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Tips for Photoshop Newbies: Where to Start

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/17/2012

You've just installed Photoshop, and you're sitting there slack-jawed and wide-eyed. Don't worry, that's the exact same reaction that everyone has when they use Photoshop for the first time. I'm here to help take away a bit of the fear for you Photoshop first-timers with these helpful tips.

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    So you've unboxed your copy of Adobe Photoshop, and you've taken the time to install it on your computer, and you've even got it up and running! Congratulations, you're now a bona fide new Photoshop user. However, by being a new user to Photoshop, you're probably asking yourself "What should I learn first in Photoshop?" A fantastic question, and one I asked myself several years ago. Don't let this be a time where you feel overwhelmed -- easy as it may be -- because Photoshop is a great program with features that suit everyone from the desktop publisher to the graphic designer, the digital photographer to the budding artist. All you need is a little guidance, and that's what I'm here to offer.

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    Familiarize Yourself with Photoshop's User Interface

    If you're new to Photoshop, the first and most important thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the user interface. At first, this might seem a little bit overwhelming to you, as there are likely to be all kinds of new menus that you'll be expected to know if you ever want to get anything done in Photoshop. Of course, to make things easier, I have written a visual guide to Photoshop which should help those of you who are visual learners such as myself. By becoming familiar with the interface, you can quickly execute tasks required to create shapes, draw lines, add text, and much, much more.


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    Make Quick Work Keyboard Shortcuts

    Of course, after you master Photoshop's interface, you're going to want to start learning a few keyboard shortcuts. One of the nicest things about Photoshop is that if you can remember a few simple shortcuts, you don't have to spend all your time digging around in menus for commonly used tasks, such as the eraser tool, the paintbrush tool and the gradient tool. Learning even two or three of these keyboard shortcuts will shave minutes off of your project, but learning even more can save you hours of work down the line.

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    Go Hands On

    Simple Photoshop Project So knowing the interface and a textbook definition of what the items do doesn't help if you don't really get in there and try it yourself. After all, you wouldn't trust a doctor who only read how to treat sick people in textbooks and never got any hands-on training, right? My advice? Give yourself a few hours to play around with Photoshop before trying anything concrete.

    By using the visual guide, you'll get an understanding of what the tools do as you use them. Go ahead and scribble, then erase it. Spend some time learning about layers and how they interact with each other. Don't be afraid to open multiple documents at a time to see how Photoshop handles more than one file being open at once. Photoshop really lends itself to a hands-on experience, so go ahead and experiment for a while.

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    Try Out Tutorials

    Duotone Image One of the quickest ways to learn Photoshop is to try following tutorials. Start out slowly with some beginner tutorials, and work your way up to more advanced. There are thousands of fantastic tutorials that you can find on the Internet, and several are right here on Bright Hub. For example, you can learn how to create duotone images that are sure to impress, or you can learn how to remove phone lines easily from a photograph. And most importantly, don't be afraid to try out tutorials that you might think that you'll never use, because you're likely to pick up a few tricks that you can apply to a whole myriad of different projects.

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    Learn Common Photoshop Problems and How to Deal With Them

    One of the most common things you hear about those new to Photoshop is that they don't know what to do when things go wrong. I like to call this having a lack of damage control, because every experienced graphic designer will tell you that occasionally things will get a bit sticky. The difference between a good graphic designer and a poor one is that the good graphic designer keeps calm and assesses the situation and figures out how to fix it, while the poor graphic designer might give up, or just continue and do a job that they aren't proud of. Even the hobbyist Photoshop user can benefit from learning a little Photoshop damage control.

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    Practice, Practice, Practice!

    Clear Drinking Glass in Photoshop It's like the old saying goes, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!" Okay, so you're probably not going to end up at Carnegie Hall for your Photoshop skills, but if you plan on using Photoshop on a regular basis and you want to become an expert at it, you need to practice just the same. This means that you need to set aside a little time every so often to learn new tricks, try new things on your own, and keep creating new things. Whether you're touching up photos, creating flyers or business cards, or creating artwork, you'll only continue to get better with Photoshop the more you use it.

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    All information and images provided by Amber Neely who has six years professional experience with Adobe Photoshop.