The Most Important Things About Photoshop All Beginners Must Know

So there I was, staring at my computer monitor and looking at the family picture I had taken hours earlier. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Sis and her boyfriend, my little brother and the dog. In the background was our house, an old mobile home in the trailer park.

The picture was a disaster. Grandma looked like she was wearing a fright wig, lots of hairs standing straight up. Grandpa had a big toothy grin except for the toothy part as he had forgotten to put in his teeth. Mom's teeth were all stained and brown from years of chewing tobacco. "Spot" the dog had red eye. But his name isn’t "spot," I use the term because he's covered with them in the picture.

My sister, her name is Mary, and her boyfriend had tattooed "I LOVE MARY" across his forehead, and that was a piece of work in itself. He and Mary had broken up so he had MARY crossed out and "AMY" tattooed next to it when he found another girl. Then he broke up with Amy and is with my sister again. AMY is now crossed out and there is a new MARY tattooed in. They had first met last Saturday and today was Thursday so a lot has been happening between them. Dad has his eyes closed along with a painful smile.

Dad does that a lot, he just closes his eyes, smiles a painful smile, and walks away shaking his head.

As luck would have it, I had just installed Photoshop yesterday. I had the tools, the technology, and I knew I could fix this image. But where do I start? I figured I would start with the dog; it should be easy to remove spots. I wondered how the spots got there, but I remembered Grandpa had one of his coughing fits, spewing spittle all over the place, some of it getting onto my camera lens.

I could see a little eraser in one of the menu bars in Photoshop so I clicked on it; a little circle appeared, and I tried to remove the spots from the dog. All that happened is I erased the entire image where I had moved the mouse. Not good. Not good at all.

OK. I wasn't licked yet. I brought up the internet and Googled PHOTOSHOP REMOVE SPITTLE. I searched page after web page but could find nothing that would show me how to use Photoshop in removing Grandpa's spittle. I gave up and went to bed.

The next day I went to a store that sold used books and browsed through the photography section. There were a number of books on how to use Photoshop so I purchased a couple that looked to be promising. Back in the trailer park I sat back and began to read. The first book started out by listing features of Photoshop and then it described having a good workflow. I learned you should duplicate the layer when you start working on an image in order to have an original version if you take a wrong turn during processing. Sure, it made sense, a good tip for a beginner like me, but then the book got into doing all kinds of things with layers and masking and selection tools but there was absolutely nothing on removing spittle from an image.

I went back to the internet and searched for Photoshop tutorials that catered to beginners like me but they were all pretty much like the books I had been reading. Nothing but brief overviews and then all kinds of technical concepts that had nothing to do with my current issues.

During these searches I discovered some online courses. I found continuing education classes at various colleges and other institutions. There even were seminars that cost big bucks and you had to travel to cities like Chicago or Boston in order to learn advanced topics. This reminded me about the job I had where the boss could never get his numbers out of Microsoft Excel. He sent me to night school for a beginner course. The next semester I took an intermediate course. And finally, the advanced course. A year and a half of night school just to learn Excel! In the end when I was able to give the boss his numbers it turned out the numbers made him look bad, so he fired me and told the upper management it was all my fault.

Did I have to go to school for a year and a half again just to find a way to remove spittle from an image?

Regardless, during my research I found some information on how to remove red eye from the dog. I learned about selection tools. This gave me an idea. I photographed my face, then I copied my teeth and eyes onto the image. I quickly realized they were the wrong size but I looked in the index of one of my books and found a section for resizing images. The plan was to insert my teeth into Grandpa and put eyes on my Dad. I used the rectangle selection tool (it seemed there was information everywhere on selection tools) to copy the eyes and teeth. But the selections were rectangles and looked way too fake. I was beginning to understand layers and I remembered the eraser tool. I removed the unwanted edges around the eyes and teeth. Dad and Grandpa were fixed!

Having some experience now with selection tools, I outlined Mom's teeth and adjusted the hue. No more brown-stained tobacco teeth! With great difficulty I was able to change the tattoo on my sister's boyfriend so it said I LOVE MARY without the MARY/AMY versions that were crossed out. There had to be a better way but I could only work with what I knew. I discovered the Healing Brush and was able to fix Grandma's hair.

I was making progress but I still couldn't find anything for removing spittle from an image.

This really had me stumped. I'd walk around the trailer park and think about what I read in my books and what I found on the internet. I couldn't be the first person to ever have spots in an image. You don't have to be an experienced photographer to know about dust and scratches on a camera lens. Spittle was pretty much the same thing, right? And that's when it hit me and I just stood there in my tracks.

"Wha'cha doin', boy?" I recognized the voice and turned around. It was Mrs. McPhee. She was a 93 year old bundle of fire and lightning and a legend in the trailer park for her ability to out-drink any man on a Saturday night. I yelled back to her , "Dust and scratches, Mrs. McPhee! Dust and scratches!" I turned and ran back to our mobile home.

Mrs. McPhee spat and took a long swallow from her jug while mumbling something about the trailer park going to hell.

Back at the computer, it didn't take long to find the information I needed. The Clone Stamp could be used to fix spots on an image! And the Healing Brush tool could be used also! I had known about the Healing Brush but I never realized the versatility of the feature. I made my manipulations and I was done! Well, or so I thought.

There still was something wrong with the image but I couldn't quite figure it out. Of course! My little brother! He was beaming a nice, bright smile and looking right into the camera. Soon my little brother had the necessary adjustments; I printed off a copy and ran into the living room to show everyone.

Grandpa was hacking away at a hairball while Mom had her empty Coors can which she used to hold her tobacco juice. Sis was making out on the couch with her boyfriend. I saw her beau had the second MARY crossed out with PENELOPE crossed out and a third MARY on his forehead. I worried about his forehead running out of room. I showed everyone my picture and they all agreed it was a fantastic family picture. Grandma was really proud of the picture, especially with my little brother. I used Photoshop to cross his eyes and I also added a little snot coming down his nose. They were all impressed in how I captured the true essence of my little brother. That's what was bugging me, in the picture he looked like a normal person and not my little brother.

Grandma used some old chewing gum to hang the picture on the wall and she put it next to the velvet painting of Elvis. Sister then announced I was going to be an uncle and my Dad just closed his eyes, smiled his painful looking smile, and walked away while shaking his head.

Dad does that a lot.

In going through the process of manipulating the family picture, I realized that the most important thing beginners should know about Photoshop is WHERE TO START. The books and tutorials can be extremely frustrating in that they really don't cater to beginners. Simple things like adjusting colors, brightness and contrast, and common edits like spots, most resources DO NOT start with the basics a beginner needs to know about.

I was also focused on finding a way to remove SPITTLE. If you are trying to learn about a specific technique or tool, you need to find a way to get an answer. The point is, how do you find information on something when you don't know what you're looking for?

Regardless, you have to start somewhere. You can purchase books at a local bookstore or order them online. There are thousands of online tutorials and techniques on the internet. Efficient internet searching is its own subject but the information is out there if you take the time to find it.

There are online classes. Colleges and other institutions offer night classes and continuing education. And the fact is, no matter how experienced you become with Photoshop, there will always be new techniques and concepts for which you have no idea how to do and it will be a process of starting all over again of trying to learn where to start. That's why you will see advanced users traveling across the country to attend a weekend seminar. Photoshop is truly a tool for the imagination and it takes a little imagination trying to find the information you're looking for.

There really is no way of knowing where to start but in our exercise above I hope you saw a little of what it takes to get started. Once you get into it more you will realize the learning process will never really end; you will always be a beginning Photoshop user when it's time to move to a new plateau of Photoshop concepts and techniques.

Word got around the trailer park about my photography skills so I now have a session scheduled with Mrs. McPhee. She used a word I never heard before which was "Boudoir." Mrs. McPhee said she knew how to put a smile on my face; did that mean she knows how to use Photoshop?

Photo credits: Wisconsinart.

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November 22, 2012


Nice story !! Best thing for me what helps using photoshop is if i have in idea in mind to manipulate a picture is to use google or youtube.There are hundreds/thousands of examples how to do do it.It costs a lot of time and frustration sometimes but there are always a few useful tips overthere.

November 07, 2012


sounds a bit like my learning experience and my life but i quit chewing baccer.

that was great thanks

November 07, 2012


Hahahaha. Well done and very entertaiing. You are so right, learning Photoshop techniques is more about persistence than anything. :) Thanks for sharing.

November 07, 2012


Thanks for sharing :)

November 07, 2012


ha ha ha very funny article ... but also very instructive. Congratulations!

November 07, 2012


Supper funny. Besides taking photos, you could write books too!

November 05, 2012


Very True !

November 05, 2012


LOL Great blog!

November 05, 2012


Lol, fantastic blog! I tried to get RID of the snot coming out of a kids nose with the clone tool and made it look like some sort of skin to learn!

November 05, 2012


Super funny :)

November 05, 2012


Wow, thanks for sharing, you're good at this.

November 05, 2012


Ha ha ha great blog thank you. You write a book i will buy it. I would also like to buy a copy of the photo before it was Photoshopped- now that would be a sight.

November 05, 2012


I've had a copy of Photoshop (PS 7 was the first one) on my computer for probably the last 14 years or so and I'm just now getting the hang of it! Its like a modern word processing program. You can do the basics or you can delve in as deep as you want. A bottomless pool of creativity.

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