Friday, April 24, 2009

Using the Tools

Photoshop provides an integrated set of tools for producing sophisticated graphics for print, Web, and mobile viewing. We could easily fill an entire book with details on the wealth of Photoshop tools and tool configurations. While that would certainly be a useful reference, it's not the goal of this book. Instead, you'll start gaining experience by configuring and using a few tools on a sample project. Every lesson will introduce you to more tools and ways to use them. By the time you finish all the lessons in this book, you'll have a solid foundation for further explorations of the Photoshop tool set.

Selecting and Using a Tool from the Toolbox

The toolbox—the long, narrow palette on the far left side of the work area—contains selection tools, painting and editing tools, foreground- and background-color selection boxes, and viewing tools.

Let's start by using the Zoom tool, which appears in many other Adobe applications, including Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat.


For a complete list of the tools in the toolbox, see the toolbox overview on page 50.

Notice the toolbar that appears to the left of the image window as a single column. Click the double-arrow button just above the toolbox to toggle to a double-column view. Click the arrow again to return to a single-column toolbox and use your screen space more efficiently.

Examine the status bar at the bottom of the image window and notice the percentage listed on the far left end. This represents the current enlargement view of the image, or zoom level.

A. Zoom level B. Status bar

Move the pointer over the toolbox and hover it over the magnifying-glass icon until a tooltip appears, identifying the tool by name and providing its keyboard shortcut.

Select the Zoom tool by either clicking the Zoom tool button in the toolbox or by pressing Z, the keyboard shortcut for the Zoom tool.

Move the pointer over the image window. Notice that it now looks like a tiny magnifying glass with a plus sign (+) in the center of the glass.

Click anywhere in the image window.

The image enlarges to a preset percentage level, which replaces the previous value in the status bar. The location you clicked when you used the Zoom tool becomes the center of the enlarged view. If you click again, the zoom advances to the next preset level, up to a maximum of 3200% on Windows and 1600% on the Macintosh.

Hold down the Alt key (Windows) or Option key (Mac OS) so that the Zoom tool pointer appears with a minus sign (–) in the center of the magnifying glass, and then click anywhere in the image. Then release the Alt or Option key.

Now the view zooms out to a lower preset magnification. Examine the photograph and the coins in the center.


You can zoom out other ways. For example, you can select the Zoom In or Zoom Out mode on the Zoom tool options bar. You can choose View > Zoom In or View > Zoom Out. Or, you can type a lower percentage in the status bar and press Enter or Return.

Using the Zoom tool, drag a rectangle to enclose the area of the image that includes the French coin that you will spotlight.

The image enlarges so that the area you enclosed in your rectangle now fills the entire image window.

You have now tried three ways of using the Zoom tool to change the magnification in the image window: clicking, holding down a keyboard modifier while clicking, and dragging to define a magnification area. Many of the other tools in the toolbox can be used with keyboard combinations. You'll have opportunities to use these techniques in various lessons in this book.

Selecting and Using a Hidden Tool

Photoshop has many tools you can use to edit image files, but you will probably work with only a few of them at a time. The toolbox arranges some of the tools in groups, with only one tool shown for each group. The other tools in the group are hidden behind that tool.

A small triangle in the lower right corner of a button is your clue that other tools are available but hidden under that tool.

Position the pointer over second tool from the top in the toolbox column until the tooltip appears, identifying it as the Rectangular Marquee tool with the keyboard shortcut M. Then select that tool.

Select the Elliptical Marquee tool , which is hidden behind the Rectangular Marquee tool, using one of the following methods:

  • Press and hold the mouse button over the Rectangular Marquee tool to open the pop-up list of hidden tools, and select the Elliptical Marquee tool.

  • Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the tool button in the toolbox to cycle through the hidden marquee tools until the Elliptical Marquee tool is selected
  • Press Shift+M, which switches between the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee tools.

Move the pointer over the image window so that it appears as cross hairs ( ) and move it to the upper left side of the French coin.

Drag the pointer down and to the right to draw an ellipse around the coin and then release the mouse button.

An animated dashed line indicates that the area inside it is selected. When you select an area, it becomes the only editable area of the image. The area outside the selection is protected.

Move the pointer inside your elliptical selection so that the pointer appears as an arrow with a small rectangle .

Drag the selection so that it is accurately centered over the French coin.

When you drag the selection, only the selection border moves, not pixels in the image. When you want to move the pixels in the image, you'll need to use a different technique, which you'll learn a little later.

Using Keyboard Combinations with Tool Actions

Many tools can operate under certain constraints. You usually activate these modes by holding down specific keyboard keys as you move the tool with the mouse. Some tools have modes that you choose in the tool options bar.

The next task is to make a fresh start at selecting the French coin. This time, you'll use a keyboard combination that constrains the elliptical selection to a circle that you'll draw from the center outward instead of from the outside inward.

Make sure that the Elliptical Marquee tool ( ) is still selected in the toolbox, and deactivate the current selection by doing one of the following:
  • In the image window, click anywhere outside the selected area.

  • Choose Select > Deselect.

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac OS).

Position the pointer in the center of the French coin.

Press Alt+Shift (Windows) or Option+Shift (Mac OS) and drag outward from the center of the coin until the circle completely encloses the coin.

Carefully release first the mouse button and then the keyboard keys.

If you are not satisfied with the selection circle, you can move it: Place the pointer inside the circle and drag, or click outside the selection circle to deselect it and then try again.


If you accidentally release one or both of the keys prematurely, the tool reverts to its normal behavior (unconstrained and drawing from the edge). If, however, you haven't yet released the mouse button, you can just press the keys down again, and the selection changes back. If you have released the mouse button, simply start again at Step 1.

In the toolbox, double-click the Zoom tool to return to 100% view. If the entire image doesn't fit in the image window, then click the Fit Screen button in the tool options bar.

Notice that the selection remains active, even after you use the Zoom tool.

Applying a Change to a Selected Area

In order to spotlight the selected coin, you'll want to darken the rest of the image, not the area inside the current selection. Normally, you change the area within the selection. To protect that area, you'll invert the selection, making the rest of the image active and preventing the change from affecting the one center coin.

Choose Select > Inverse.

Although the animated selection border around the French coin looks the same, notice that a similar border appears all around the edges of the image. Now the rest of the image is selected and can be edited, while the area within the circle is not selected and cannot be changed while the selection is active.

A. Selected (editable) area B. Unselected (protected) area

Choose Image > Adjustments > Curves.

The keyboard shortcut for this command, Ctrl+M (Windows) or Command+M (Mac OS) appears by the command name in the Adjustments submenu. In the future, you can just press that keyboard combination to open the Curves dialog box.

In the Curves dialog box, make sure that the Preview option is selected. If necessary, drag the dialog box to one side so that you can see most of the image window.

The Preview option shows the effect of your selections in the image window, so the picture changes as you adjust settings. This saves you from having to repeatedly open and close dialog boxes as you experiment with different options.

Drag the control point in the upper right corner of the graph straight down until the value shown in the Output option is approximately 150. (The Input value should remain unchanged.)

As you drag, the highlights are reduced in the selected area of the image.

Examine the results in the image window and then adjust the Output value up or down until you are satisfied with the results.

Click OK to close the Curves dialog box.

Choose Select > Deselect to deselect your selection. The marquee disappears.

Do one of the following:

  • If you want to save your changes, choose File > Save and then choose File > Close.

  • If you want to revert to the unaltered version of the file, choose File > Close and click No when you are asked if you want to save your changes.

  • If you want to do both of the above, choose File > Save As, and then either rename the file or save it to a different folder on your computer, and click OK. Then choose File > Close.

You don't have to deselect, because closing the file cancels the selection.

Congratulations! You've just finished your first Photoshop project. Although the Curves dialog box is actually one of the more sophisticated methods of altering an image, it isn't difficult to use, as you have seen.