The Photoshop toolbox

The Photoshop toolbox, located along the far left side of the window contains clickable shortcuts to all of Photoshop’s tools. Most of the tools have a keyboard shortcut as well. If you hover the mouse over the icon for several seconds, a box will appear showing the shortcut key. Icons that have a triangle in the lower corner have additional hidden tools underneath. Taking the time to learn some shortcuts now will save a lot of time in the future.

Toolbox layout

The toolbox is divided into four categories. In addition to the tools, there is a fifth section at the bottom of the toolbar containing the current foreground and background colors, screen settings, and a mask function. The image below lists the categories and their included tool sets:


Selection tools

  • Marquee tools (M) – Marquee tools are used for selecting rectangles, ellipses and rows of pixels. There are four separate marquee tools for selecting the various shapes. When using the rectangle or elliptical marquee tools, hold down the shift key to constrain the selection to a square or circle.

    Screenshot 2014-07-23 13.45.25

    When you select one of the marquee tools, the options bar below the main menu displays the available options. Options include the ability to refine or feather the edges of selections, and to add, subtract or combine from selections.

    marquee options bar

  • Move tool (V) – The move tool lets you move a selection or an entire layer by simply clicking and dragging with your mouse. If nothing is selected, the entire layer will be moved. For more precise movements, use the keyboard arrow keys. The move tool can be used while working with a different tool by holding down the control or command key and dragging your selection.

  • Lasso tools (L) – There are three types of lasso tools which are used to make more unusually shaped selections.

    standard lasso options bar

      Lasso tools

    • The standard lasso tool lets you draw freehand selections around the area you want to select. Hold down the mouse button while you drag around the selection, when you get back to the point where you started, release the mouse button and the selection is completed. If you make mistakes along the way, don’t worry. It’s easy to go back later and add or subtract from the selection to refine the selection.
    • The polygonal lasso tool is for selections made up of straight lines. Using the polygonal lasso tool is similar to using the line tool in Photoshop. Pick a spot to start at, and click the mouse button to create an anchor point. Continue around the selection clicking to create points wherever the direction of the outline changes.
    • The way that the magnetic lasso tool is applied is very similar to that of the standard lasso tool, but it works a little differently. Start by dragging a rough outline around your subject. The magnetic lasso automatically looks for edges by analyzing the difference in color and brightness. The options bar at the top of the window has tools for changing the size of the area in which Photoshop looks for edges, and how much contrast to look for between the subject and the background.
    • magnetic lasso

  • quick selection and magic wand tools

  • Magic wand tool (W) – The magic wand is another tool for creating selections. It uses the tone and color of pixels to create selections. To use it, simply click within the area you wish to select. The magic wand works extremely well with large selections of uniform color. If the wand selects too many pixels, hold down the alt or option key and click within the area you wish to remove from the selection.

    magic wand options

  • Quick selection tool (W) – If a selection has too many colors and tones to use the magic wand tool, the quick selection tool may be a better option. As you drag over areas of the selection, Photoshop will continuously sample the pixels and the surrounding area to create to try and determine the best selection. Just like with the magic wand, you can always go back and subtract areas from the selection by holding down the alt or option key.

    quick selection options

  • Crop tool (C) – The crop tool reduces the dimensions of an image. Instead of reducing the size of the image content, the crop tool just clips away areas that aren’t important. The crop tool allows you to select an area of the photo you wish to keep without changing the size of the image’s content. Click and drag over the area of the image that you wish to select, and everything outside the selection will be discarded.

    crop tool options

Retouching tools

The retouching tools in Photoshop are include tools to repair damage, imperfections, and blemishes, clone and duplicate patterns, and replace colors:

    clone stamp

  • Clone stamp (S> – The clone stamp tool is used to duplicate parts of an image. Click on an area of the image that you want to copy while holding down the alt/option key. Move to where you want to the copied image to appear, holding down the mouse button to paint. The area surrounding your original selection will start to appear in the new location.

    healing brushes and patch

  • Healing brush (J) – The healing brush is used in the same way as the clone stamp tool. Alt/option click on a source point to sample the area, then apply the selection to the problem area. The image’s color, luminosity and texture are all sampled individually then blended with the destination area seamlessly. The healing brush is great for correcting minor blemishes and is more advanced than the clone tool, often making the process simpler.

    healing brush options

  • Spot healing brush (J) – The spot healing brush is for removing an object or spot from an image. It works particularly well as long as the background is fairly simple. All you have to do is adjust the brush size and click. To get the best results, you may have to play with some of the settings.

    spot healing options

  • Patch tool (J) – The patch tool is like combining the lasso tool with the healing brush. It’s used to select and patch areas of an image. Drag a selection around the damaged area of your image, then choose the ‘source’ option in the options bar at the top of the window. Drag your selection onto a neighboring area of the image to fill in the selected area intelligently.

    patch tool options

  • Red eye tool (J) – The red eye tool is very simple. Zoom in and select the area of the eye that you wish to correct and the red eye tool will correct it!

    red eye tool options

  • eraser

  • Eraser tool (E) – The eraser is simply a brush that erases the pixels of an image. The eraser options allow you to set it to three different modes: a round brush with soft edges, pencil with hard edges, or a square block. There are three types of eraser tools: the standard eraser, background eraser, and magic eraser.

    The background eraser samples the image color and erases it as you drag across the image or layer, deleting the background.

    The magic eraser works similar to the magic wand. Just click once over the color that you want to delete from the image and the magic eraser deletes all similar colors from the image. The tolerance setting determines how wide the range of deleted tones is.

    eraser options

  • blur sharpen smudge

  • Blur, Sharpen, and Smudge tools (R) – The blur tool blurs the image as you paint across it. Sharpen increases contrast and sharpens edges as you paint. The smudge tool blends as you paint, similar to dragging your finger through wet paint.

    blur sharpen smudge options

  • Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools (O) – Dodge lightens pixels wherever you paint and burn darkens pixels. The sponge tool is used to saturate or desaturate painted areas.

    dodge and burn

    The dodge and burn tools are especially useful in black and white photography, although you can use them with any image. When used on color images, the dodge tool can wash out color and the burn tool can turn color black if you’re not careful. The dodge and burn tools have a range option in the options bar. It allows you to choose to only alter specific pixels in the highlights, shadows, or midtones of the image.

    dodge burn sharpen