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What I Learned About Photoshop

(This information more or less folllows the outline on  Adobe website).

A Brief Review of Some Photoshop Features:


Photoshop uses multiple layers in most images. If you are unfamiliar with layers, think of old-fashioned animation cels. Each part of the image is on a separate layer, like an image on a piece of transparent plastic. Stacked up, they make the picture. Before these composites are printed or published; however, they are usually "merged", linked, or "flattened" so that they only have one layer. (Remember to save the original, if you think you will be changing it later!)

One of the advantages of using layers is that you can work on part of a graphic without worrying about altering or deleting the rest of your image. The disadvantage is that it takes a little while to learn your way around.

Text has editable layers so that it can be manipulated separately.


If you have a certain sequence of program functions that you like to apply you can make a recording of what you do and you can save it as an "action". This is especially useful if you have something that you do in batches, or which requires a complicated set of actions.

Painting Tools (From Photoshop 4.0 for Windows)

Visible tools and their Alt-click shortcuts




Marquee (M)*

Lasso (L)*

Airbrush (A)

Eraser (E)

Rubber Stamp (S)

Blur (R)

Pen (P)(Bezier Path Tool)

Line (N)

Paint Bucket (K)


Foreground color.

Default colors (D)

Standard mode indicator.(Q)

Standard screen mode.(F)

palette.GIF (8706 bytes)

(Image only, not active)


Move tool (V)*

Magic wand (W)*

Paintbrush (B)

Pencil (Y)

Smudge (U)

Dodge (O)

Type (T)

Gradient (G)

Eyedropper (I)

Zoom (Z)

Switch colors (X)

Background Color

Quick Mask Mode (Q)

Full screen mode (F)


*Hidden tools:

Under the Marquee are the Ellipse marquee, Single Row Marquee, single Column marquee, and the Crop(C) tool.

Under the Lasso is the Polygon lasso.

Under the Blur is Sharpen.

Under the Pen are Direct Selection, Convert-anchor-point, and Add-anchor-point.

Below Dodge are Burn and Sponge.

Under Type is Type Mask.

Easter Egg for 4.0 for Windows: Alt-Click on the "eye" at the top of the toolbar. Then, click on *that* image's eye.

Also, if you are a registered owner, make sure to wait and read the final credits. (The egg for Macs can be reached the same way, with different results.)




Photoshop offers a tremendous range of color selection, control, conversion, indexing, editing, creation, calibration, previewing, replacement, mixing, correction, and adjustment.


Masks allow you to edit your graphics by either protecting areas while you work nearby, or by isolating them so that you can change them without affecting other parts of the image. If you have ever used masking tape while you were painting, or used a stencil, you have used a mask. In Photoshop there are also semitransparent masks that allow you to partially affect an area of an image.



Channels represent information about color elements in your image. If you are working in CYMK, for example, you will have at least four channels: one for cyan, one for magenta, one for yellow, and one for black. You can also have "alpha channels" which store and edit mask information.

Navigator Palette:

Easy zooming and scrolling.


In addition to the dozens of filters that are built into Photoshop, there are hundreds of filters available as "plug-ins".  The best way to learn about filters is to play with them, and/or to read tutorials from other people showing how they used. them.

Digital Watermarking

This puts a copyright signature on your work that Photoshop can detect and display. It costs extra to register.


Easy transfer back and forth to other Adobe programs. Support for most web publishing graphic formats, and for graphic file formats for many other programs. Supports TWAIN interface for  devices like scanners and digital cameras. (The Adobe web site has frequent updates available as new technology becomes available, i.e., for Pentium III.)

What I Learned:

You can't just sit down at the computer and expect to turn out masterpieces. Although some simple, silly, stuff is surprisingly easy (i.e., putting your mother-in-law's head on a variety of creatures), the whole program  isn't something you learn in one day. I've been playing with Photoshop 4.0 for a few months now, and I feel that I have just barely begun to learn.

Look at your work on different monitors. I had to redo my first two examples when I looked at them on a brighter screen.

Always save your original! Start with uncompressed images, and don't save them in another format until you are sure you are finished. You can always reduce file size, you can't replace colors once they have been lost.

Use the Color palette or swatches palette rather than the "Color Picker".

While you are a student, you can save money on Photoshop by taking advantage of student discounts at places like Graduate Limited.

Still can't afford it? Decide exactly what you want to do. There are many less expensive products that you might be able to use. You might want to consider  freeware or shareware.

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