Adobe Photoshop Tools

Learn the basics of the most popular photo editor

The tools available on the Photoshop toolbar and menus are the basis for working in the software. You use them to create and modify elements of an image, whether it's a photograph or an original composition.

Here's a quick rundown on how to use some of the most basic and commonly used tools in Photoshop.

These instructions apply to Photoshop CS5 and later. Menu items and keyboard commands may differ between versions.

The Move Tool

The Move tool is the one you'll likely use the most when you're editing images in Photoshop. Use it to adjust the locations of entire layers or smaller areas you've selected using one of the other tools. Press V on the keyboard to select it.

With the Move tool selected, you can use the arrow keys to nudge an object in smaller, more precise intervals. This method helps you make fine adjustments that would be more difficult with the mouse.

The Move tool in Photoshop

The Marquee Tool

The Photoshop Marquee tool is essential for several tasks. At the most basic level, you use marquees to select areas of an image, which you can then copy, move, cut, or crop. You can also use this tool to specify areas that you want to fill in or add strokes (lines) to. Press M on your keyboard to select it, and press Shift-M to cycle between marquee shapes.

The Marquee tool has four types you can use: rectangular, elliptical, a single row, or a single column.

Marquee tool in Photoshop

The Lasso Tool

Like the Marquee tool, you use the Lasso to select an area. But instead of highlighting fixed shapes or lines, it lets you be a little more free with your selection. The regular Lasso is a freehand tool that selects the entire area you define with your mouse. The Polygonal Lasso lets you define a space based on a series of lines. And the Magnetic Lasso automatically generates a line that "sticks" to an object you're highlighting.

Press L on your keyboard to use the Lasso tool, and use Shift-L to cycle through the three types of lassos.

The Lasso tools in Photoshop

The Magic Wand

If you're trying to quickly change a color scheme or remove the background from an image, the Magic Wand will make things easier. When you click an image with it, it automatically selects that spot and every adjacent one of the same color. It's handy for quickly highlighting a large, possibly irregular area without having to try to trace it perfectly with the Lasso.

The Magic Wand's keyboard shortcut is W.

The Magic Wand tool in Photoshop

The Crop Tool

The Photoshop Crop tool serves two main purposes. The first is to cut out an area of an image by selecting the area that you wish to keep. You can also use the Slice tool in the same menu (press C to select it and Shift-C to cycle through them) to split your image into several compartments, like slicing a rectangular cake.

The Slice Select tool lets you rearrange the slices (i.e., the lines you created and not their contents).

Crop tools in Photoshop

The Eyedropper

The Eyedropper is convenient when you want to perfectly match a color either in your project or from somewhere else. When you click with the Eyedropper, it samples the color of the spot you're selecting and automatically loads it into the background spot in the Color Switcher at the bottom of the Tools menu.

Press I to select it.

The Eyedropper tool in Photoshop

The Photoshop Save for Web Tool

As a graphic designer, you may often be asked to deliver web-ready images, such as photos for a website or banner ads. The Photoshop “Save for Web” tool is a simple and easy way to prepare your JPEG files for the web, helping with the trade-off between file size and image quality.

An image open in Photoshop with the Save for Web and Devices menu item highlighted