7 Easy Tricks for Photoshop Beginners

For over a quarter of a century, Photoshop has been the standard by which all photo manipulation software is compared. Over that period, the iconic software has gone from being seen as a complicated tool for graphics professionals and web design companies to an integral part of the digital photography process.

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Anyone, with certain basic computer skills and experience, can turn a dull, run-of-the-mill photograph into a digital work of art. While nothing will make up for not having the skills, you can short circuit the experience factor with the help of these easy tricks.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts can make the difference between an easy job and one that requires huge amounts of time, menu searching and frustration while you open menu after menu until you find the process you want. Nearly all shortcut keys are useful, but there is a handful that you should memorize and use.

These include:

  • Space bar = temporary hand key
  • F = display screen toggle
  • B = paintbrush tool
  • X = reverses the foreground and background colors
  • E = eraser tool
  • S = cloning (stamp) tool
  • V = move tool
  • W = selection tool
  • Ctrl+T = transform tool

Transform Tool

This simple tool allows you to resize, flip or rotate the working image. This simple process, when combined with the keyboard shortcut, makes manipulation of the size and facing of the image easy enough for a beginner, but it can be used to make perfect sized photos with ease.

Use Ctrl+T to select the entire image. To resize it, drag any corner while holding the Shift key. When you have resized the picture, press Enter. To flip an image, press Ctrl+T then right click on your mouse. This brings up a menu with flipping and rotating options. Select the one you want and press Enter.

Magnetic Lasso Tool

The difference between the Lasso Tool and the Magnetic Lasso Tool is simple but profound. Where the Lasso Tool requires you to manually trace the object that you want to select, the Magnetic Lasso Tool incorporates an edge detection tool which makes it easier to find the edge of the object you are attempting to select. Although not perfect, the Magnetic Lasso Tool has 80 to 90 percent detection accuracy and it is a lot simpler to use than the standard Lasso Tool.

To access the Magnetic Lasso Tool, hold the mouse button down over the Lasso Tool icon until a fly-out menu is displayed. The Magnetic Lasso Tool is the icon with the small magnet in it. Click the icon and then mouse over the edges of your desired image. If there is a strong contrast between the object and the background, the Magnetic Lasso will find the edges and make the selection process simple. As opposed to the normal Lasso Tool, there is no need to hold the mouse button down while outlining the object.

Custom Shape Tool

Adding design elements to your photos is easy using the Custom Shape Tool. Rectangles, circles, thought and speaking bubbles, and many more designs can be added to our photo using this handy tool. In addition to the common shapes that come with Photoshop, there are sets available that include animals, music, nature and other design shapes and elements.

The icon for the Custom Shape Tool is located in the Options Bar and looks like a puzzle piece or a blob. Opening the tool allows more options to be chosen, the majority of which are found by clicking on the arrow to the right of the panel. In addition to being able to choose your shape, you can also adjust the size, color or even create a custom shape.


To quickly transform a photo in Photoshop, choose a filter from the Filter Gallery. These filters can add special effects to your photo making it look completely different from the original photo. You can make your original picture look like, for example, an oil painting or a sketch, or you can change the opacity or blend colors in your picture. Filters can be added to layers within your original photograph and it is not just used for gross changes in your photo.

To access Filters, open up the Filter menu. Once you have opened the menu you can choose what kind of filter to apply, the area you want to apply it to or the layer you want to adjust. After each selection, another menu will open up so you can change the density and opacity of each filter change. Experimenting with Filters is suggested as it can create many unique and strange effects that are difficult to teach.

Spot Healing, Dodging and Blurring

Although these tools are all different, they all are used to make small alterations in your photos to improve how they look. The Spot Healing Tool is used to remove blemishes on skin by replacing the selected area with sampled colors. It is best and most widely used to remove blemishes or touch up flaws in skin tones. It makes your flaws disappear. The Dodging Tool lightens pixels to make them a closer match to the surrounding area. It is a good way to lighten freckles or remove lines from eyes. The Blurring Tool is similar but it blurs the imperfections. Perfect for removing wrinkles or laugh lines.

All of these tools can be accessed from the options menu and are easy to use with a little practice.

Magic Wand Tool

Although not as simple to use as the other tools in this list, the Magic Wand Tool is incredibly useful for web designers. This tool is used to choose large blocks of a photo based on the color range. It can be used to replace dull and uninteresting backgrounds, such as sky, with a more interesting picture.

The use of the Magic Wand Tool is a skill that serious Photoshop users should cultivate. Replacing a boring, dull sky with a more interesting background is a quick way to change a so-so photograph into an interesting and vibrant one.


Photoshop has become a worldwide standard for a good reason. There are so many things you can create with it, it’s mind boggling. It only takes a bit of time and dedication to master the techniques and once you do that, it’s only up to your imagination and where it can take you. These seven tricks should get you on a good start. Good luck and don’t fear to experiment!

By John Stone

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