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Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Lesson 4 of 36

Photoshop Tools Overview

Dave Cross

Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

4. Photoshop Tools Overview

Lesson Info

Photoshop Tools Overview

As we look through the tools, as I mentioned I think if I'm correct there's something like 68 tools in Photoshop. There's some tools that to me are just ones that I would put in the category of just don't worry about it anymore. Partially because, any tool that is what I would call destructive, meaning the only way to use it is directly on the pixels of your photograph, that's not a good idea. So for example, tools like dodge and burn to lighten or darken areas of your photograph seems like a good idea and back in the good old days when we didn't have any other choices it was, but then you'd be actually taking these pixels, the one you see right there and permanently darkening them. So if you save your photograph and come back two weeks later and go oh, I wish I hadn't done that, oh well. Unless you have a backup copy and a lot of people back in the good old days of Photoshop, a friend of mine it always makes me laugh because when he talks about, he always says in the days of yore, whi...

ch means like Photoshop five, you know, like, 10 years ago, he makes it sound like it was so long ago but where we didn't have those choices you kind of made backup copies of everything, so you'd end up with multiple copies of your files just in case your experiment didn't work or you changed your mind. Now there are better ways than that to me so I would not take the dodge and burn tools and use them, and I'm gonna say ever. I mean, some people would say but couldn't you copy the layer, blah blah blah, yeah they're ways to use it but to me there are better ways than that tool. So this whole set of, I have to look where it is. Here it is, dodge burn sponge. I would put those in the category of never, never worry about those. So if you're reading a tutorial and it says now grab the burn tool, I'd be like (imitates brakes) put he brakes on, wait a second now. Maybe there's a better way to do that, so I have an alternative method that I've used that does the functionality of these tools but in a way that I can come back and edit later. So here's the, one of the first tips for you. As we'll see later on, any time we do any kind of what I would consider retouching, like touching the pixels and doing something, removing, covering up, darkening, lightening, the first thing I would suggest we're gonna do is put that on its own layer, we'll talk again about how that all works. So that means, if you click on a tool and you look up in the options bar here and there's no function that says use all layers or put on separate layer or anything like that, that suggests to me don't use that tool. Because it doesn't have that opportunity so therefore it's just not as efficient as a tool as one that does. So tools that have been around for a long time, some of them were put in like, dodge and burn existed before layers even existed in Photoshop in the first two versions of Photoshop, layers did not exist, which is hard to believe now, that we did anything in Photoshop without layers, but we did, and so the dodge and burn tools worked directly on your photo because that's just the way it worked, so we always had backup copies. So any tool that you look at, as soon as you look at it, glance up there on that option bar as part of your checklist if it doesn't say, usually it says use all layers or sample all layers as the most typical wording, that's a little checkbox, to me, my version of Photoshop, every single tool that has that checkbox, it's checked and it stays checked, because I'm always, and I don't use the word always lightly, I'm always gonna do that retouching on a separate layer. Now some people think about that and say well if there's a big dust scratch or something on my photo, why would you do it on a separate layer, it's not like you're ever gonna change your mind. Well ultimately it isn't, but at the time where I'm doing it I want to make sure I'm accurate so I want to not have to worry about doing it and undoing it and trying again, I'm gonna do it on a separate layer so it gives me more editing control. So if you go through a lot of the tools here you'll see, so here's an example. Blur, sponge, or sorry, sharpen, smudge. The blur tool, well it does have one called sample all layers, so that on the surface sounds good. But the problem with a tool like this is here's an example, strength 50%. I didn't set it to 50%, because I honestly haven't used this tool in like, forever, so that's obviously the default setting in Photoshop, but I can tell you when I did try using this tool, 50% was way too high. So you'll end up trying a tool and going oh, that's too much I'd better try a different setting and you'll spend half your life going 30, no maybe 40, no 10. Whereas, there are other ways to end up with a blurry photograph that give you much more control and that you can edit later. Even if you put a separate layer, as we'll talk about, and retouch on that separate layer, that just means it's separate, so if you change your mind later you can delete that and start again, it doesn't mean you can edit it, so if it's too blurry, you can't go back to that tool and readjust the settings and have it updated, it doesn't work that way. Whereas if you use these things called filters, filters can be edited, so even if I only wanted to blur one small area of a photograph and it might make perfect sense initially to grab that blur tool and go like this right on top of the photograph, as soon as I'm done, I'm done. I can't do back tomorrow and go I wish I hadn't blurred it that much, it's too late now. Whereas if I used this other method like using a filter, then I can readjust as much as I want. Because one of the things that many people discover and this is another reality of Photoshop, is you work on something on your screen, but ultimately you're probably doing something else with it, right, you're printing it. You're sharing it with someone else, you're putting it on social media, whatever it is, and sometimes the difference, what you see on the screen and what the final result is changes a little bit, especially if we're printing. It looks a little darker or it doesn't, you know, something else, well if you've done something in a way that's pretty permanent and you print it and you realize I wish I hadn't done that, it's kind of hard to adjust it and get a better print. Whereas if you use any of these methods that we'll talk about being non destructive it's just a better choice, okay? And so we'll talk a lot about these as we go as different ways to do things and they give you more control and more options, okay? So, the other thing we need to think about with these tools is that in many cases, there's multiple tools sharing the same slot, so when you first look at the toolbar you're not seeing 68 tools because they've kind of made the grouping to say like there's three lasso tools, there's multiple marquis tools, there's multiple type tools and so on, so let's talk about this a little bit more. Here are my marquis tools and you'll see there's actually four of them. But a little hint, if you look beside, see how the first two have the letter M beside and the other two don't? That means, as we talked about before, I can tap the letter M to activate one of those tools. The fact that those other tool options don't have a letter M beside them should be a big suggestion to you that you'll probably never ever ever ever use these tools. And why they're even still in Photoshop, I have no idea. I've only ever seen one technique that uses one of these tools and it's kind of like weird and unusual and, but yet they're still there. Doesn't make sense to me but they are, but that's an example of why don't look and then go well, I may want, am I missing something? Probably not. So reassure yourself that if you are not finding a reason to use a tool, that's okay. I know that there's one of the challenges we face is that whole concept of I've heard there's always multiple ways to do things, so maybe I'm missing a way that's better than mine, it could be but it's probably not tool based. It's probably not a tool that's better, well with a few exceptions, most of it is how you're approaching it, how you're setting yourself up using things like layers and these nondestructive methods versus working directly on the background layer, okay. So, Adobe keeps adding things and not taking things away, so here's another example, here's a set that says crop tool, perspective crop tool, both very useful. Slice tool, slice select tool. This kind of breaks my theory because they still have the little letter beside them. If it was up to me, I would either at least take the letter off or just remove the tools completely. The slice tools were used in the early days of the internet where people's modems were so slow that you had to really worry about the size of the image, if it was too big it would take forever and people would go to your website and would go, and the image would load like so painstakingly slow, people would say oh, forget it. So one of the techniques we'd do was slice a big image into smaller pieces so each one of those pieces could cumulatively load more quickly. Well, unless someone lives in the boondocks with like a dial up modem, that just doesn't exist, now you go to websites and you see like, full video running the whole time so I can't even think of a reason why you'd ever want to slice an image into smaller pieces for a website anymore. Now there many be someone out who goes well I used the tutorial 10 years ago that did something, well that was 10 years ago which in Photoshop life, just like dog years, that was like a hundred years ago. So any technique that was valid 10 years ago is probably, there's much better ways to do it. So, now there's a little handout that I put together where I sort of summarized, here's my core tools that I definitely want to use, learn right away. Here's what I'd consider like a secondary set of tools and I have a third box which is like the don't worry about it tools, so those are the tools that I'd just like, they're just not useful anymore, they're just not necessary.

Class Description

Join Dave Cross in this beginner friendly class starting at the very basics with Adobe® Photoshop® CC. You’ll learn how to begin navigating the software and what the best practices and work habits are to approach different projects.

Dave will cover:

  • Working non destructively on your files
  • How to resize, crop, and straighten images
  • Using layers with basic layer examples
  • Adding text, color, and painting to images
  • How to retouch and adjust images using selections and masks
  • Learn how to use the tools you need to create the image you want. Dave will demonstrate using sample workflows that take you through projects from start to finish.

Don't have Adobe Photoshop yet? Get it now so you can follow along with the course!

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Adobe Stock Contributor

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Quick Notes Guide

Landscape Image for Practice Edit

Senior Portrait Missing Element for Practice Edit

Senior Portrait With Element for Practice Edit

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I really like Dave's methodical teaching style. Step by step works best for my learning processes. He also has a lovely voice to listen to during his classes, that is important if you have to listen to someone talk for any length of time. I also like the "dance" he does by explaining what he is going to do, then does it, and then comes back to explaining the choices he made and why. Very, very easy to follow him in his straight forward explanations. He increased my understanding of so many tools I use and so many I have never used. Wow! Photoshop with Dave took away a lot of "fear"! (Wish I had a "happy face" to place here!) I bought this class today because I don't think I can get along without it!

Jim Bellomo

I was so lucky to get to attend this class in person here in Seattle. I have been a fan of Dave's for years and own a number of his courses from Creative Live. When this class was announced I almost decided to skip it since it was listed as a "beginners" class but decided that it "might" be worth it. One of the reasons I wanted to take it was that I am self-taught. I had started with Photoshop 5 (not CS5 but 5) about 15 years ago (at least). I figured it I took this class I might learn a little something that would help me in my work. Well, two days later I have 18 pages of handwritten notes, a whole new way to work and it has already paid off in a huge way in my daily workflow. I bill out my hours at around $100 an hour as a graphic designer and marketing person. That means in the two days that I spent 10 hours a day taking the class and commuting to it, it cost me about $2000 in working time. But it didn't. I can guarantee that I am way ahead on this one. I l learned so much. The real world things I learned will pay off for a very long time. Within one day after the class I had already started changing my workflow to be more non-destructive and faster. Dave is an awesome teacher and I can't say enough good things about this class. Even if you think you know Photoshop, you don't. I teach it in my small world but I learned so much.


A writer and an old person (over 60), I rarely use neat exaggerations like "great" or "fantastic," and never say "awesome" in the currently fashionable manner. However, I would call this class both great and excellently planned. Cross is well-spoken and a consummate teacher with a rarely non-irritating voice. It is information packed, clearly presented, well-organized, and extremely helpful. I wish I could afford his others.