Discuss class goals, objectives and expectations. The Syllabus can be found on the eCompanion.

Multicolored Boxes

We will complete this Multicolored Box tutorial in class as a fun introduction to many of Photoshop’s tools and features.

  1. Find a high-resolution photograph of a person, preferably standing and showing most of the body. Avoid a solid white background, or this effect is not as powerful. Example:
    Wonder Woman Linda Carter high resolution
  2. Add a new blank layer by clicking on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Make sure that this is the active layer (bluish highlight).
    Photoshop basics - create add new layer
  3. Double-click on the text that says Background for the bottom layer. Lave the layer name as Layer 0 and click OK. It is no longer a locked layer.
    Photoshop basics - change background layer to an unlocked layer by renaming it
  4. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Tools panel on the left side of your workspace.
    Photoshop basics - Rectangular Marquee tool
  5. Click-and-drag out a rectangle that frames your model’s face. This shape defined by what is called “marching ants” is called a selection.
    Photoshop basics - Rectangular Marquee tool draws a rectangle
  6. Locate your Swatches panel. If you cannot find it on the right side of your workspace, go to the Window menu and select Swatches. Click on the panel’s menu icon, which is found in the top-right corner of the panel.
    Photoshop basics - Swatches panel menu icon
  7. Select Reset Swatches. Click OK to replace swatches, and No to save changes to current swatches. This gets you the default set of swatches.
    Photoshop basics - reset swatches Photoshop basics - replace current swatches Photoshop basics - save changes to current swatches
  8. Back in the Swatches panel menu, select Small List, so you can easily see the swatch names as well as the colors.
    Photoshop basics - Swatches panel view small list
  9. In the Swatches panel, find and click on 40% Gray. Your cursor will appear as an eyedropper. This will change your Foreground Color in the Tools panel to 40% Gray.
    Photoshop basics - Swatches panel 40% gray Photoshop basics - Foreground Color in tools panel
  10. Use a keyboard shortcut to fill the rectangle selection over the face with your gray color: Alt+Delete (PC) or Option+Delete (Mac). You can press a keyboard shortcut to redo if you don’t like your first attempt: Ctrl-Z (PC or Cmd-Z (Mac).
    Photoshop basics - fill selection with foreground color
  11. Notice how the gray rectangle appears in the layer thumbnail image. Double-click on the text for the layer name, and type in 40% gray. Press Enter/Return to commit the name change.
    Photoshop basics - layer thumbnail and rename layer
  12. With this layer still active, use the Rectangular Marquee tool to draw more rectangles. After drawing one, hold Shift down while drawing another so that is adds to your selection rather than starting a new one. The Shift key says, “add to selection”. Space your rectangles out over the body.
    Photoshop basics - multiple selections with rectangular marquee tool
  13. Use the same fill keyboard shortcut to fill all the selections with 40% Gray: Alt+Delete (PC) or Option+Delete (Mac).
    Photoshop basics - fill rectangular selections with gray
  14. Add another new layer. Pick another shade of gray from the Swatches panel. Draw a new set of rectangles on this layer, some overlapping your earlier layer. Fill them with your new shade of gray. Rename your layer to match the percentage of gray.
    Photoshop basics - layers of gray rectangles
  15. Repeat with two or more layers of different shades of gray. Be sure your figure’s entire body is covered when you’re done!
    Photoshop basics - layers of gray rectangles Photoshop basics - layers of gray rectangles Photoshop basics - layers of gray rectangles
  16. Use a keyboard shortcut to save the file: Ctrl+S (PC) or Cmd+S (Mac). Because this has multiple layers, Photoshop knows it needs to be saved as a new file, a Photoshop file. Save it in a location you can find it again, preferably on an external drive.
    Photoshop basics - save as a Photoshop file
  17. When first saving a multi-layer file as a Photoshop, you will be asked if you want to maximize compatibility with other programs. Click OK.
    Photoshop basics - maximize compatibility
  18. Now we need to make a selection that includes all of the rectangular shapes. This will take a combination of clicking and a key on your keyboard. Press Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac) while clicking on the top layer’s thumbnail image. The thumbnail is the reproduction of the layer’s contents, with a checkerboard background, on the left side of a given layer. Then press both Ctrl/Cmd and Shift while clicking on each of the other thumbnails for the gray layers. As before, the Shift key says, “add to selection”. Don’t include the original background layer.
    Photoshop basics - selections across layers
  19. Click on the bottom layer of the layer stack, the one that has your original image. Press a keyboard shortcut to create a new layer from your selection: Ctrl+J (PC) or Cmd+J (Mac). This duplicates the layer, but only where the selection is.
    Photoshop basics - duplicate new layer from selection
  20. Create a new layer, and click-and-drag it in the Layers panel so it is just above the bottom layer. Rename it as background. Rename your duplicated selection after whatever is in your image. I named mine wonder woman.
    Photoshop basics - new layer and rename layers
  21. In the Layers panel, scroll up to your top layer, which is filled with rectangles. Click on it to make it active. Change its blend mode to Overlay (the default blend mode is Normal). It will blend the gray rectangles with whatever is underneath.
    Photoshop basics - change blend mode to overlay Photoshop basics - layer blend mode set to Overlay
  22. Set the blend mode for all the other gray rectangle layers to Overlay.
    Photoshop basics - rectangle layers set to overlay blend mode
  23. Go back up to the top layer and make it active. Click on the fx icon at the bottom of the panel and select Drop Shadow.
    Photoshop basics - layer style effects menu drop shadow
  24. Click OK to accept the default settings.
    Photoshop basics - layer style effects drop shadow settings Photoshop basics - drop shadow added to layer
  25. Duplicate the effect for the other gray-rectangle layers: hold down the Alt/Option key while dragging the Drop Shadow text down to another layer. Let go of the mouse button before the Alt/Option key.
    Photoshop basics - copy layer style from one layer to another Photoshop basics - duplicated layer style from one layer to another
  26. Repeat for the remaining gray-rectangle layers.
    Photoshop basics - drop shadow layer style added to multiple layers
  27. Make your empty background layer active. We’re going to fill it with a radial (round) gradient.
    Photoshop basics - making the background layer active
  28. Select the Gradient tool from the Tools panel. If it is not visible, click-and-hold on the Paint Bucket tool to show the fly-out for the tool set, then select the Gradient tool. If you hover over a tool icon for a moment, the name of the tool will appear in a yellow tooltip.
    Photoshop basics - gradient tool in tools panel Photoshop basics - gradient tool in flyout for paint bucket tool
  29. Up in the Options bar under the Menu bar, click on the long rectangle that displays a gradient. This accesses the Gradient Editor.
    Photoshop basics - gradient tool options bar gradient editor Photoshop basics - gradient editor dialog box
  30. Click on the left-hand color stop: the house-shaped icon on the left with a checkerboard pattern on it. Then click on the color swatch underneath.
    Photoshop basics - click on a color stop in gradient editor Photoshop basics - click on the color swtach for a color stop in gradient editor
  31. Select a light color. Click in the vertical hue slider to choose a general color, then click inside the big square on the left to select how light and how saturated (vibrant) you want it. Then click OK.
    Photoshop basics - color picker for gradient editor color swatch
  32. Repeat for the color stop on the right side, but select a darker shade of the same hue. Then click OK to close the Color Picker box, and OK to close the Gradient Editor box.
    Photoshop basics - color picker for darker hue in gradient editor
  33. In the Options bar, click on the second type of gradient: radial.
    Photoshop basics - select radial gradient from Options bar for gradient tool
  34. Use the Gradient tool to click-and-drag from the center of the figure to somewhere out by the image edge. Redo it if you don’t like your first attempt.
    Photoshop basics - draw out a radial gradient direction Photoshop basics - after a radial gradient is added
  35. Save your file.

Photoshop Basics: The Workspace

The following topics are covered in the tutorial:

  • The default Photoshop workspace
  • Other built-in workspaces
  • Changing your screen view
  • Show, Hide, rearrange and resize panels
  • Save a custom workspace
  • Arrange multiple images on the screen

Workspace Overview

Once Photoshop is finished loading, go to the File menu and select Open (File > Open). Navigate to a picture somewhere on your computer and click OK. It doesn’t matter what the picture is. We just want to play around with the workspace today. Also, don’t worry if we make all kinds of hideous changes in the work space. We can always go back to the original settings. The nice folks at Adobe are always looking for ways to let us play around without fear of ruining stuff. I’ve opened up a photo my husband took recently. Check out all the stuff surrounding the picture (this screenshot was taken in the CS4 version).
Photoshop Workspace

  1. Application Bar. The Application Bar includes menus that give you access to Photoshop’s commands and features. Items on the Application Bar can also allow you to make things visible or invisible like panels and guides, or to rearrange your workspace.
  2. Control Panel. The Control Panel allows allows you to adjust the settings for the tool that is currently selected in the Tools Panel. For example, if you have the Text tool selected, the Control Panel allows you to change the font type and size, as well as the text color and alignment. In earlier versions of Photoshop, the Control panel is called the Options bar.
  3. Document Tab. Each open image has a tab. Document Tabs work like tabs in other programs. They allow you to easily switch between open Photoshop files simply by clicking on the tab. The document tab shows you the file name and some other useful data (in earlier Photoshop versions, the same data is displayed in the title bar.)
  4. Image Window. This is the area in which your image lives. Sometimes your image fills the image window, and sometimes it has a gray pasteboard surrounding it, as you see here.
  5. Tools Panel. The Tools Panel contains tools that let you interact directly with your Photoshop files. Some of the tools have a small black triangle at the bottom-right. Click and hold down on one of these tools, and you will see the fly-out menu which contains related tools. For example, the fly-out menu for the Gradient Tool also contains the Paint Bucket tool.
  6. Workspace Switcher. The Workspace Switcher allows you quickly change the workspace for different needs. For example, if your workspace doesn’t resemble mine, click on the Workspace Switcher and choose ESSENTIALS from the drop down menu. The Switcher also allows you to save a workspace you have created for yourself. We will look at this in greater detail during this lesson.
  7. Panels. Photoshop panels give you even more options for your tools beyond the Control Panel. They can also allow you to choose colors and styles, undo many steps, see important information about your files, and do more complex editing involving layers, paths and channels. There are many other types of panels too.

Built-In Workspaces

Photoshop CC built-in workspaces Photoshop provides us with several built-in workspaces. Each one is designed to meet the needs of someone doing a particular kind of function in Photoshop. For example, select the Painting workspace from the Workspace Switcher. You will see the panels on the right-hand side remix. Layers, Channels and Paths stay at the bottom because they are essential to almost all Photoshop jobs. Color, Swatches and Styles stick around because they help you choose colors and styles. Everything else is replaced by Brushes and the Navigator. The Brushes panel is very large because it’s like a huge table full of every kind of painting brush you can imagine (and then some.) Then select the Typography workspace. The Character, Paragraph, and Styles panels now take center stage. The Character panel lets you modify your fonts and spacing. The Paragraph panel lets you align your text in a variety of ways. Finally, take notice of the New Workspace… item at the bottom of the menu. We will use that later in this lesson.

Screen Modes

With a simple key press or two, you can use Screen Modes to completely change how your workspace is displayed in Photoshop.

  1. Press the Tab key. All of the panels on the left and right will hide. Also hidden is the Control panel above.
    Press the Tab key
  2. Press the F key. Photoshop will take over your entire screen. In Windows, that means your bottom bar with the Start Menu, Taskbar, etc. disappears. Also hidden is the Application Tab. This helps you see your image without a lot of clutter around it.
    Press the F key once
  3. Press the F key a second time. Now your image is the only thing visible, and the area surrounding it turns black. This is a great screen mode for showing your image to clients or other people.
    Press F a second time
  4. How do we get back all of our panels and such? Just press F again, and the Tab key.
  5. These were the keyboard shortcuts to switch between screen modes. You can also use the Screen Modes icon up in the Application Bar.
    Screen Modes icon

Working with Panels

We’re going to completely rearrange our panels and make a mess.

  1. The Tools panel show up in a single column. Let’s make it two columns. Click on the double triangle icon at the top of the Tools panel. Expand Tools panel icon The tools panel will double in width and become half as tall.
    Expanded Tools panel
  2. Notice that there is a similar double-triangle icon above all the panels on the right. The group of panels is called a panel dock, and the double-triangle icon is called “Collapse to Icons.” Click that icon.
    Collapse to Icons icon
    The panel dock collapses into a single column of icons. Each icon represents one of the panels that was collapsed.
    Panel dock collapsed into icons-only
  3. Click on each of the icons in this collapsed panel dock. The associated panel pops out to the left. Notice that the previously opened panel hides when you click a new one.
    Panel icon
  4. The currently opened panel will hide if you click the black double-triangle icon on the top-right of the panel. Click it to return to an icons-only panel dock. Alternately, you can hide it by clicking on its icon in the panel dock.
    Collapse panel icon
  5. Select the menu command Window > History. A second column of icons appears to the left of the first. It includes the History panel icon, and the History panel is popped open.
    History panel appears
  6. History panel iconClick on the History panel icon to collapse the History panel.
  7. You can move your panels and panel docks wherever you want to. Start by clicking and dragging on the dark gray bar at the top of the Tools panel. Move it down and to the right.
    Move the Tools panel
  8. Expand both sets of panels on the right.
    Expand both panel docks
  9. Find the panel tab for the Paths panel. Click and drag it out into the middle of the screen.
    Move the Paths panel off the dock
  10. Move a couple of other panels out into the middle.
    Move some more panels off the dock
  11. Now let’s close a panel. Find the X icon on the top-right corner of any of the panels. Click on it and it will disappear (you can always get it back by going to the Windows menu.)
    Close the panel
  12. Grab a panel tab and move it alongside another panel tab. A blue border will appear around the new neighbor. Let go of the panel tab to let it drop into place.
    Move a panel over to join a new neighbor
  13. Hover your mouse over the bottom edge of a panel. You will see the cursor change into a double-headed white arrow going up and down. Click and drag down to increase the height of the panel.
    Increase the height of the panel
    You can decrease the height of panels too, but they will only shrink to a minimum size. The minimum size varies depending on the content of the panel. Some panels (like the Layers and Swatches panels) have a scroll bar on the right side that allows you to scroll down if the panel is shorter than its contents.
  14. You should still have one panel floating out in the middle. Find the dotted triangle on its bottom-right corner. Click on this triangle, and drag down and to the right. The panel will get taller and wider.
    Widen the panel
    You cannot use this method with panel docks that are anchored to the sides. Instead, do this:
  15. In the Workspace Switcher, select Essentials. The panels will return to panel docks anchored to the left and right.
  16. Hover over the left edge of the right-hand panel dock. Your cursor will change into a white double-headed arrow going left and right. Click and drag this panel dock edge to the left. The panels in the dock will all get wider.
    Widen the panel dock

Save a Workspace

  1. Find a panel arrangement that you might use later. Just make one up since you may not quite know what the panels do yet.

I returned to the Typography workspace, then dragged the panel docks off of the sides. I opened the Color panel (Window > Color) and moved it down below the Layers panel, where it “clicked” into place. Then I added the Swatches panel next to it. I I also opened the History and Brushes panels. I clicked the Brushes icon to collapse the Brushes panel. I dragged the Clone Source icon of of the dock and deleted the panel.
My new panel arrangement
Let’s save the new workspace.

  1. Click to open the Workspace Switcher.
  2. Select New Workspace…. (on older versions it said Save Workspace…)
    Save Workspace...
  3. In the Save Workspace dialog box, type a name for your workspace.
    Save Workspace dialog box
  4. Click Save.
  5. Notice that your workspace name appears in the Workspace Switcher.
    New custom workspace is selected

Note: To delete this workspace, you need to select another workspace first. Then select Delete Workspace… from the Workspace Switcher, select the new workspace in the dialog box, and click Delete.

Arrange Multiple Images

  1. Open another image. Notice that there are now two document tabs. You can click on a document tab to bring that image forward in the image window.
    Two document tabs
  2. Click on the Arrange Documents icon in the Application Bar.
  3. Select the 2 Up icon.
    Arrange documents 2 up
    Your two images will appear one above the other.
    Images arranged one above the other In the Arrange Documents menu, there are many other options available, depending on how many images you have open. One option is to float the images in individual windows.
  4. Click on the Arrange Documents icon in the Application Bar.
  5. Select Float All In Windows. The images appear in separate image windows, one laid above the other. The title bars are cascading down from the top left.
    Float in windows
  6. Click on the title bar for one of the images and drag it to another location on the screen.
    Move an image window
  7. The next three steps are written for Microsoft Windows.
    1. Click on the Minimize icon for one of the image windows. It will collapse into a small title bar on the bottom-left of your screen.
      Minimize an image window
    2. Click on the Maximize icon for one of the image windows. It will expand to fill your entire screen.
      Maximize an image window
    3. Click on the Restore Down icon for this expanded image window. It will go back to normal image window size.
      Restore Down icon
  8. Finally, let’s return to document tabs. Go to the Window menu, hover over Arrange, and selectConsolidate All to Tabs (Window > Arrange > Consolidate All to Tabs).
    Consolidate All to Tabs

Lesson Review

  • Photoshop has a number of built-in workspaces which have different panel arrangements.
  • You can hide all of the panels by pressing the Tab key.
  • You can rotate through three screen modes by pressing the F key repeatedly.
  • Panel docks can be collapsed and expanded by clicking on the double triangle icon on the top-right of the panel dock.
  • Collapsed panels can be opened by clicking on the panel icon, and closed by clicking on it again.
  • Panels can be separated from the panel dock and panel groups, resized, regrouped, and deleted.
  • You can save a personalized panel arrangement by selecting Save Workspace… in the Workspace Switcher.
  • Image windows can be arranged into document tabs or floating windows.

Menus and Panels

The following topics are covered in the tutorial:

  1. Open and save files
  2. Using the Image menu to recolor, resize, and transform an image
  3. Using the Filter Gallery
  4. Cool effects with the Actions panel
  5. Moving in time with the History panel
  6. Layer panel basics
  7. Adding text and formatting it with the Control panel
  8. Save and submit to the Dropbox

Source File

You can complete this tutorial with any good-sized digital photograph. If you want to use this one that I took at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, click on the image below to view and download the full-sized file.
Jellyfish - click for a larger image

Using the File Menu

Start by opening a colorful photograph to work with.

  1. Click on the File menu button to open the File Menu.
  2. Select Open…. If a menu command has a … after it, then it will offer you some options before it finishes the command. Menu items without the … just do their thing immediately.
  3. Navigate to an image file, and click OK.
    The File Menu

In future instructions, I will be using this format to indicate menu commands: File > Open… To protect your original image, it pays to save it under a new name, thereby creating a duplicate file.

  1. File > Save As…
  2. Navigate to wherever you want to save the duplicate file.
  3. In the File name text field, change the file name. Don’t change the file extension (e.g. keep it .jpg if it’s .jpg.)
  4. Click OK.
  5. If you are saving a .jpg file, you will be asked what quality to use for compression. Set the Quality to 9 or higher.
    Save As dialog box

You will now have the duplicate file ready to experiment with, leaving the original untouched.

Using the Image Menu

Let’s have some fun with the color of our photo.

  1. Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation
    Hue/Saturation Command
  2. The Hue/Saturation command allows you to change all the colors in an image at once. First, try sliding the Hue slider to the left or right. Hue refers to the named color, such as “red”, “yellow”, or “violet”. When you move the Hue slider, every color in the image spins around on the color wheel independently. We’ll look at color in more depth later.
    The Hue Slider
  3. Now try sliding around the Saturation and Lightness sliders. Saturation means how vivid the colors are. Lightness means how close to white the colors are.
  4. Click OK when you get something you like.
    Saturation and Lightness sliders

Next, we’ll change the image size.

  1. Image > Image Size…
  2. Make sure that the Constrain Proportions checkbox is checked. This will keep your image dimensions in scale; that is, when you change the width, the height will automatically adjust in proportion.
  3. In the Pixel Dimensions section, reduce the Width a bit. You will see the Height adjust as you type. You will also see the dimensions change in the Document Size section.
  4. Click OK to save the change.
    Image Size
  5. Save your file: open the File menu and notice the keyboard shortcut listed next to the word Save. Select Save. Next time, we’ll use the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+S on the PC, or Cmd+S on the Mac).

Using the Filter Menu

You can get some really groovy and artistic effects from Photoshop’s filters.

  1. Filter > Filter Gallery… This opens the Filter Gallery, which allows you to quickly try out a large variety of image filters. Filters apply artistic and other transformations to your image, and each one has a unique set of adjustments you can make. Select Paint Daubs.
    Filter Gallery - Paint Daubs
  2. Click-and-drag inside the image preview window on the left side of the Filter Gallery to reposition the preview. You can also change the zoom ratio by clicking on the + or button in the bottom-left corner.
    Reposition and Change Zoom
  3. Click on some of the other Artistic filter thumbnails (square preview images) in the center. Try also clicking on the other categories listed below these thumbnails, and selecting the options which appear. Find one you especially like, play with the settings on the right, and click OK.
    Watercolor Filter
  4. Save your file: press Ctrl+S (Mac: Cmd+S).
    Jellyfish with Watercolor Filter

Using the Actions Panel

An Action is a set of Photoshop commands in a specified sequence with specified settings. You can play an action to automatically run the commands. Photoshop comes installed with a large number of actions. In a later lesson, I’ll show you how to record your own actions for repeated use. For now, let’s play with the built-in actions.

  1. If the Actions panel is not currently visible on the right of the screen somewhere, go toWindow > Actions. You should see a single bar inside the panel called “Default Actions.”

Actions Panel
If Default Actions is not visible in the Actions panel: click on the panel menu icon at the top-right corner (it looks like a tiny triangle with four horizontal lines next to it;) select Reset Actions, then click OK and skip to step 3.
Actions panel menu

  1. Click on the small blue triangle on this bar to open up a list of the Default Actions.
Default Actions
  1. Use the small scroll bar on the right side of the Actions panel to scroll down.
  2. Click on Quadrant Colors.
Quadrant Colors
  1. Click on the small Play selection icon at the bottom of the panel.
  2. Save your file. This time, Photoshop will want to save it as a Photoshop file (.psd). That is because the Quadrant Colors action added a new layer (more on this later in the lesson.) Go ahead and click Save.
  3. Photoshop will ask you if you want to Maximize Compatability. It will always ask you this the first time you save a file as .psd. Make sure that the checkbox is checked, and click OK.
Jelly Fish with Quadrant Colors
  1. Save your file.

Using the History Panel

The History panel allows you to undo up to 20 steps. You can take a peek back in time, then return to the current state. You can also take “snapshots” that record the current state before you move on. This allows you to recover a critical stage even if you’ve completed more than 20 steps since that moment.

  1. If the History panel is not currently visible on the right of the screen somewhere, go to Window > History.
  2. Notice at the top of the panel that there are two snapshots listed above the History states. The top one is a recording of the image state when you first opened the file. The next snapshot was created automatically when you ran the Quadrant Colors action.
History Panel
  1. Like the Actions panel, the History panel has a scroll bar on the right side. Scroll up and down to view the steps you have taken. You’ve probably done fewer than 20.
History Panel scroll bar
  1. Each history state has a tiny icon to the left which tells you what category of task was completed, and each state has text that gives a more detailed description of the task. This allows you to quickly identify what you might want to undo. Click on the history state called “Watercolor”. This jumps the image back to just after you ran the Watercolor filter.
Go back to Watercolor state
  1. Notice that the history states above the selected state are still in black text. The history states below the selected state are now in gray, italicized text. These grayed-out steps are all the ones that occurred automatically, when you ran the Quadrant Colors action right after you ran the Watercolor filter.
  2. Also notice the History slider alongside the selected state.
History Slider
  1. Drag the History slider up or down to go backward or forward in time. Try clicking on each of the two snapshots.
Drag the History Slider
  1. Scroll back down to the very last history state (on the very bottom of the History panel,) and click on it to recover all of our tasks.
Return to latest history state
  1. In the Actions panel, run the Wood Frame action. When it warns you that the image needs to be at least 100px wide and tall, click Continue.
  2. View > Fit on Screen
Wood Frame action
  1. Notice how the History panel has changed. A new snapshot was added, and so many individual steps were involved in the Wood Frame action that all of your previous history states are gone. Take a look at all the various steps that happened during the Wood Frame action.
History Panel update
  1. Save your file.


  1. To undo a single task (history state), use the keyboard short cut of Ctrl+Z (Mac: Cmd+Z).
  2. To undo multiple states – one at a time – repeatedly use the keyboard short cut of Ctrl+Alt+Z(Mac: Opt+Cmd+Z).
  3. If you back up one or more states in the History panel, then complete a new task, you will lose all of the history states below the one you selected (and you will create new history states.)
  4. You can increase the number of History states that Photoshop will record by going to Edit > Preferences > Performance, and changing the number listed for History States. This may slow down your performance.
  5. History states and snapshots disappear when you close a file, so make sure you don’t want to undo any tasks before you close your file.

Using the Layers Panel

The Layers panel allows you to break your image up into layers that can be independently moved, edited, and rearranged. To get the idea, imagine you have three clear sheets of glass. Each sheet has some image painted on part of the glass. You can stack the glass sheets on top of each other. The image on the top sheet might hide parts of the images below in some regions, and allow the images below to be seen in other regions. You can change the stacking order by putting the top sheet on the bottom. You can move the center sheet to the left or right in relation to the top sheet. You can remove a sheet from the stack so that only two are seen. Imagine if you could also make the image on one of the glass sheets partly transparent, or blend it with the image on the sheet below, or make it look like it has beveled edges. You can do all these things and more with the Layer stack in Photoshop. We’ll look at the Layers panel in greater depth in future lessons. For now, let’s just do a couple basic tasks.

  1. If the Layers panel is not currently visible on the right of the screen somewhere, go to Window > Layers.
  2. I like to make the Layers panel taller than it usually is by default. Using what you learned earlier, adjust the height of the Layers panel. I did it by dragging its top edge up.
Layers Panel
  1. Use the Layers panel’s scroll bar to scroll up and down and view the layers in the layer stack for your image.
Layer panel scroll bar
  1. Notice that each layer has a small picture on the left representing what image is on that particular layer. This is called the “layer thumbnail”.
  2. Notice also that the top layer has a name, “frame”. That was created by the Wood Frame action; the action created a new layer, and also renamed it so that it is descriptive. Other layers, such as “Background copy,” have not yet been renamed.
  3. Double-click directly on the text that says, “Background copy”. You should see the text selected with a blue background. If a dialog box pops up, it is because you double-clicked next to, but not right on top of, the text. Close the dialog box and try again.
Select the layer name
  1. Type in a new name: Quadrant Colors.
  2. Rename the Layer 1 layer as: Watercolor.
Rename the layers
  1. On the far left of each layer is a small “eye” icon. It is called “Indicates layer visibility”. Click on the eye icon next to the Quadrant Colors layer. The Quadrant Color image hides, revealing your earlier Watercolor image. The frame is still visible.
Hide the Quadrant Colors layer
  1. Click on the eye icon next to the Quadrant Colors layer again. The Quadrant Color image reappears.
  2. Click on Quadrant Colors layer bar to select the layer. The bar appears blue.
Reveal the Quadrant Colors layer and select it
  1. In the upper-right corner of the Layers panel, change the Opacity of the layer to 50%: double-click on the text “100%”, type in 50, and press Enter (Mac: Return). This makes the Quadrant Color layer half-transparent and half-opaque.
Reduce Opacity Image after opacity change
  1. In the upper-left corner of the Layers panel, change the blend mode to Hue: click on the small black triangle, then select Hue from the list (it is near the bottom). This blends the hues of the Quadrant Colors layer with the Watercolor layer below.
Select the Hue blend mode
  1. Save your file.
Jellyfish with mixed layers

Using the Horizontal Text Tool and Options Bar

The Options bar is very useful whenever you work with a tool. The options for each tool are unique, and the Options bar gives you easy access to these options. As an example, we’ll select the Horizontal Text tool, set the options for it, and add some text to our image.

  1. Select the Horizontal Type tool from the Tools panel on the left side of the screen.
Horizontal Type tool If the T tool on the Tools panel doesn’t look quite like this, click-and-hold on the T until the fly-out menu appears. The select the Horizontal Type tool from this menu. Type tool fly-out menu
  1. Look at the available options up in the Options bar. You will find it right beneath the Menu bar. Depending on how many fonts you have loaded, it may take a moment or two to appear while Photoshop loads your fonts.
Control Panel
  1. You can change the font family using the third item from the left on the Options bar. Find a font you like – small samples are on the right side of each font name.
Set the font family
  1. Use the dropdown box next to the double-T icon to change the font size to 48px.
Change the font size to 48px
  1. Click on the Center Text icon, which is the middle one of the three alignment options.
Center text
  1. The next rectangle to the right is the color swatch (in my image above, it’s the black rectangle – yours may be a different color). We need a very light color to be visible over all the dark colors in our image. Click on the swatch to open the Color Picker.
  2. In the center of the Color Picker is a vertical rainbow bar. Click inside of the rainbow bar to select a hue.
Color Picker
  1. The color range in the large square to the left will change according to the hue you selected. Click up near the top-left corner of this square to get a very light shade of your hue. Click OK.
Click on a lighter shade of your hue
  1. Click near the bottom of the jellyfish image, right in the center. You should see a flashing cursor appear, ready for you to type.
  2. Type the word Medusa, which is another word for the adult form of the jellyfish (the immature form is called a polyp). If you’re using a different image, type something simple and appropriate for it.
Type the word Medusa
  1. To commit your text edit, click on the check mark icon on the far right side of the Options bar.
Commit text edit
  1. Finally, take a snapshot of your image in the History panel: click on the Create New Snapshoticon at the bottom of the History panel.
Create new snapshot
  1. Try clicking on each of the snapshots to see how your image progressed.
  2. Click on your latest snapshot again to restore all of your changes.
Snapshot 3
  1. Save your file.
Final Jellyfish image

Lesson Review

  • Menus allow you complete many of Photoshop’s image-editing functions.
  • Some menu commands are followed by “…”, which means you will be given options in a dialog box before the command is run.
  • Some menu commands have keyboard shortcuts listed beside them in the menus. These keyboard shortcuts let you run a command without using a menu.
  • Many of Photoshop’s image-transforming filters can be accessed and customized via the Filter Gallery.
  • The Actions panel allows you to run a series of tasks all at once.
  • The History panel allows you to undo one or more of the tasks you completed, up to 20. It also allows you to take snapshots.
  • The Layers panel allows you to rearrange layers, hide or reveal them, change their opacity, and blend them together.
  • The Options bar allows you to adjust the settings for a tool before you use it.

Image Size & Resolution

I will demonstrate the following Photoshop functions and features during class:

Creating a new file (File > New…)

  • Name
  • Preset
  • Width and Height
  • Resolution
  • Color Mode
  • Background Contents
  • Save Preset…

Image Size (Image > Image Size…)

  • Pixel Dimensions
  • Document Size
  • Resolution
  • Scale Styles
  • Constrain Proportions
  • Resample Image

Canvas Size (Image > Canvas Size…)

  • Width and Height
  • Relative checkbox
  • Anchor
  • Canvas Extension Color

Bitmap vs. Vector Images

Bitmap a.k.a. Raster

An image represented as a two dimensional array of brightness values for pixels


An image created with software that uses geometrical formulas to represent lines and shapes, such as Adobe Illustrator Photoshop has mainly bitmap/raster features but some vector features as well (such as text, shapes, and paths)

Color Modes (Image > Mode)


  • computer monitors and televisions
  • primary colors: red, green and blue
  • additive color model


  • printing press
  • primary colors: cyan, magenta, yellow
  • K stands for “key color” which is black
  • subtractive color model


  • L stands for “luminance” or brightness (0 is black and 100 is white)
  • a indicates the color’s position between magenta and green
  • b indicates the color’s position between yellow and blue
  • designed to approximate human vision

Indexed Color

  • Used for .gif and .bmp images
  • Color variety is reduced to a palette of 256 or fewer colors
  • Each pixel does not contain the full specification of its color, but only its index in the palette
  • If an image is set to indexed color, you cannot applying most of the editing features within Photoshop


  • An image composed exclusively of shades of gray, or pure white or black
  • Typically, 256 possible values are available
  • Color channels are seen in grayscale to indicate the intensity of the given color (more intense shows as color to white)
  • If an image is set to the Grayscale color mode, you cannot add color to it, EXCEPT:
  • Once an image is set to Grayscale, you can create a duotone, tritone, or quadtone with it