My Top 5 Tools and Tricks in Photoshop

May 22, 2015

A list of my top 5 most used tools and tricks in Photoshop.

1: Top of the list would have to be the Brush Tool (shortcut B on the keyboard). I used it for everything from retouching skin to making advanced selections. I have my Wacom Intuos 5 setup so when I press one of the buttons on the pen while dragging left or right will increase/decrease brush size. Dragging up/down will make the brush softer or harder. It's a great way of changing your brush on the fly without the need for shortcuts, which by the way is Ctrl+Alt click and drag up/down/left/right. 

Brush Tool

2: Quick Mask (shortcut Q). This is a great tool when you need to quickly make a detailed selection. Using the Brush Tool to draw in your selection, you can edit and get it exactly how you want it. Press "Q" again to exit and it'll be selected. Or you can click the button at the bottom of the tools pallet.

Quick Mask

3: Next is a technique called Frequency Separation. This is used a lot in skin retouching. What it actually does is takes the colour of the skin and put's it on it's own layer then takes all the pores and fine details of the skin and sticks it on another layer. That way you can fix things like blemishes in the skin colour without touching the pores and vice versa. Clever huh? I use this on almost all portraits to some extent. There's a very detailed tutorial by me which you can watch when you've got a spare 20 minutes: The Power of Frequency Separation and High Pass Retouching

4: Dodge & Burn Tool (shortcut O). The D&B tool rules. It's great for adding that extra dimension to images by exaggerating the shadow's and highlight's of your shot. Use it on a layer on top of all other layers and fill it with 50% gray. Edit>Fill>50% Gray (or Shift+F5) from the dropdown menu and set the layer blend mode to Soft Light once filled. Usually I always have the Burn Tool selected. It's the one that looks like a hand making a circle. My exposure would be low around 12% and range is midtones. Start painting to darken with the burn tool. What about dodging to lighten I hear you say?!? Simple with the burn tool selected, if you hold down Alt while painting it'll switch to the Dodge tool until you let go of Alt again. Neat eh?

Burn Tool

5: Lastly (because usually this is my last step) is the High Pass Filter. Filter>Other>High Pass - from the menu. I use this filter to sharpen my images at the end of the process. Start by making a Stamp All by creating a new layer on top of all the others and going to Edit>Apply Image. From the drop down menu make sure you have it set to Normal under the blending drop down. Click ok and hey presto there you go! Want to know how to do this even quicker? Just use the shortcut: Cmd+Alt+Shift+E (for Mac like me) or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E for Windows. Now it's time to apply the High Pass filter. Once the dialogue box appears and depending on your image size you'll probably want to go for a low radius of around 0.8 - 1.2. Click ok and set that layer to around 50% opacity and the blending mode to Linear Light. Ta da!

High Pass Filter

There you go. My top 5 tools and tricks that I use every time Photoshop is open. I hope you enjoyed this insight and even more so I hope you learned something from it.

Don't forget to share this around and even leave me a comment if you wish. You can also give me a message if you're stuck and I'll try help you out.

Until next time...

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