Photoshop Interface Tutorial

In this Photoshop tutorial, we’ll take a general overview of Photoshop’s interface.

Virtually every computer program there is today comes with a way for users to interact with it. If it didn’t, the program wouldn’t be of much use to anyone, would it? Most older programs offered nothing more than a rather frightening and intimidating text-based command line interface which required you to know awkward commands to be able to use it. Most of the more recent programs today, thank goodness, provide us with a graphical user interface (commonly called a GUI or “gooey”) which is a much more user-friendly and intuitive way of telling the program what it is we want it to do. Fortunately for us, Photoshop comes with all kinds of “gooey” goodness, which makes our life a whole lot easier right off the bat.

The Photoshop CS2 User Interface

The Photoshop CS2 default user interface.

Photoshop’s interface is comprised of several items and sections. Let’s take a brief look at them below:

The Menu Bar

If you’ve been using a computer for any length of time, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the concept of a menu bar, usually located at the top of the screen. The browser you’re using to view this website has one, and with most programs, it’s where you’ll find the standard options to open, close, save and print files, as well as various other options and commands specific to that program.

Photoshop's Menu Bar

Photoshop’s Menu Bar.

Photoshop is no different. You’ll find the Photoshop Menu Bar in its usual place up in the top left corner of the screen, and there’s more options here than you’ll probably ever use in the program. Some of the more common options though that you will use a lot are:

  • the Open, Close, Save, and Print commands in the File Menu
  • the Cut, Copy, Paste, and Transform commands in the Edit Menu
  • the Image Size and Crop commands in the Image Menu
  • Adjustment Layers found in the Layer Menu
  • the Select, Deselect, Inverse Selection and Transform Selection commands in the Select Menu
  • the Gaussian Blur and Unsharp Mask filters in the Filter Menu
  • the Zoom In, Zoom Out, Fit On Screen and Actual Pixels commands in the View Menu
  • the ability to show and hide all of Photoshop’s palettes in the Window Menu
  • the Photoshop Help option in the Help Menu

The Options Bar

Photoshop’s Options Bar is located directly below the Menu Bar and it’s where you’ll find all the various options associated with the different tools in the Tools palette.

Of course, Photoshop has a lot of tools for us to work with, and if the Options Bar displayed every option for every tool all at once, it would take up the entire screen. So Adobe has taken a great approach with the Options Bar and made it dynamic and context-sensitive. What this means is that the options displayed in the Options Bar change according to which tool you have selected. If you have the Move tool selected, you’ll see various options related to the Move tool in the Options Bar. If you have the Magic Wand selected, you’ll see options for the Magic Wand displayed, and so on.

The Adobe Bridge button in the Options BarThe Options Bar is also where you’ll find a button which looks like a file folder with a magnifying glass in it’s top right corner. Clicking on this button will bring up the Adobe Bridge, which is a separate application new to Photoshop CS2 that replaces the File Browser from previous versions of Photoshop, and allows you to view, organize and navigate through the various files and images you have stored on your computer.

The Tools Palette

Photoshop's Tool Bar Photoshop’s Tools palette, located by default on the left side of the screen, is where you’ll find, as the name implies, all of Photoshop’s various tools. As I mentioned in the Options Bar section, when you select one of the tools in the Tool Bar, you’ll find the options specific to that tool up in the Options Bar at the top of the screen. 

The Tools palette may seem at first to be a random selection of icons, but if you look closely, you’ll see horizontal lines running through it. These lines are there to separate the tools into related groups.

Also if you look closely, you’ll notice that some of the tools have tiny black arrows pointing down and away from them. These arrows indicate that there are additional related tools hidden behind them, and if you click your mouse and hold it down on one of these tools, the tools that were hidden behind them will appear. For example, the Rectangular Marquee tool in the top left of the Tools palette also has an Elliptical Marquee tool, a Single Row Marquee tool, and a Single Column marquee tool hidden behind it. Clicking and holding the mouse down on the Rectangular Marquee tool will allow these additional tools to appear.


The Palettes

Palettes are essentially dialog boxes on your screen which enable you to interact with Photoshop. They allow you to do things such as view important information about your image or document (the Info palette), select the color you want to use (the Color palette), step back and forth through the changes you’ve been making to your document (the History palette), or make changes to your text (the Character and Paragraph palettes), plus so much more.

You can view a list of all the palettes available in Photoshop by clicking on the Window Menu in the Menu Bar at the top of the screen.

The Palette Well

The Palette Well is located in the top right corner of the screen in Photoshop and is an area where you can dock various palettes that you want to have available but don’t necessarily want them cluttering up the screen. By default, Photoshop places three palettes in the Palette Well for us (the Brushes, Tool Presets and Layer Comps palettes). When a palette is docked inside the Palette Well, all that’s visible is the palette’s name tab. To view the palette, simply click on the tab and the rest of the palette will appear. To close the palette again, simply click anywhere on the screen outside of the palette.

The Palette Well

The Palette Well

The Document Window

Last but certainly not least in our look at Photoshop’s interface is the Document Window, which is usually the largest object on the screen and is the window that actually contains the image we’re working on.


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