15 Essential Photoshop Skills You Should Know

15 Essential Photoshop Skills You Should Know | Retouching Blog + Photo Editing Tips + Design Tips
With Adobe Photoshop being such a complex program, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the features that you may feel you need to learn right away. It helps to have a simplified guide of the essential things you should learn in Photoshop, which is what Nathaniel Dodson of Tutvid shares in this video. 

This video is broken down into 15 parts:

1. Working with the UI and saving Workspaces

Understanding the Photoshop interface can be a little intimidating initially, especially if you're not familiar with design programs. However, once you get used to the interface Photoshop becomes much easier to function in. Photoshop also offers various workspaces for you to work in such as Photography, Design, and more. You can also customize and save your own workspace. 

2. The PSD, New Documents, and Dragging in New Files

The PSD is the primary layered work file created by Adobe Photoshop when you save your work. You can create a PSD from a JPEG, TIFF, etc. you opened in Photoshop, and you can create brand new PSD from scratch.

3. Tabbed Documents and Navigating the Open Documents

Its very useful to be able to easily toggle between more than one open document in Photoshop. Dragging and moving document tabs is a great way to easily jump from one document to another and also drag layers from one document to another. 

4. What, Why, and How of Layers

Layers are the stackable parts that make up your image in Photoshop. They allow you to edit, manipulate and alter different parts of your image without affecting other layers and original pixel information. Their visibility within an image is dependent on their transparency and blending. There are different types of layers for different purposes.

5. All About the Selection Tools

Selection Tools allow you to isolate certain areas of your image so you can make specific adjustments without affecting the entire image.  They almost have a similar function as layers, but once you Deselect an area of an image, the rest of the image is subject to being adjusted with the area that was selected. This can get messy so it's best to use a combination of selection tools and layers to get the specific adjustments you're looking for.

6. The Move Tool

The Move Tool (M) allows you to drag and cut out layers and selections of an image. There are many functions you can perform with the Move Tool such as resizing, aligning, warping an area and more.

7. The Shape Tools

While I don't use the Shape Tools much, I still see how they are useful tools to know. Shape tools allow you to create shapes both simple and complex in Photoshop. These are great for making vector-like graphics in Photoshop for design and mixed media art work.

8. The Type Tool

The Type Tool allows you to create text in Photoshop within your files in Photoshop. This can be useul for especially for designers. When you create a text area in your Photoshop file, a new text layer is automatically created making it easier to edit your text.

9. The Power of The Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers are one of the most powerful non-destructive features in Photoshop. With adjustment layers you can adjust the brightness, saturation, color hues, and more in an image. They allow you to stack on multiple image adjustments without affecting the original pixel information or  layers below. It's also easy to make further changes to adjustment layers.

10. Masks and Masking

Layer Masks allow you to control the transparency and visibility of specific areas of layers, without erasing away the pixel information of that Layer. This masking another amazing non-destructive feature in Photoshop. When you create a Layer Mask you can paint black to conceal areas of an image and white to reveal areas of an image. Layer masks are also great to use with Adjustment Layers. When you create an Adjustment Layer, a mask is automatically created. If you make a selections and then create an Adjustment Layer, a mask is automatically created with the selection specifically revealed.

11. Filters and Smart Filters

Filters have a variety of uses from retouching to adding effects to an image. The only problem that can occur with Filters is that they can affect the pixel information of an image and are not easy to reverse. This is where Smart Filters come to play. Smart Filters are non-destructive filters applied to layers that are converted to Smart Objects. This allows the ability to easily adjust an applied filter without permanently affecting the pixel information of that layer.

12. Transforming, Rotating, Resizing, Scaling

In Photoshop, you have the ability to transform, rotate, resize and scale layers of an image. These functions are basically extensions of the Move Tool, considering you need to have this tool selected to perform these functions on layers. 

13. Cropping, Resizing, and Straightening

The Crop Tool in Adobe Photoshop CC allows you to crop an image to an aspect ratio of your choice. Also, the Crop Tool's guides helps you straighten images.  An entire image can be resized by going to Image> Image Size. 

14. Undoing and the History Panel

You can undo actions in Photoshop by going to Edit > Undo (CMD+Z). To do undo multiple actions back to back you can go to Edit > Step Backward (CMD+SHIFT+Z) or you can use the History Panel. This Panel allows you to revert to and delete different states of file that have been saved as snapshots.

15. Saving, Exporting, and File Types

Adobe Photoshop allows you to save and export files into different file types and outputs. The simplest way to save files in Photoshop is by going to File> Save or File> Save As. You can export Layers into different file types by going to File> Export.

What tools do you find most important to know in Photoshop?