Basic Tasks in Photoshop

Get the most common tasks down in this free Photoshop basics lesson. Once you're done, you'll be more familiar with this popular photo editing program.

Introduction

There's almost no limit to what you can do in Photoshop, but first you'll need to learn the fundamentals. We're going to talk about some of the most basic image adjustments you can make in Photoshop, including:

If you're new to image editing, you may want to review our lesson on Making Basic Adjustments from our Image Editing 101 tutorial to learn more about common problems that can occur when making these changes.

If you'd like to follow along, you can download our example file (right-click the link to save it). We're planning to place this image into an online newsletter, but it's much larger than we actually need so we're going to crop the image and then resize to it be 800px by 600px.

Cropping

There are two main ways to crop an image in Photoshop. You can either use the Crop tool or make a selection with the Rectangular Marquee tool. These methods work a bit differently, and you may find that you prefer using one method over the other.

To crop an image (Method 1):

  1. With the image open in Photoshop, select the Crop tool from the Tools panel.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  2. Click and drag to select the part of the image you wish to keep, then release the mouse.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  3. Adjust the cropping handles if necessary.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  4. Press Enter on your keyboard to crop the image. Alternatively, you can double-click the image.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC

To crop an image (Method 2):

  1. With the image open in Photoshop, choose the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Tools panel.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  2. In the Control panel, locate the Style drop-down menu (also called Mode in some versions). If you want the image to be a specific aspect ratio, select Fixed Ratio and type the desired width and height. Otherwise, make sure the Style is set to Normal. In this example, we'll crop the image to a 4-by-3 aspect ratio.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  3. Click and drag to select the part of the image you wish to keep, then release the mouse.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  4. If needed, you can click the edge of the selection box and move it to the desired position.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  5. Select Imageright-arrowCrop. The image will be cropped.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC

You can also move the entire selection box while making a selection. To do this, click and drag to select the area you wish to select, but do not release the mouse. Next, press and hold the space bar on your keyboard and move the mouse to move the selection box to a new location. When you're done, release the Space bar.

Use Method 2 to crop the example file as in the example above. Choose a Fixed Ratio from the Control panel with a width of 4 and a height of 3 before making the selection.

Resizing and rotating

To resize an image:

You should avoid making images larger than their original size. When you do this, the image simply won't have enough detail to look good at the larger size. You can review Image Editing 101 to learn more.

  1. With the image open in Photoshop, select Imageright-arrowImage Size.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  2. A dialog box will appear. Make sure Pixels are the currently selected unit size and that the Resample box is checked. The Lock icon next to the Width and Height should also be turned on, which will ensure that the aspect ratio stays the same to avoid distorting the image.
  3. Type the desired dimensions for the new image. When you enter the new image width, the height should be adjusted automatically to maintain the original aspect ratio.


    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  4. Click OK. The image will be resized.

If there is no Automatic option available from the Resample menu, we recommend choosing one of the bicubic resizing modes; these modes will give the best results in most situations.

Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC

Resize the example file to be 800px wide. The height should adjust automatically to 600px. Note that you must have already cropped the image using Method 2 as described on the previous page for this to work correctly.

To rotate an image:

It's easy to rotate an image in Photoshop. You can rotate images clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW), flip the image horizontally or vertically, and even rotate by an arbitrary amount to choose a specific rotation. However, most modern digital cameras will adjust the rotation of images automatically, so you may not need to use this feature very often.

  1. With the image open in Photoshop, select Imageright-arrowImage Rotation, then select the desired rotation option.
    Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC
  2. The image will be rotated.

Undoing changes

In Photoshop, undoing works a bit differently from most other applications. You can press Ctrl+Z (or Command+Z on a Mac) to undo your most recent change. However, if you press Ctrl+Z again, the change will be redone. If you want to undo several changes in a row, you'll need to select Editright-arrowStep Backward or press Ctrl+Alt+Z (Command+Option+Z on a Mac).

Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop CC

After you've made a few changes to the example file, try using the Step Backward and Step Forward commands to see the effect.

After you've edited an image, you'll want to save a new version of the edited file in order to preserve the changes. This will also prevent you from accidentally overwriting your original image file. There are many different ways to save files in Photoshop, which we'll discuss in detail in the next lesson.