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An introduction to Photoshop


An Introduction to Photoshop Title PostAdobe Photoshop is arguably the most famous graphics software on the planet. The term ‘Photoshop‘ has even entered common useage as slang for image editing in general. Photoshop can be used as a standalone graphics package as well as an editing tool to support other software. The following article will provide an overview of Photoshop and take a look at some of it’s strengths and weaknesses. Read on for the skinny!


In a Nutshell..

Simply put, Adobe Photoshop is a pixel based image editor; most often used for the treatment, manipulation and compositing of photographic images. The software is used extensively within the creative industries and is largely the program of choice for image-editing by professionals and hobbyists alike.

Photoshop is versatile


The Cornerstone of Digital-Design

Aside from being a powerful editing tool, Photoshop can be used to support a great number of visual disciplines including Photography, Web Design, Vector, Motion Graphics, 3D and more. There is fluid compatibility between Photoshop and other packages from the Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, After Effects, InDesign etc.) as well as wide support from non-Adobe vendors.

The software performs a supporting role in a very diverse range of disciplines, including: texture creation in 3D, post-production in Photography, graphics for web design / motion-graphics, line-art to digital in comic-books and GUI creation in software and media. Because of it’s versatile nature and accessibility, Photoshop usually stands as one of the core software packages in the graphic-designers repertoire.


The Interface

Here is a great image that really captures the essence of the Photoshop interface (‘as real as it gets’ by Wanda Kamarga). Click for fullview:

The Photoshop InterfaceThis illustration is a great analogy of what Photoshop is all about; you have a workspace to edit existing images or create something from scratch using the tools provided. There are a great number of options to work with, including colour controls, brushes, modifiers, filters and more. Here are some of the more important functions depicted in the image:

Tools Palette – Holds the ‘tools’ that you work with such as selection tools, brushes, erasers, shapes, type etc. Aside from the Move (V) and Zoom (Z) tools, every tool has a drop-down which gives you additional tools of that type.

Workspace – The active area where the editing is undertaken.

Layers Palette – An integral facet of the Photoshop workspace, representing the various ‘layers’ of a piece; where each element can be edited independently.

Color, Saturation & Swatches etc. – Aside from Layers, you can display palettes providing further options for a wide range of functions.

Program Options - The folders at the top of the image represent sotware options such as Image Adjustments, Transform Tools, Filters and Export commands.


Raster Graphics

Photoshop is built upon a raster / bitmap based editing system; which means that images are composed using multiple pixels. The nature of this set-up lends itself particularly well to artistic pursuits as it allows a more tactile approach – allowing you to blend, blur and smudge elements within an image.

Pixel-based software has it’s weaknesses though. Being ‘resolution’ dependent, there are issues with reproducing images at large sizes, the ‘pixels’ of a piece deteriorate as they are enlarged – degrading quality. In typography, brand-creation and other fields where reproduction has to be applied to a variety of formats,  ‘vector’ software such as Indesign and Illustrator is largely used.

RGB Raster ImageLayers

Much of the creative control in Photoshop can be attributed to the Layers system. Layers provide a means of editing which allows you to work with different elements, independently. This is particularly useful in the creation of composite images and providing additional control when applying a series of effects.

A strong understanding of Layers is a strong understanding of Photoshop. Check out our articles to learn more:

>>Photoshop Layers Part 1

>> Photoshop Layers Part 2

Layer Palette Photoshop Tutorial Diagram

Learning Curve

Even though Photoshop is a tremendously complex program, you can build a decent working knowledge in a fairly short period of time. Experimentation and following a few simple tutorials can provide an awareness of the interface and familiarity with the tools available. As there is such a broad range of options, you will make new discoveries daily and could easily spend a lifetime perfecting your craft.


Further Reading..

SurrealPSD aims to provide Photoshop information for a wide variety of ability levels, from hobbyist to professional. Check out our other beginner articles:
• Core Skills: Document Setup in Adobe Photoshop – Setting up new documents in Photoshop.

• Core Skills: Photoshop Layers Part 1 – An explanation of the absolute basics of Photoshop Layers.

• Core Skills: Photoshop Layers Part 2 – Photoshop layer techniques and functions explained a bit more in-depth.

Core Skills: Selecting Stock Photography – Improve the quality of your photo manipulation by being more selective with your stock resources.

• 10 Photo Manipulation Tips for Beginners – Avoid the pitfalls that many hobbyists fall into and instantly improve your photo manipulation skills. Ten bitesize tips to get you on your way.

• Core Skills: Photoshop Levels [HD] Video Tutorial – Introducing the Levels command in Adobe Photoshop and it’s uses for photo manipulation.


Would you like to know more about something not covered here? Feel free to mention it in the comments below!

Conzz 8-)

Follow on Twitter >> @Conzpiracy

Image Credits: ‘as real as it gets’ by Wanda Kamarga // Swiss Army knife by CDWaldi, SXC // RGB Raster, Wikipedia

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11 Responses to “An introduction to Photoshop”

  1. I wish I could have read this four years ago when I first started using PS.
    I spent $100′s buying books that all assumed I knew where all the things were in Photoshop. I never understood any of them!
    I ended up teaching myself which made me a better artist I’m sure
    Thank you for adding this

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