As someone who doesn’t go much further than happy snaps on a cellphone camera, finding your way around photoshop for the first time might be a little overwhelming. If you just jump right in and start editing, you’ll probably find your way around eventually, but for most of us, having some idea of what we’re getting into is a lot more comfortable. Here’s a basic guide to some common photoshop functions.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

It’s worth noting that Photoshop files can be pretty big, so you’ll need a good size hard drive if you plan to work on a lot of photoshop projects. Something else that goes for most work, not just photoshop – save, save, save. There’s nothing worse than having your power go out, or accidentally closing a program (or finding someone else has) and you haven’t saved. Save as you go, you can still undo changes, and you won’t have to redo stuff you’ve already done.

Setting Up Your Canvas

You may want to adjust your preferences depending on the resolution of the photos you’ll be using, where your final image is going to be etcetera. 300 is the recommended resolution. Once you’re a little more experienced, you can start customizing a little, but as a newbie, a preset canvas is probably easiest.


When you’re combining different images, or moving things around in a single image, different aspects and objects can be separated into layers. You can preview the layers as one, which will give you an idea of your end result, but having them separate while you work makes it easier to edit individually – you may need to brighten some aspects and darken others, or add a filter or effect to some objects but not others.

Selection Tools

The two main selection tools are marquee and lasso. Marquee lets you select an area of your image in a particular shape – a rectangle by default, but you can make it a perfect square, circle or whatever you need. Lasso is a freeform selection tool. You can select by clicking points around the edges of what you’d like to select or drag around the object you want to select. The magnetic lasso tool attempts to find the edges of the selected object and snap to them – this cuts out a lot of adjusting on your part, but may not work as well for less defined images.


Color selection determines your foreground and background colors. The foreground color will be what your paintbrush uses – you can select different brushes, widths, styles, airbrushing. Your background color is what replaces objects you delete. When you select your foreground and background colors, a color picker with sliders lets you fine-tune the colors you want.

There are a lot of tools and add-ons available for Photoshop which you’ll learn about as you become a more advanced Photoshop user. Remember the tips above are just the basics.