CS 325 and Film 385: Introduction to Photoshop

Highlights of this lab:

  • What is Photoshop?
  • The Photoshop Workspace
  • Photo Manipulation (Size, Colour, Frames, etc)
  • Image Construction
  • Assignment

Click here for a compressed folder of lab demonstration files.

:: What is Photoshop? ::

Adobe Photoshop is one of the industry standards for desktop image editing and graphic manipulation. With it you can scan images, make original art, or composite images as well as colour correction, retouching and other image manipulations.

:: The Photoshop Workspace ::

The Photoshop workspace consists of several main components:

  1. Menu Bar
  2. Application Bar
  3. Options
  4. Tools
  5. Workspaces Menu
  6. Palettes

This picture shows the workspace in its default state with one exception: there's a grey background behind all the panels. It blocks out windows from other programs, which is useful. This is normal on Windows, but on a Mac you have to enable it by choosing Window | Application Frame. As you work, try both and see which you prefer.

Below is a more detailed explanation of some of these components.

The Menu:

The Menu contains controls for common functions such as opening and saving files, as well as specific functions, such as copying and pasting, calling up specific windows or palettes, and controlling the Photoshop workspace.

Control Panel:

The control panel contains the most commonly used options for the tool you are currently using. It is not always the best place to change options, though. Sometimes a palette with more space is needed.

Tools Panel:

The main toolbar is reproduced below. It contains a collection of tools for creating, selecting, and manipulating images. There's a lot of stuff hidden in there, but things are mostly organized into logical groups. You'll get used to it quickly enough.

Diagram courtesy of Adobe. Click for large version.

Workspaces Menu:

Different tasks in Photoshop have a different workflow. Adobe has set up some workspaces that are particularly suited to common tasks. You can quickly access them through this menu. In general it will only change what Palettes are on the screen, where they are and how big they are. One exception to this rule is the Basic workspace–it hides advanced menu options. I recommend you avoid this mode. The What's new in CS4 option will highlight features that are new or changed in Photoshop CS4.


Palettes are little panels that provide a quick visual guide to the state of your program, or the settings of a specific tool. There's a little more to palettes than meets the eye. You can group them and switch with tabs, you can configure them with the menu, or make them Collapse to Icon. You can also drag them into docks like the one on the right in the default configuration. In or out of a dock, you can shrink or grow palettes by double clicking the active tab.

  1. Collapse to Icon
  2. Menu
  3. Tabs

:: Picture Image Manipulation (Size, Colour, Frames, etc) ::

Save the following image on your computer (right click and "save"). It is the image we will be working with to demonstrate how to manipulate images using photoshop. Please note that this image was taken from The Official Lord of the Rings website (Just for copyright mumbo-jumbo)

Open the image:

Save the image:

Picture Formats: Some picture formats, like GIF, limit the number of colors you can use. In Photoshop this prevents you from using color correction or distortion and limits painting effects. To use the full range of colors your monitor can show, make sure you are in a full color mode like RGB. To do this:


Colour Selection:

There are a number of ways to select a colour in Photoshop. To choose painting colors you can use these tools:


Colour Adjustments:

To adjust colors for a selection or a whole layer of your picture go to Image | Adjust. There are a number of interesting tools in there. For example:

Zoom and Move:

There are quick shortcuts to zoom and move that can come in handy:

Selecting Graphics:

Many Photoshop features rely on selections to define where they work, or what they do. Photoshop provides 3 simple tools for selection:

You'll find them at the top of the toolbar. In addition, you can use commands in the Select menu. Select each of these and see what they can do.

If you need to a very precise selection you can try out the pen tool, but it's a pretty complicated tool. You can find basic instructions in the Adobe Photoshop CS4 Online Help.

Notice the Control Panel. You can control many aspects of each selection mode from here. Common to all modes is what to do with the next selection. There are four choices corresponding to these 4 icons:

In order these are:
  1. Create a new selection
  2. Add to the current selection
  3. Subtract from the current selection
  4. Keep the intersection with the current selection


Paint Tools:

There are several ways to add new elements to your picture:

Editing Tools:

These editing tools (like the paint tools) will either work on the whole of the current layer or on the currently selected area...


One of Photoshop's most powerful and most popular features is Layers. Conceptually, layering is very simple: imagine drawing an image on a number of transparent sheets, laying the sheets on top of each other and then copying those sheets to produce a final image.

To demonstrate how layers work let us frame our friendly little character picture of everyones favourite villian

:: Image Construction ::

Seeing how I have already divulged my nerdness, why stop here? What we are going to do now is construct our own image. Since I have already shown my fantasy nerd ways with Gollum, let's go to space and make a planet that the folks from Farscape might pass on their journeys...or maybe a planet that the fine folks from the SGC (Stargate Command) might visit!

:: Assignment ::

Use Photoshop to combine images, enhance an image or create a new image. You may choose to do any combination of the three. If you modify any pictures for this assignment, please provide the originals with your submission.

Marking Scheme:

The lab is due by the beginning of lab 3. Please submit by either:

:: Online Sources and Resources ::