How To Use the Basic Tools on Photoshop

Posted on Posted in How to

This is a simple guide to show you how to use the basic tools on Photoshop CC 2015. The guide will go through all the tools on the default toolbar on the left on Photoshop. I will be going through each tool one by one, please be aware your tools might be different to mine depending on your version of Photoshop or your default settings.

We will start with the very basics and their shortcuts for Mac. If you are using a PC just replace the Cmd with Control.

To create a new canvas – File> New> Then set the size> Ok (Cmd  + N)

To Open a file – File> Open> Select the File> Ok (Cmd + O)

To Undo – Edit> Undo (Cmd + Z)

To go back a step – Edit> Step Backward (Cmd + Alt + Z)

To Cut – Edit> Cut (Cmd + X)

To Copy – Edit> Copy (Cmd + C)

To Paste – Edit> Paste (Cmd +V)

Add a New Layer – Layer> New> Layer> Ok (Cmd + Shift + N)

To select All – Select> All (Cmd + A)

Windows - History and Layers History Window  Layers WindowI like to set up Photoshop in a specific way for when I’m editing, I like to have the Layers and History windows up when working.

To do this you click, Wndow, and select history and layers. You’ll find you use these a lot when editing.


Quick Tip if you are having trouble with your background layer it is probably because it is locked. You can delete it and add a new one or double click it and press ok and it should turn to Layer 0.

Ok now we can start going through the toolbar.

Move Tool


First up is the Move Tool. This is the go to tool for moving your objects around and a good base tool. The shortcut is just the V key. It is also handy being on this tool as you can use the arrow keys to nudge the object a little if you only want to move it a tiny amount.



Rectangular Marquee Tool

Marquee Tool Options

This is a selection tool, if you hold and drag the area you want to select it will have a square marquee that will show you the selected area. There are different selection shapes that if you click and hold the tool button more options will appear. The shortcut is the M key.


Polygonal Lasso Tool

Lasso Tool Options

The Lasso Tools are the best way to select something that is a specific shape, especially if the marquee tool can’t select it very well. My favourite one is the Polygonal Lasso Tool, this is where you manually select your shape by clicking point to point, if you make a point that it isn’t right you can press delete and it will go back a point. There is a magnetic one that automatically makes the points where it thinks it should go and the Lasso Tool is where you draw the selection, I find both of them very hard to use and not very accurate. The shortcut for this tool is the L key.


Magic Wand ToolMagic Wand Tool Options

This is an essential tool, the Magic Wand Tool will select what ever you click and will automatically identify the edges of the object. The tool is most effective when the object you are trying to select has an obvious outline, it struggles with poor quality outlines. The quick selection tool allows you to draw your selection whilst you click and hold which automatically selects the chosen area, however, it doesn’t always recognise the outlines of your object. The shortcut for this tool is the W key.


Crop ToolCrop Tool Options

The crop Tool is pretty self explanatory, there are other options if you click and hold the tool button. The short cut for this tool is the C key.


Eyedropper ToolEyedropper Tool OptionsThis tool allows you to select any colour and it stores it to the foreground colour box so you can use the same colour with whatever you are doing. There are also more tools if you click and hold the tool button, these are tools you probably will never need cause I haven’t used any of them yet. The eyedropper tool shortcut is the I key.


Spot Healing Tool

Spot Healing Brush Tool

The Spot Healing Brush Tool is a wonderful little tool that gets rid of any blemishes you have on your image. You simply draw over the area and Photoshop will replace it with its surroundings. For example if you had a face and they had a spot and you wanted to get rid of it. You just click the spot with the tool and photoshop should get rid of it with the right colours. However, sometimes you need a specific colour or you prefer to do it manually, the Healing brush tool is the tool but the clone stamp tool is better. The shortcut for the Spot Healing Brush Tool is the J key.


Brush Tool

Brush Tool Options

This is the tool that you use to paint with, pretty simply. Pick your colour and draw. The shortcut is the B key.



Clone Stamp Tool

The clone stamp tool is the most useful tool I use. The basic principle is that it takes a part of your image and then you can use it to paint with. So for example you had  a mark or a unwanted element in your image, by holding down alt you can click an area that matches the colour you want covering up. Then you can then draw over the blemish and it disappears. It is hard to explain but with practice it is easy to use. The shortcut is the S key.

Eraser Tool

The Eraser Tool shortcut is the E key.

Paint Bucket Tool

Paint Bucket Options

The paint bucket tool is very straight forward, you select the correct colour and click an area on your canvas then it will fill that area with the chosen colour. There are more options if you click and hold the tool button. The gradient Tool might be your default but I never use it, it creates a gradient of your chose of colours and you can click and drag it in any direction on your canvas. The shortcut for these tools is the G key.


Blur Tool

Blur Tool Options

The Blur, sharpen and smudge tools are all straight forward you draw over your image and it either blurs, smudges or sharpens. I never use these as they do not work very well, or I can never find a need for it.


Dodge Tool

Dodge Tool Options

The dodge tool is quite handy, you draw on your image and the parts get lighter. The burn tool makes it go darker and the sponge tool desaturates. They are handy to touch up your images, the short cut is the O key.


Pen ToolPen Tool Options

The Pen tool allows you to draw with the greatest precision, it is a little hard to use but after a few goes it is fairly simple. The Freeform Pen tool draws paths as if you were drawing with pencil on paper and the magnetic pen option lets you draw a path that snaps to the edges of defined areas in your image. The drawings can be made into shapes making it possible to create unique and complex shapes. The shortcut for this tool is the P key.


Horizontal Text ToolText tool OptionsThe type tools are standard text tools that are self explanatory, the shortcut for this tool is the T key.



Line ToolLine Tool - Options

The shape tools allow you to make shapes on your canvas, there all loads of options of all different shapes and sizes. Simple click and drag the shape, the shortcut is the U key.


Set Foreground ColourSet Background Colour





These two colour boxes are your colour palette, you have a foreground and a background. Clicking these boxes opens up a selection of colours that can be used. The foreground is the colour that you will draw and paint, you can quickly switch between the two colours by clicking the two arrows above the boxes.

Photoshop feature image

That’s all the basic tools that you would need for a simple photoshop project. I will do a few tutorials on specific Photoshop techniques in future blog posts.

Leave a comment for any suggestions or questions you might have. Or give it a like to show me that this was helpful.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *