Tutorial 5: Photoshop in 5 Minutes

Sometimes when I'm using Photoshop, I'll use a key-command that makes someone in the room ask, "What did you just do there?" Here is a quick introduction to Photoshop that will show you some of the most popular tools in the program. I'll also show you the key-commands I use the most. Ready? Here is..Photoshop in 5 Minutes.

Note: For the following examples I'm going to refer to the key-commands as done on a keyboard on the PC, where commands are done by pressing the Ctrl, or Control key. On a Macintosh, use the Apple key.

Start Photoshop and Control-N to open a new canvas. The New dialog box opens (figure 1). Type in the dimensions you'd like your canvas to be and press the Enter key, (or the Return key on an Apple -- I guess Apple thinks they make typewriters instead of computers).


Figure 1. The dialog box to create a new canvas.

Press Control-R to toggle a ruler on and off at the edges of your canvas. I like to leave the ruler on.

Create a new layer by pressing the icon at the bottom of the Layer Palette that looks like a piece of paper with a bent corner (figure 2). Press Control-M on your keyboard to switch to the Marquee tool. Use the Rectangular Marquee tool to create a square selection in the canvas. Fill the active selection with the foreground color by pressing Alt-Delete (Apple-Delete on a Mac). You can also fill an active selection with the background color by pressing Control Delete (Option-Delete on a Mac). You should now have something that looks like figure 3.

Figure 2. Create a new layer in the Layer Palette.

Figure 3

When you have an active selection, pressing Control-H will hide it. Your selection is still active, but not visible on the screen. It's good to hide the active selection when the animated lines of the selection are distracting. Also, not displaying a complicated selection is easier on your computer's CPU.

Press Control-D to turn the active selection off.

Switch to the Move tool by pressing V on the keyboard. Click and drag on the square to move it around the canvas. The default layer created by Photoshop (named "Background") can't be moved unless you change the name of the layer by double-clicking on the name of the layer.

Change the opacity of the square by changing the value in the Opacity box in the Layer Palette (figure 4). As a shortcut, you can also click directly on the word "Opacity" while moving the mouse to the right or left. I find this awkward to do, but it's an option that Adobe gives you.


Figure 4. Change the opacity of the layer you're currently using .

Change the opacity of the square back to 100%. In the Layers Palette, click on the name of the layer and drag it down to that same icon with the bent corner. This creates a copy of the layer. The image in the canvas didn't change because the copy is in same location as the original. Press V on the keyboard and use the move tool to move the copy of the square around. In the Layer Palette, click on the name of the layer, "Layer 2", and drag it to the icon at the bottom of the palette that looks like a trash can. Yup, it deletes the later. Your canvas should now have only two layers again.

Control-T to Transform an active selection, or your current layer. In this case, since the current layer is the square, the Transform handles show up around the square. Move the handles to rotate the square, or to change its size (figure 5). Hold the Shift key down as you move the handles to scale proportionately, or to rotate an item using even increments. During a Transform, you can hold the Control key down (or the Apple key on the Mac) to move each of the four corners independently of each other to change the perspective of an item (figure 6). Press Enter to accept the Transform when you're finished, or the ESC key to reject it.

Figure 5. Rotate and change an item's size with the Transform tool. Figure 6. Change each corner during a Transfom to change perspective. I made the Monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Do a Command-N, and then Enter to make a new canvas that is the same size as the first canvas. Press V to select the Move tool. Click inside the first canvas with the square to select that canvas. Click on the square and drag it into the new canvas (figure 7). You can use the Move tool to move layers from one canvas to another. Close the 2nd canvas without saving it.


Figure 7. Use the Move tool to drag a layer to a different canvas .

At the top of the Layers Palette, click the icon that looks like a checkerboard (figure 8). This preserves the opacity information of the layer, which is a very powerful feature in Photoshop. Let's check it out. Change the foreground color to red and press Control-Delete (Option-Delete on an Mac). The copy of the square is now filled with red because the transparency information of the layer is protected. In other words, preserving the opacity information means you can only edit the existing pixels, and not create new ones. I use this feature to clone right up to an object's edge (without going over the edge because the opacity is protected) eliminating the fake "cut-out" look. Click on the icon again to unprotect the transparent pixels. Press Option-Delete again, and the entire canvas is flooded with red this time.


Figure 8

Close the canvas without saving. For the rest of this tutorial I'll mention some of the key-commands and tools I use the most.

In the Layers Palette, use your mouse to right-click on a layer's image icon and select "Select Layer Transparency". This loads the transparency information of the layer as your active selection. It comes in handy.

Press V on the keyboard to select the Move tool. Click on the ruler in a canvas and drag to create a guide line. You can make both horizontal and vertical guide lines. Use Control-Colon (to the right of the L key) to toggle the guide lines on and off. Use the Move tool to click on a guide line to move it. You can also permanently remove all guide lines in your canvas by going to the View menu and selecting Clear Guides.

Control Z, to Undo, which is a common command is most programs.

Control S to Save.

Zoom in and out of the current canvas by clicking Control - or Control +.

If you're "zoomed in" on your picture, keeping the spacebar pressed changes your current tool to the Hand tool, letting you scroll around your canvas.

You can adjust the size of any brush by pressing the two bracket keys (to the right of the letter P on the keyboard). The left bracket key makes your brush smaller, while the right bracket increases the brushes size. I constantly adjust the size brush size this way while painting, cloning or erasing.

Control-A will make an active selection around the entire outer edge of your canvas.

Control-M brings up the Color Curves.

Control-B brings up the Color Balance tool.

Control-L opens the Levels.

Control-C, Control-D, Control-V. These three have always worked together for me. Control-C will Copy the active selection into memory. Control-D turns off an active selection. Lastly, Control-V pastes what was "copied". When I have an active selection that I want to make a copy of, my fingers quickly hit Control-C,D,V, and a new layer is made out of the current selection.

OK, pencils down. That's a look at some ways you can move around Photoshop. While the ideas presented here are basic, you can use these tools to make complex images. And that's an intro at Photoshop in 5 minutes.

David Phillips

Copyright © 2010, David Phillips. All rights reserved.
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