The Field Guide to Future Craft


Photoshop is considered a leader in photo editing software and privileges raster based content. The software allows users to manipulate and make image adjustments such as cropping, resizing, and correcting color on digital images / photos. The software is particularly popular amongst professional photographers and graphic designers.

Applicable throughout all of Adobe software, but particularly paramount within photoshop due to its image forward, color-rich content, it the distinction between RBG and CMYK as it strandles output between physical printing versus digital media.

RGB refers to the primary colors of light, Red, Green and Blue, that are used in monitors, television screens, digital cameras and scanners. CMYK refers to the primary colors of pigment: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The combination of RGB light creates white, while the combination of CMYK inks creates black.

It is essential to know when to use RGB vs CMYK - CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, and RGB: red, green, blue colors on projects. A good rule of thumb is anything dealing with the web should always be in RGB and printed material should be in CMYK.

In this section, you will learn:

* Basic Navigation
* Layer Management
* Layer Stack
* Layer Modes
* Image Adjustments
* Basic Tools
* Menu Structure
* General Workflow Concept


Creating a document within Photoshop requires the definition of size and resolution. Often times, this is dictated by pixels as a unit of measure. 300DPI, for examples means 300 pixels per square inch. Setting the DPI or resolution, and then defining a pixel input as dimension, results in a defined document size. Alternatively, it is possible to instead, set the size via different units of measure while independently defining the resolution.

Once a canvas is created or when content, e.g. image, is opened within the platform, the interface is fairly minimal given the robust tools under the hood.

Essential tools and menus flank the left and right sides of the interface, while the top bar below the drop down menus, illuminates further tool and command calibration on-the-fly.

These workflows will help you get started.
  • Starting a New Document
    • File New → Resolution, Size
    • Open → Image File, Drag-and-Drop
    • Canvas vs. Image vs. Document Size → Know your output type and resolution needed
  • Interface
    • Workspaces → Essentials
    • Canvas → Where Images are constructed
    • Menus/Tabs → Edit, Image, Layer, Type, Select, Filter
    • Panels/Windows → LAYERS!
    • Control/Options → Calibration of Tools, Settings
    • Tools → Move and Pan, Selection, Crop, Heal, Brush, Stamp, Gradient, Geometry
Important! Layers are the single most important aspect of Photoshop. Any and every high and low, success or failure, efficiency or inefficiency, etc etc ad infinitum, can be traced back to the use of, and mastery within, the layer stack. Invest time in understanding layers within Photoshop!

The creation, naming and management of layers is paramount. The layer stack correlates to view arrangement in the same fashion as Illustrator - i.e. the highest layer is on top in terms of visual hierarchy. Predominantly assets all reside on individual layers until content gets merged or copied into one another. Any desired creation or editing within Photoshop is only done on the layer that is selected and visible. Duplication of layers via dragging an existing layer over the create new icon at the base of the layer menu, provides a methods of working that tracks progress via the duplication of layers. Managed properly, this method of working ensure a non destructive workflow by duplicating layers and adding adjustments. Successive layer build up eventually results in the necessity for layer merging which can merge all layers, only visible, only selected, etc. Adding to the repertoire of layer management, workflow and manipulation is the ability to use folders and groups amongst layers. This provides ease when dealing with substantial amounts of assets or in larger compositions that require iterative layered effects.

These workflows will help you manage assets.
  • Management
    • Layers → Naming, Layer Stack, Show/hide, Lock, Selected Layer Working Only, Create, Delete, Duplicate, Folders
    • Selection → Only Active Layer, Pan Selection Tool
    • Copy / Paste
    • Undo, Redo, Step Backwards
    • Edit → Step Back, Paste, Transform
    • Image → Adjustments, Canvas/Image Size
    • Layer → Blending Options, Layer Merging
    • Type →
    • Select → Select All, Color Range
    • Filter → Effects

Toolsets and Techniques

A myriad of image adjustment and correction tools are built into photoshop. The bulk majority of them are located in the image drop down menu under adjustments.

The vast array of settings, sliders, presets and adjustability parameters within these options generally depend on high and low values and various other chromatic metrics that allow for broad or precise image adjustments.

Selection tools vary within Photoshop from magic wand tool, to select region, but none are as popular or versatile as the marquee selection tool. Use this as the preferred method of regional selection and be sure to adjust the selection parameters defining the tolerance and treatment of the edge, be it hard or soft.

Below outlines the basic photoshop toolset
  • Tools
    • Pan
    • Marquee → Shape, Polygon, Lasso
    • Magic Wand Selection → Color Groupings, Tolerance
    • Crop → Aspect Ratios, Proportions, Non-destructive
    • Eyedropper → Color Select, Fill
    • Healing → Spot Healing, Patch
    • Brush Tool → Size, Libraries, Stroke, Opacity
    • Stamp → Clone Stamping
    • Gradient → Directional vs. Radial Gradient, Paint Bucket
    • Geometry → Line, Shapes, Freeform
  • Adjustments
    • Lightness and Darkness Adjustments
    • Color Adjustments
    • Preset Holistic Treatments
    • Toning - Light and Dark
    • Toning - Color

Masking and Blending

Extrapolating upon the aforementioned importance of layers within Photoshop, layer masking and layer blending modes are two other facets of layer tools within this platform that rapidly expand the tools, techniques and potentials by compounding layer treatments in a holistic way. This allows for layers and the adjustments or content that resides within them to become additional enhancement tools as layers.

Layer Masking, in its most simplest form, can be achieved by selecting a specific region within an image and with that portion still selected, select the layer mask icon at the base of the layer menu.

This provides at first, a black and white layer mask over the holistic layer, allowing for content within the white region to be visible and content in the black region to be hidden. Utilizing this, adding gradients, making selections, merging content, isolating areas, etc. via this method and folded into an editing workflow will pay dividends.

Either in addition to a layer masking workflow or to a holistic layer in and of itself, layer blending modes are another tools to enhance the capability of layering effects and treatments within an overall workflow. Using high, low / black, and white, many of these presets accentuate various values, tones and hues within an image or composition.

For blending options, Select your layer → right click, blending options

  • Saving a Document
    • Save As → PSD, Tiff, PNG, JPEG, PDF
    • Save For Web → Gif
  • Help Menu
    • Use it. Seriously!
Success! When you use photoshop's tools in a compounding and interative way, you get the most out of what the program can do for you.