the present and paint back in time. Photoshop keeps track of your moves, and with the history brush you can erase the present and paint the past back, its similar to the undo command but constrained to a specific area.

Eraser Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: E )

The Eraser Tool is exactly the same as the Paintbrush tool, but with it you wont paint instead erase parts of your layer.

Paint Can and Gradient Tools ( Keyboard Shortcut: G )

With the Paint Can tool, you can fill an area with the current foreground color. Alternatively you can select the gradient tool, and create a gradient that blends the foreground and background color. Furthermore you can make more advanced gradient patterns that use more than one color.

Blur, Sharpen and Smudge Tools ( Keyboard Shortcut: None )

The following three tools act in a similar way to the paintbrush, but each will have a specific effect on your layer. As their names imply, the Blur tool will blur, the Sharpen tool will sharpen, and the Smudge tool will smudge, the area they touch on the canvas. The smudge tool is especially useful when you are drawing, it will help you blend your colors nicely.

Burn, Dodge and Sponge Tools ( Keyboard Shortcut: O )

These three tools will affect the light and color intensity of your layer. The Burn tool will make areas in your layer darker, the Dodge tool will make areas lighter, and the Sponge tool can saturate or desaturate color.

Pen Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: P )

This is the one tool you are going to initially hate, and once you master it love. The Pen tool is primarily used for drawing vector graphics, alternatively it can also be used for creating paths, we will discuss the function of paths later.

Type Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: T )

The Type tool, as you have already guessed will let you type horizontally. Alternatively within the Type tool, you can find the Vertical Type tool and the Horizontal and Vertical Text Masks. We will discuss the function of masks later.

Selection Tools ( Keyboard Shortcut: A )

By default the Path tool is the primary one, and it will let you move any created paths around. It is like the move tool, but just for paths.

Shape Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: U )

With the Shape Tool you can create vector: rectangles, rounded rectangles, circles, polygons, lines and custom shapes.

Hand Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: H )

The hand tools is mostly used when you are zoomed in, or the image you are working on is too big for your screen, with it you can move the canvas around.

Zoom Tool ( Keyboard Shortcut: Z )

Another straight forward tool, by clicking on the canvas the zoom tool will let you zoom, in order to zoom out hold down alt and click.

Foreground and Background Color ( Keyboard Shortcut: X )

Here you will manage the colors you are using, the color on the top is the foreground color, and the bottom one is the background color. The foreground color is the one your brush will use, the background color is what will be left if you delete something from the background. If you click on the curved arrows, you will swap the foreground and the background colors (Keyboard Shortcut: X). If you click on foreground or the background color, a color picker will be shown so you can set your color precisely.


Palettes are the objects that you see on the right side of your screen, they all have specific purpose and function, now lets take a look at some of them.

Layers Palette

In the Layer Palette you can see all the layer in your document, currently what you are looking at is the Layer Palette from the document that composed the featured image of this tutorial. As you get more familiar with Photoshop, you will navigate through this palette more often than any other. Here you will arrange you layers, set their blending modes, visibility, and opacity… We will discuss this palette more in-depth in the next tutorial.

Adjustment Palette

Adjustment Palette

The Adjustments palette is used for creating and editing Adjustment Layers. Adjustment layers are simply layers that affect all the layers sitting below them, without permanently altering your primary layers. Most of the time you will use them for color corrections such as: Levels, Curves, Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Saturation…

Channel Palette

Channel Palette

The Color Channel represent the channels of the specific color mode that you are working in. For example the image above represents the channels of RGB color mode that’s why we have red, green, and blue channels. The channels may differ if you are working in CMYK or LAB mode. We will discuss this channel again with greater detail, in another tutorial.

Color Palette

Through the Color Palette you can easily alter the foreground and background colors, either through the sliders or the palette at the bottom.

History Palette

In the History palette you can easily see your previous actions, and without clicking the standard undo command (ctrl + z) jump straight to the desired action.

Text Palette

Through text palette and the paragraph palette next to it, you can adjust the text which you have created with the Type Tool. These options may look familiar, that is because most of them are available in most word processing applications.