Let’s get things straight from the outset. Adobe Photoshop is an amazing, creative application and continues to be the very best photo-editing tool available. However, over the years I have noticed a few tools, options and techniques that aren’t going to be that helpful to the budding creative, like yourself. So allow me to gently steer you away from the perils of poor technique and lovingly guide you toward a paradise of good practice that will lead to a solid Adobe Photoshop foundation.
1. Feather on Selection
Feathering soften the edge of your selection by a radius of pixels, starting from totally transparent on the outside of the selection, to completely opaque on the inside. Very useful, however if you were to be preemptive and choose a feather radius on the contextual options bar, make a time consuming selection, finding that the feathering was too soft, you’ll have to deselect and start again. Also, Adobe Photoshop will remember your feather radius and will apply it next time you make a selection. Instead, it’s far better to use (menu) Select>Feather. This can be undone afterwards if the radius is too large. Make sure you keep the feather radius on the contextual option bar at zero!
2. The Zoom Tool
The Zoom Tool is very useful for quickly zooming and out of your image’s canvas. By clicking and dragging with this tool, you can zoom into a specific area within milliseconds. However, you really wouldn’t want to use this on a regular basis for zooming in and out, whilst working within Adobe Photoshop. Instead, use the quick-keys CTRL+/CTRL-. Much quicker and less hassle.
3. The quick & easy Magnetic Lasso Tool
There are a number of quick selection tools within Adobe Photoshop, including the Magic Wand Tool, Quick Selection Tool and Magnetic Lasso Tool. These tools have there place, but many newcomers to Adobe Photoshop may become overly dependant on them and as a results, stunt creative development. Quite often, such tools can make light work of defining selections, but what of the times when they just won’t do what you want them to. In order to be in control, then become confident with tools where you are in control. By far the best selection tool to use is the Polygonal Lasso. Not only does it allow you to take your time with your selection, you can also make selective decisions with pin-point accuracy. You can also incrementally unpick your selection with the backspace key on your keyboard. It might not be as easy and as quick to use than some selection methods, but learn it well and you will go far. All of the pro’s use it!
4. The Eraser Tool
Of course, there are going to be times when you need to remove pixels from your image, but I’d advise you totally avoid using Photoshop’s Eraser Tool. There is a superior way to remove pixels and gain total control over what stays in and what drops out of your image. Layer Mask is an amazing feature within the Layers palette. Rather than deleting pixels, it allows you to hide or show, depending whether you are painting with black or white. Yes, I did say ‘painting’! By using the Brush Tool with black on your colour swatch, you can paint over and hide pixels. Paint with white, and those pixels reappear. This is a great method to use when blending in an object that you have move of brought into an image. You can also vary the size of your brush to control the softness of the blend. Lovely stuff!
5. The Hand Tool
Why, oh why…? If you want to move your viewpoint around the canvas area of an image, then don’t bother selecting this from the tool palette! Now, did you notice what I did there – I say ‘don’t bother selecting it from the tool palette’ and not ‘don’t use it at all’. The Move Tool is essential for getting from one end of your image to another. However, imagine this: You are working with your brush and need to move to another part of the canvas. You will have to put your brush down and pick up the Hand Tool, move and then pick up your brush again. Doing this, takes several seconds and an annoying amount of concentration. When I work with Adobe Photoshop, I tend to switch my brain to essential operations only such and breathing and digesting the cornflakes I had for breakfast. I really don’t want to have to think about what I am doing! Heaven forbid! So, I use quick-keys instead and let my fingers think for me. Rather than selecting the Hand Tool from the tool palette, I simply use the spacebar on my keyboard. If I press and hold it down, the cursor for my current selected tool disappears and is replaced with the Hand Tool and remains so until I release the key. Magic! The only time this doesn’t work is when you are using the Type Tool, for obvious reasons.