Category Archives: Photoshop Tutorials

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Sharpening Techniques in Photoshop – Part 1

Photoshop Sharpening Tutorial – Part 1

The goal of this tutorial series is to provide the reader will all the information I have about sharpening photographs in Photoshop.

What is Sharpening exactly?

All digital photographs lose a certain amount of sharpness. That means that most photographs will look a bit blurred and their details won’t be as prominent. Basically, sharpening makes the edges of a photographed object appear more distinct.

Why do we need to sharpen?

When a digital photograph is taken the camera converts all the visual data that it receives into lots of 1s and 0s. Basically, what that means is that the camera doesn’t really know what it’s actually “seeing”. It takes all the data available to it and just dumps all the information on to disk with out differentiating between the important stuff and the not so important stuff. For example, if you take a picture of a fly sitting on white marble, the camera will pay as much attention to the white marble as it does to the object of the photograph, the fly.

Sharpening is a way in which the photographer says “hey… this fly needs to have more emphasis and show more detail than the white marble!” The photographer then does some mumbo jumbo until the level of detail and emphasis that he wants on the subject is reached.

What is this mumbo jumbo you speak of?

This is what the remainder of this tutorial will focus on. How does one effectively sharpen an image with out completely ruining it? I will attempt to give you, at least, an over view of all the sharpening tools available to a Photoshop user. I will probably pay more attention to the more important tools.

You might be wondering something along the lines of: “well… there is a sharpen tool and I click on it and I drag it around and it sharpens… what’s so complicated about that?” The answer to that is that there needs to be a fine balance when you sharpen because it’s very easy to kill your images. You might end up sharpening the noise in the photograph and hence end up emphasizing the wrong stuff. So, just bear with me and I’ll try to make this as easy and quick as possible 😀

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Halloween Pumpkin Stencils (warning: scary pictures)

Halloween is coming up quickly and before we know it we’ll be trying to carve up some pumpkins. Everyone has seen the regular jackolantern design with the 2 triangles for eyes and the zig zag mouth. How about trying something different this year?

Using Photoshop you can easily and quickly create a stencil that you can use to carve up pumpkins.

The first step is the most important. Find an image that has enough shadows and shapes so that we can carve a face with out having the pumpkin break up. For this tutorial I’m going to use a screen shot from The Exorcist. The picture can be disturbing for some people so be careful when you click on more:-

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Photoshop KeyStrokes

After playing around with Photoshop for many years I have started using my keyboard to do useful stuff a lot. This was recently brought to my attention when someone commented on how I used the keyboard to Crop and Deselect images quickly. I am now going to try and compile a semi complete list of Photoshop Keystrokes that are the most useful.

First the regular File menu keystrokes that you should remember are:

  • New File: CTRL+N
  • Open File: CTRL+O
  • Save File: CTRL+S
  • Save As: Shift+CTRL+S
  • Save for Web: Shift+Alt+CTRL+S
  • Print: CTRL+P

We’ll be opening and closing and saving for almost every single document that we work on. By memorizing these you will be saving your selves a lot of clicks.

Next are the Edit Menu keystrokes. You must know these in order to become an efficient photoshop artist. The ones I most frequently use are:

  1. Step Backwards: ALT+CTRL+Z
  2. Step Forward: Shift+CTRL+Z
  3. Cut: CTRL+X
  4. Copy: CTRL+C
  5. Paste: CTRL+V
  6. Free Transform: CTRL+T


  1. Merge Down: CTRL+E
  2. Select All: CTRL+A
  3. Deselect: CTRL+D
  4. Inverse Selection: CTRL+SHIFT+I
  5. Repeat Last Used Filter: CTRL+F
  6. Brushes Palette: F5
  7. Color Palette: F6
  8. Layers Palette: F7
  9. Zoom in: Ctrl+”+”
  10. Zoom out: Ctrl+”-“
  11. Switch between foreground and background colors: X

Now the rest of the keystrokes that I use aren’t actually official keystrokes that Adobe has meant for us to use (well they have… but well.. read on). For example, if I want to desaturate an image the “official” keystroke is Shift+CTRL+U. I don’t know about you but I want to memorize the least amount of stuff as possible. Basically, if you hold down the ALT key (in windows atleast. I’m not sure about Macs) all the menu items will show one underlined letter. While holding down the alt key press the underlined arrow and that menu is displayed. With out letting go to the alt key continue pressing all the letters till you get to what ever it is you need. So instead of remembering Shift+CTRL+U for desaturation I’ll just press ALT+I+A+D.

The following are some important “unofficial” keystrokes:

  1. Levels: Alt I-A-L
  2. Feather: Alt S-F
  3. Image Size: Alt I-I
  4. Crop: Alt I-P
  5. Stroke: Alt E-S

Obviously there are tons more. It is up to you, the artist, to decide which ones will save you the most time. I believe that the key strokes that I have listed above are the most useful ones that everyone should know. If I remember some more then I will add them to this page!

The best way to memorize these is by actually using these. I, personally, never sat down and memorized these keystrokes. Just use them enough times and they’ll become second nature to you!

Please post any keystrokes that you use often but I have missed.

Selection Masks

alphachannel iconWhen I first started with photoshop I really did not ever find the need to use selection masks. Now I feel that they save a lot of time and are very useful.

Selection masks are different than Layer Masks. Layer Masking basically allows you to fine tune the visible and invisible parts of your layer.

Selection Masks, on the other hand, allow you to have more control over your selections. And selecting stuff is a major part of Photoshop.

Before continuing please make sure that you understand Photoshops Marquee Tools and Lasso Tools. If not then check out our Photoshop Tips Tutorial Page.

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Adjustment Layers

adjustmentlayers Welcome back to Have you ever wanted to easily adjust only part of an image with out any hassles? Maybe you wanted to have more control over the options in the Image > Adjustments menu. If that’s the case then you need to learn about Adjustment Layers. Luckily, that is what this tutorial is about.

We will go over what adjustment layers are and what they are used for. We will also briefly cover the many available options for adjustment layers, and then finally end with some examples where we will use what we are about to go over. For this tutorial I am going to assume that the readers already know some basics of Photoshop such as regular layers and the Image > Adjustments menu.

What is an Adjustment Layer?

We all know what a layer is (atleast I assume everyone reading this does 🙂 ). We can think of them as transparencies lying on top of each other. Imagine you take a transparency and you draw something on one and then place it on a stack. Next you take another transparency and draw something on it and then place it on the same stack. What is going to happen is that you will be able to see stuff from the first sheet as well as stuff drawn on the second sheet as long as they don’t overlap. That is what basic layers are.

Adjustment layers work in the same way in that you can see through them but they don’t change anything actually below them. So you can apply an adjustment (such as hue/saturation changes) on a transparency/layer and it will become an adjustment layer. Next you take this adjustment layer and place it on our stack of layers. Magically, when look through the adjustment layer everything seen through it seems to have that adjustment. However, it doesn’t actually change the layers below thus giving you a lot of control over what you do. You can change the adjustments later if you don’t like the effect as well.

Read on for detailed step by step tutorials

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