Adobe Photoshop is easily one of the most well known and mainstream design programs available on the market. It appeals to everyone from students to business owners to parents trying to edit their kids photos. Adobe offers a wide range of features that puts some other image editors in the stone age.

As a webmaster it’s always handy to have a little graphics knowledge even if you aren’t a designer. A lot of time it prevents the need to stop your flow and outsource something that you could complete yourself in a few minutes if you had previously taken the time to maaster the basics.

Today we’re going to get into the five basic tool concepts of Photoshop and some things that you need to know about before you start diving in.

1. Layer Styles: What Are Layer Styles In Photoshop? How Do They Work.

In free programs or basic photo editors, like Paint Shop Pro, you have to add each individual effect manually. You want a border on your text? That’s manual. You want a shadow? Manual. This means that you literally have to draw in or color in those effects.

In Photoshop, you have this really cool little panel called “Layer Styles” that allows you to modify everything with ease. This was by far the biggest learning curve I faced when switching from Jasc Paint Shop Pro (cheaper) to Photoshop.

Layer styles allow you to stylize the layer you’re working with so that you can quickly add effects like borders, shadows, glows, etc. without having to manually draw them on. This almost always cuts design time more than in half.

Photoshop Tools - Layer Styles

2. Brushes: The Basics on Downloaded Photoshop Brushes.

The second most important Photoshop design concept that you need to know when first starting with using Photoshop are the brushes. Brushes have two essential functions; The first, a stamp function. The second, a brush tip.

If you were designing something in real life, you could use sponges, brushes, and stamps to create images on your canvas. Photoshop brushes allow you to create either scaled images (stamp style) or use tips.

If you’re considering using brush tips, think of them as literal paint brushes. They are essentially a textured image that creates the effect of brush strokes as you drag them across your screen.

You can download brushes all across the web, and purchase them to be used in your designs as well. Below are the top five brush resources you’ll be glad to have up your sleeve. You can go to any of the following sites and search for “brushes” and have an entire world of options right at your fingertips.

Photoshop Tools - Photoshop Brush Tool

3. Text: Editing Text Layers in Photoshop. How Text Layers Work in Comparison to Standard Image Layers

In other image editing programs (for example, Jasc or even Microsoft Paint) you can only create your text as an image, then add effects after by drawing them on manually.

If you make a mistake (like spell something incorrectly) you have to start over. In Photoshop, you can create a “text layer” which can be changed and updated limitlessly. If you save your file as a PSD, you can even change the text layer later down the line which is helpful if you re-brand to a different name or want the same style in multiple logos.

In the screen shot below you’ll see an example of all of the options you have when you’re editing text, then you’ll also see how the “layers” panel works. Note the little “T” icon to the left of the text layer name – This identifies the layer you’re working with as a “text” layer.

Below that, you can take note of the effects on the layer and how they are displayed on the text itself. Keep in mind, you can edit that text and keep the style it has at any time.

Photoshop Tools - Text Layers

4. Shapes: What Are The Different Shape Tools in Photoshop?

In Photoshop, shapes are used in two ways; both of which have huge sub-sets of uses. The two options are the shape selection tool, and the shape drawing tool.

The “selection” shape tool in Photoshop allows you to work with a piece of your image at a time, instead of the whole thing. You can use selections to copy portions of your images and paste them, move items around your image, and cut spaces out of your images. When you’re making a selection, a dashed line (called a marquee) will appear around the section you’re working with.

Using the shape tool to draw shapes is a bit different in that you’re not “working with” a piece of an image, you’re creating a drawing or image on top of your initial image. You can draw the shape as a new layer or use the “vector” option to make it it’s own element completely.

Lastly, you can download and import custom shapes into Photoshop to use instead of brushes to draw virtually anything you want. The three screen shots below are to illustrate all three of these options.

You can get custom shapes here:

Photoshop Tools - Shape Selection Tool

Photoshop Tools - Shape Drawing Tool

Photoshop Tools - Custom Shape Tool

5. Fill Tool: Using the Paint Bucket Tool in Photoshop – What makes the Paint Bucket Different on Photoshop from other Editing Programs?

The paint bucket tool is something we’ve seen in every image editing program since Microsoft Paint, it allows you to fill a large space with color in the click of a button. What makes the Photoshop paint bucket different? Easy. With Photoshop you can paint in the form of patterns. So you can fill a set space with a pattern.

You can find this tool on the left “tool tip” toolbar about three quarters down the bar itself. You can also hold the paint bucket down to use the gradient option.

To fill a space with a gradient, you simply click on one end of the space, and drag your mouse to the “ending” of the space. When you let go, you’ll have a gradient that spans the entirety of the selection you made.

Photoshop Tools - Paint Bucket Tool

Photoshop Tools - How to Use Gradient Tool