How Do I Use the Control Panel in Photoshop?

Photoshop's control panel includes a variety of tools which will allow you to edit your photos with ease. While more advanced photo manipulation tools can be found in the Photoshop menus, these tools are placed on the control panel because they are the simple, scaled-down tools most frequently used.

Remember the maxim "select to effect." When using control panel tools, be sure to select the layer that you wish to edit, and, if you wish to modify only a limited portion of the picture, to select only that portion before editing.

Here are the seven types of control panel tools that are most important to understand.

Tool #1 - The Move Tool

The move tool is able to move selections around the screen without otherwise modifying them. Use the cursor to position the components of your image or to move the entire image within its frame.

Tool #2 - The Pencil and Paint Brush Tools

These tools allow you to draw freehand on the canvas. Select a color in the color palate near the bottom of the control panel and select a brush style and size. It is advised that you draw stroke-by-stroke rather than keeping your right-click button down for the whole of a painting, as the undo tool (ctrl-z) allows you to remove or re-integrate each individual stroke.

Tool #3 - The Eraser Tool

The eraser tool removes information by erasing it. Select a size and shape for your eraser brush and use it like the paint brush. To target an acute area of your canvas for erasure, set this tool to its smallest size and zoom in to the maximum level.

Tools #4 - The Marquee Tools

The elliptical and rectangular marquee tools allow you to select geometric portions of your image. Having made selections, you can re-locate them within the canvas, copy them to another image, or copy them multiple times. Effects, such as resizing, can be performed on these selections as well.

Tool #5 - The Lasso Tools

Lassos are similar to marquee tools in that they select portions of an image, but dissimilar in that they are not confined to set forms. The lasso tool enables freehand selection, while the magnetic lasso follows freehand motions, but snaps to the nearest natural borders within the photo. The magnetic lasso is a great tool for using on pictures that show clear differences in color between subject and background, but can be frustrating in cases where the image is busy or contrasts are ill-defined.

Tools #6 - The Crop Tool

Cropping is the process of resizing a picture by removing unneeded rows and columns. The crop tool is similar to the rectangular marquee, but discards the information outside of the selection.

Tool #7 - The Stamp Tools

The clone and pattern stamps allow you to select a target area of an image and duplicate it onto another area. These are useful when removing offending spots and blemishes.

Once you begin using the control panel extensively, the basic tools should become second nature, and the others should fall into place. If there is a tool that you cannot identify, simply mouse-over it to reveal its identity.

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