How to get started with Photoshop

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The best way to become an Adobe Photoshop wizard is through hands-on practice. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Learn the layout
The very first step is loading a version of the photo editing software on your computer or using a machine that already has the program. Once you have started Photoshop, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the layout. The basic interface shows the pallets (which are labeled by tabs on the right side) and the tool bar, which has little icons on it, down the left. The application bar is on the top.

The icons on the tool bar are clumped in six categories:

  • selection
  • vector editing
  • bitmapped editing
  • navigation
  • color selection
  • mode and masking tools

Don't worry if you don't know what some of those categories mean. If you hover your cursor over each icon, the name of the tool will pop up. You can drag the toolbar anywhere on the screen by clicking on the top. You can play around with and customize the appearance of your workspace at any time.

Save your new workspace by selecting the "Window" option on the drop-down menu, then go to "Workspace" and click "New Workspace."

Create, open files
To create a new document, go to File -- New. You can customize the document's size using the dialog box that pops up.

If opening a file, select "Open" from the menu when you go to "File" and replace the "N" in each command with an "O."

Photoshop can open, save, create and edit a number of formats, including TIFF, GIF and JPEG. To save your file, go to File -- Save. The default will be to save your work as a Photoshop Document (PSD), but you can easily select another file format.

Using layers

Adding layers to your picture makes it easier to organize modifications and changes. Don't be intimidated by this process; you can always click on the eye icon to show or hide a layer.

Locate the "Layer" option on the menu. Double click on the layer's name to change it. The Opacity box, which pops up when you are using the Selection, Move or Crop tools, can be used along with the Opacity slider to alter the transparency of a layer.

Todd Hoza, creative director for TheLadders, a New York City-based job-matching service, suggests making large photos or vector files into Smart Objects by going to Layer -- Smart Objects -- Group into New Smart Object. This will allow you to make changes to the file but retain the original information so it is accessible if you make a mistake and want to go back.

Get creative
Now you can start playing around with the different effects. You can enhance and change the colors of the image, modify its size and resolution and so much more.

"Understand that Photoshop thinks and works with little squares of color," Hoza says. "Zoom in and then zoom in until [they are] all you see. Those squares make up the image you're working with."

If you are still feeling overwhelmed, visit other online tutorials, like's extensive primer for beginners, to help you get started.