Back To Basics: 10 Photoshop Tools that Makes Editing Easy

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop

If Photoshop seems too intimidating to you, do not fear. Anam Karimi speaks of a number of simple tools that allow you to make basic corrections efficiently.

Photoshop is a powerful software and can seem intimidating for the first-time user. However, it is important for you to know a few simple tools for basic editing of images. These tools are easy to learn, and can make the difference between an average photo and a spectacular one. You can easily make corrections in colour, sharpen pictures, reduce noise and clean problem areas like scratches.
You can even remove objects that disturb your frame. Mastery over these basic tools will go a long way in making your images look professionally retouched. It will also give you the confidence to experiment with the advanced tools.

1. Ruler/Measure and Rotate Canvas to Straighten Tilted Horizons
To fix a crooked horizon, use the Ruler tool to draw a line across the horizon or the part of your image that needs to be levelled. Go to the Rotate Canvas tool and select Arbitrary. This will automatically select the degree of rotation needed to level the horizon. Use the Crop tool to trim the edges.

2. Shadow/Highlight to Retrieve the Details in Dark and Bright Areas

This tool controls the shadows and highlights in your photograph. It helps fix underexposed images or parts of the image where the highlights are burnt out. Select the tool under Image > Adjustments and use the shadow slider to lighten the dark areas and the highlight slider to tone down highlights.

3. Smart Sharpen and Unsharpen Mask for Improving Sharpness
Both tools fall under Filter > Sharpen. In Unsharp Mask, the Amount adjusts the contrast around the edges, Radius controls the size of the edges and Threshold determines the extent of sharpening the image. Smart Sharpen has extra options under Remove, which give ths sharpening more finesse. It is better than Unsharp Mask as it does not affect parts of the image that do not have much detail.

4. Noise Filter to Reduce Graininess in High ISO Shots
You will find this tool under Filter > Noise. It helps remove noise from photographs shot with high ISO. Once you set the strength of the Noise Removal slider and reduce that of the Colour Noise slider, adjust the Preserve Details and Sharpen Details sliders accordingly; so that you do not lose all detail while reducing noise. Be wary of excessive noise reduction as that can soften an image considerably.

5. Photo Filters to Add Tones and Other Colour Effects
Have you taken an image that is too blue or too yellow? Choose Warming filter (for blue) or Cooling filter (for yellow) in the Photo Filter tool to fix this. Then use the Density Setting slider to give your picture a natural-looking tone. You can also experiment with others like the Solid Colour filters.

6. Hue/Saturation to Adjust the Intensity of Colours
 You can adjust all colours or one colour of an image by using three main sliders—Hue, Saturation and Lightness. The Hue slider displays the colour wheel at the bottom of the dialog box. Moving the Saturation slider completely to the left desaturates the image, while sliding it to the right increases saturation. You can also select different colours and adjust their intensity separately.

7. Clone Stamp for Easy Retouching of Selected Areas
This tool lets you clone or copy a selected part of an image on to another part. It also works as an efficient retouching tool. Once the tool is selected, choose an appropriate brush size. To select the area you want to copy from, move your cursor over to the area and Alt + Click the exact spot. Now you can click over the area you want to replace or ‘clone’, and retouch your image.

8. Red Eye Removal for Fixing This Eerie Effect
When using a flash, it sometimes leads to a disturbing effect called ‘red eye’. This tool increases or decreases the size of the pupil to match the size of the red eye by dragging it over the eye. If the size matches correctly, the redness should be effectively removed. If not, adjust the size and try again.

9. Levels and Curves to Adjust Tones and Contrast
Both these tools are useful for adjusting tone, contrast and colour balance in an image. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels to see a histogram that shows the entire tonal range of your image, and three sliders that help you edit your image. Always edit Levels before Curves to improve the overall tonal range.
Levels also allows you to set the white point in the image and use that to correct the white balance. Curves, on the other hand, will allow you to make finer adjustments to the contrast since it allows greater control over the image by clicking anywhere in the grid. For increased contrast, create an ‘S’ curve in the grid.

From contrast adjustment to colours, from sharpening to noise reduction, Photoshop allows you simple fixes for all these, and more.

10. Patch Tool to Remove and Clean Problem Areas
This tool is used to remove wrinkles, dark circles and freckles in portraits, clean images that have problem areas and even to repair old photographs that have dust, cracks or dark spots. You will see two options: Source and Destination. In Source you need to select the problematic area and drag the selection to a clean part of the image.
Destination, on the other hand, requires you to do the opposite. Photoshop will blend the two sections and give you a clean image. The advantage of the Patch tool over other ‘clean up’ tools is that it shows you a preview of what the cleaned up image would look like, thus ensuring greater accuracy in little time.


Useful Keyboard Shortcuts 
Ctrl + Shift + N
New Layer

Ctrl + 0
Fit to Screen

Ctrl + D

Ctrl + T
Free Transform

Ctrl + Z
Undo/Redo Prior Action

Ctrl + Alt + Z
Undo Multiple Times

Ctrl + S
Save Spacebar Hand/Move Tool

Tags: Image editing, post processing, Back to Basics, Photoshop Tools, Anam Karimi, Photo Filters, Noise Filter, Sharpening, Straightening Horizons