Photoshop can seem quite intimidating to the first-time user, even more so if you have just got your hands on a digital camera, switching over from film. Mastering Photoshop can take a really long time, and it is no easy task either.

5 Most Popular Basic Tools in Photoshop

However, we believe that this being the world standard photo editing option, it is well worth the effort you put into it. Once you master this software, you have complete control over your final image.

Much like a digital dark room! We’ve made a list of some basic Photoshop controls to get your started.

1. The Brush Tool

Photoshop allows you to work with layers, and to understand this you need to imagine a physical layer over another. The table in your image could be turned into one layer, in front of the rest of the image. Well, the brush tool helps you selectively alter the opacity of your layers, thereby helping them merge together. Wherever you use the brush, the opacity is altered to that particular area of the selected layer. That’s a good example of when you could use the brush tool!

Let’s look at a practical example here. Imagine you have a saturation adjustment layer over the entire image, to saturate the colours a bit. What if your background colours look fine, but the foreground looks a little over saturated? To correct this, you could apply a layer mask OVER the saturation adjustment layer (and by the way adjustment layers are accompanied by layer masks by default), and simply use the brush tool over the areas that you wish to remove, bringing out the original colours of the image to these areas.

One of the most useful features of the brush tool is its variable opacity level. This simply means you can set the effectiveness of the brush to your liking. It doesn’t have to wipe away all of the saturation, and you can use it to wipe away only a preferred percentage of saturation (in this case).

When using the brush tool, you also need to define the hardness level. For example, when hardness is set to minimum, you get the effect of an extremely sift brush with feathered edge. On the other extreme of hardness set to maximum, you get a clearly defined brush and this setting would be good to work on clearly defined outlines, such as the edge of a table in your image.

2. The Clone Tool

If you have understood how opacity and hardness levels, it will help you understand most Photoshop tool settings. Coming to the clone tool, it is usually used to replicate an area of the image, as the name suggests. Do use a duplicate layer for experiments with the clone tool, so you leave your original image layer untouched at any given time. And then, using a duplicate layer over the original also allows you to later mask the cloning effect as mentioned above.

To use the clone tool, you need to first define an image area for the tool to clone FROM. All you need to do is hit the ALT key when you have the cursor in the right place, and your source is now defined. This tool is very handy when you are trying to ‘repair’ a damaged or scratched area on your image. However, over using it will give the image a fake feel.

3. The Spot Healing Brush

As the name suggests, this is a handy tool to help quickly remove spots from your image. You would want to use this instead of the clone tool when you need to work on a very small area of the image, and do not want precision. It is good to remove things like acne from skin, maybe a mole and so on. The spot healing brush automatically selects a source to which it clones from. On areas of similar tone and colour, such as skin or a blue sky – this works fine. However, if you are trying to repair over something like the edge of a building, the regular healing brush or the clone tool is definitely more accurate. By the way, the healing brush allows you to select a source very much like the clone tool – by pressing the ALT key.

4. Selection Tools

Selections tools are probably the most commonly used Photoshop tools, and with good reason as well. They allow you to isolate an image area, however complex the outline. Once selected, you are able to apply effects the the selection areas alone, covert those areas into new layers or simply alter colour tones amongst a variety of other options.

Photoshop allows you to either select rectangular areas, elliptical areas, single pixel lines or even the one click at a time rough selection option. For the geometric shapes you need to click and drag to define the selection area. But not all objects are elliptical or rectangular are they! The lasso tool is a great way to select non-geometric shapes, and obviously this is what is more commonly used. do deselect a selected area, simply use CTRL with the D key. To INVERSE your selection, you could use SHIFT-CTRL-I.

You can also make more than one selection. In other words, select an area of the image and once defined, select a fresh area, wherein you are able to either ADD to the existing selection, SUBTRACT from it or even SELECT THE INTERSECTING areas (all defined by relevant symbols just under the Photoshop menu bar on top). Once you have defined a selection, you can easily add an adjustment layer over it.

We’ve only touched upon some basic Photoshop tool functions. This is only the tip of the iceberg! You can never really say you know all there is to know about Photoshop. Moreover, some folks may achieve a certain effect using one tool, while others may get similar results using another tool. So it really comes down to your choice of tools and how you use them. Photoshop tools are extremely versatile that way, and we encourage you to experiment with different tools, choose your favourites, and make your own style!

Posted by brantwilson

Brant Wilson is a staff writer for the DesignMag network. Brant enjoys all things design and development, dogs, and candy. Brant is passionate about training freelancers. Learn how you can earn $125+ freelancing. Start learning for free now! Connect with Brant on google+

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