Getting Around Photoshop CC

A beginner's guide to Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 for Windows and Mac

Photoshop now comes packaged with the Adobe Creative Cloud along with other programs like InDesign and Adobe Bridge. While the interface has changed over the years, Photoshop remains one of the most powerful image editing tools available.

Information in this article applies to the desktop version of Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 for Windows and Mac.

The Default Photoshop CC Workspace

When you open an image or create a new document in Photoshop, you'll be taken to the workspace. The interface can be customized, but the default layout consists of four main sections:

  1. Main taskbar
  2. Tool options
  3. Toolbox
  4. Palettes

If you need help finding a specific tool or panel, select the magnifying glass in the top-right corner to search for it. You'll also have the option to download free graphical assets from Adobe.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the magnifying glass highlighted

To reset your Photoshop preferences back to the default settings, hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (on Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (on Mac) immediately after launching Photoshop.

The Photoshop Main Taskbar

The main taskbar consists of nine menus: File, Edit, Image, Layer, Type, Select, Filter, 3D, View, Window, and Help. If a menu command is followed by ellipses (...), selecting it will open a dialog box. For example, when you select File > Place Embedded, you'll be prompted to choose another image that you want to embed in the current workspace.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the main toolbar highlighted

You can use Photoshop keyboard shortcuts to open files, adjust the zoom, display palettes, and much more.

The Photoshop Tool Options

The tool options is where you would go to adjust settings for the currently active tool. This toolbar is context-sensitive, which means that it changes according to which tool you have selected. For example, when the Text tool is active, you can adjust the size, font, and alignment of the text.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Tool Options bar highlighted

The Photoshop Toolbox

The icons on the left side of the workspace represent the tools you have to work with. Select the arrows at the top of the toolbox (below the Home icon) to expand the toolbar so that you can see all of your options.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Toolbar and the expansion arrow highlighted

Hold down the mouse button as you click each icon to reveal a sub-menu of additional tools.

A screenshot of Photoshop with a tool submenu highlighted

Select the ellipses (...) at the bottom of the toolbar to customize your preferences, save different presets, and even change keyboard shortcuts.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the customize tools button highlighted

Some tools share the same keyboard shortcut. For example, the Rectangle Marquee and Elliptical Marquee are both mapped to the M key. To switch between them, press Shift + M.

The Color Well

Select the colored squares near the bottom of the toolbox to set the foreground and background colors.

  • The foreground color is used when you paint, fill, and stroke selections.
  • The background color is used when you make gradient fills, to fill in the erased areas of an image, and when you expand the canvas.
A screenshot of Photoshop with the Foreground and Background Color swatches highlighted

Foreground and background colors are also used by some special effects filters.

Screen Mode Buttons

Click and hold the screen mode icon in the bottom-right of the toolbox to change the appearance of the workspace.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Screen Mode button highlighted

Press the F key to toggle between all three modes. When in either of the full screen modes, you can toggle the menu bar on and off with the shortcut Shift + F. You can also toggle the toolbox, status bar, and palettes on and off with the Tab key. To hide only palettes and leave the toolbox visible, use Shift + Tab.

You can also toggle the toolbox, status bar, and palettes on and off with the Tab key.

Photoshop Palettes

On the right side of Photoshop, you'll see the palette well and several expanded palette panels. Individual palette groups can be moved around the workspace by clicking and dragging the title bar. Select the menu icon in the title bar area for a list of more options. Select Close Tab Group to hide the palette.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Close Tab Group command highlighted

If you don't see palette you need, select Windows in the main taskbar and choose your desired palette.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Window menu highlighted

Grouping and Ungrouping Palettes

You can also ungroup and rearrange the palettes by clicking on a tab and dragging it outside of the group or to another group. Some palettes can be resized by clicking and dragging the edges.

Several palettes can be joined into one large super-palette. To do this, click and drag a palette over the title bar of another palette, and then release the mouse button. When multiple palettes are grouped together, select the title tab for the palette you want to bring to the front of the group.

A screenshot of Photoshop with tabbed windows highlighted

You can attach several palettes this way to create one massive palette collection. This can be useful if you use multiple monitors and you want to move all your palettes to a second monitor. By docking all the floating palettes together, you can drag then all to the second monitor with one click.

How to Save Workspace Presets in Photoshop

Select Window > Workspace > New Workspace to save your workspace settings. When you go to the Window > Workspace in the future, you'll see your new saved workspace at the top of the menu.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the New Workspace command highlighted

To return the palettes to their default locations, go to Window > Workspace > Reset.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Reset Workspace command highlighted

Customizing a Palette and Using the Palette Well

The palette well is the vertical column of icons to the left of the floating palette panels. It's a place to keep palettes that you don't want occupying your workspace. To move an open panel to the palette well, simply drag and drop the title bar into the column. You can then expand the palette by selecting its icon from the well.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Palette Well highlighted

Select the arrows in the top-right corner of the palette panels section to collapse the panels into a side bar menu.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the palette collapse arrow highlighted

Photoshop Document Windows

If you open another document while in the Photoshop workspace, a new tab will open under the tool options bar. You can quickly switch between documents by clicking these tabs.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the document tabs highlighted

Under the image is the status bar, which displays various information about the current document. Select the arrow in the status bar to choose which information to display.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the document information menu highlighted

Adjusting the View in Photoshop

Adjust the zoom by selecting View from the menu taskbar, or use the Zoom tool. If you want the document window to resize as you zoom in and out, select Resize Windows to Fit box in the tool options bar. Select Fit to Screen to make the entire image fit within the workspace.

A screenshot of Photoshop with the Zoom tool highlighted

To zoom in and out without switching to the zoom tool, hold Ctrl (on Windows) or Command (on Mac) and press the plus (+) and minus (-) keys.