Photoshop 101 – Part I

By | September 20, 2019


This guide will show you some of the basic features of Photoshop. You will learn to: 

  • Set up a canvas
  • Place and manipulate images
  • Work with multiple layers
  • Select portions of an image
  • Use layer masks to add objects to an image
  • Replace the background
  • Apply filters
  • Save and export

Setting up a canvas

It is important to know what type of project you are creating. That means, recognizing if your project is for web or print.

  • If your project is to be distributed electronically, you want it to be light and have screen colours, that is 72 ppi and the colour mode RGB. 
  • If you are printing it, you will need to work  with 300 ppi and the colour mode CMYK.

You can always change the quality, colour mode, or the canvas size later, but this will affect the quality of the image if you are trying to go bigger.

Adding Images

You have different alternatives to bring images into your new composition, but remember they will impact the original size of your file. 

  • You can go to File> Place embedded or Drag the image directly to the canvas.
  • Once you have your image on your canvas, modify it by dragging the mouse
  • You can keep the position of the image by pressing option
  • Once you are done, press return

If you want to keep the image size, drag it into the Photoshop icon and it will open a new canvas. You can edit the image there and then drag it into the canvas of our project.

The Workspace

A Photoshop document is made out of layers with one layer going over the other, forming a composition

  • Layers can be locked and unlocked by clicking the lock icon. You will unlock the image if you are planning on edit it.
  • You can change the order of the layers by dragging them where you want them displayed
  • Each layer can be edited separately 
  • You can separate the view of each layer using the view icon

You also have the toolbar where you will find the tools you need to edit your images.

Please go over the icons in your toolbar and a little explanation for each tool will appear:

The toolbar has small video explanations for each tool

Creating transparencies

We will start by creating transparencies, that is subtracting/erasing information from an image. 

  • Drag an image to the Ps icon in your taskbar
  • Unlock the layer you want to work on
  • Select the quick selection tool and use it as a brush
  • Select the area you want to erase. If you make a mistake, use option to to go over the parts you want to keep from your image
  • Click delete
  • To deselect press command + D 
  • Save as PNG


Compositing is compiling different images into a single one. Remember:

  • You can edit the layers independently 
  • You can fade images out using the opacity 
  • You can go to image > Adjustments to change the layer individually 
  • You can use cmd+t to resize to your liking. Press option if you want to keep the centre position or shift if you want to change proportions. Press return to return to your page

Before you start, be sure all your layers are unlocked, otherwise you won’t be able to edit them.

Using Masks

  • A mask determines what part of the layer is hidden or shown
  • Be sure to click the layer mask (white box)
  • Select the brush tool 
  • Set the size and hardness
  • Select black in the colour swatch 
  • What you paint in black will be hidden. To correct, use white.
  • You can also use the paint bucket to paint over a selected portion of the image. Use black to make that portion of the image “disappear”.
  • You can always clean up with your brush tool “recovering” parts of the image by using white.

If something is not working, you should:

  • Double check the layer you are working on is unlocked (meaning, without the lock next to it)
  • Double check you are painting over the mask and not the layer (meaning, selecting the white box next to your image)

Adding a blending mode

Blending modes can bring all the composition together. We are going to use a new image to blend with our composition:

Here you can change the blending mode
  • Bring a new image by dragging it into your composition
  • You can modify its size by dragging its corners
  • Once you are comfortable with it, press return/enter
  • You can always re-scale it by pressing command+t
  • Change the blending mode under the Layers window, from normal to one other of their alternatives.
  • Test the look of all the blending modes. You can change the strength of it by changing the opacity (also under the layers window)
  • When you are done, save a version of the work in .psd and another one for sharing online, that will be .jpeg

About the saving options

How to select the best saving option: 

  • Always keep a copy of your .psd file
  • JPEG: for online use. The JPEG format flattens any layers into a single layer. Each time you make a change and re-save a JPEG, the image loses some information.
  • PNG: for online use when you want to retain transparency. PNG, like JPEG, flattens any layers into a single layer.

For a full list of shortcuts, please refer to:

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