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Getting Started with Photoshop

Information on Photoshop basics including: how to open and create a new image, navigating palettes, learning the parts of a layer, how to use guides, and where to go for more help at the University of Michigan.

Open Image

Opening an Existing Image or FileFile > Open Image in Menu

Once you have opened Photoshop, you can start editing right away! Follow the directions below to open an existing Photoshop file (.psd) or image.

  1. To open a Photoshop document or image: Go to File and select Open...

  2. A Browse window will appear and you can locate your file, select it, and click Open.

Tip: To re-open a recently opened file, select Open Recent to select from a list of recently opened files.

Create Image

Create a New Photoshop FileFile > New Image in Menu

Although you may typically open images in Photoshop, there are times when you need to create a new file. This may happen when you want to make a collage, create a web banner, design an ad, or more. This page will show and explain each section of the new dialog box.

  1. To create a new document: Go to File and select New...
  2. Use the guide below to set your desired document size and settings.



New Document Dialog Box

New Document Dialog Box1. Name

The Name field is where you can add a name to your new document. This should be a name that helps you easily identify the file.


2. Preset

The Preset field is where you can choose whether you would like to base your document size on a provided preset or by creating your own custom size.



3. Size

If you chose Custom as your Preset, then you will not have to use this dropdown. 

If you chose to use any other Preset above, then you will see size options based on the Preset you selected. For example, if you selected U.S. Paper, you will then see common U.S. paper sizes such as Letter, Legal, and Tabloid. 

If you are unsure of a good size for your document, we recommend trying one of the Presets and pre-determined sizes.

4. Width & 5. Height

Units of Measurement ListIf you did not select a Preset and chose to create a custom size, then this is where you can type in your desired document width and height. Note that you may change the units, by clicking the dropdowns beside the width and height values and selecting inches, pixels, centimeters, etc.




6. Resolution

The resolution is what determines the quality of the image and refers to the number of pixels per inch (or centimeter) of the image.
** Visit All About Images Guide to learn more about how resoluton works and how to choose the best resolution for your image.

7. Color Mode
Color Modes ListColor mode allows you to choose what mode and bit you wish to use for your new document. Note: CMYK refers to print colors and is generally used for images that will be printed. RGB refers to the dot colors and is intended for use of web, video, or any digitally disaplyed image.


Background Contents

Background Contents ListThis allows you to determine the color of your Background layer. Choosing White or Transparent will make your layer respectively white or transparent. Choosing Background Color will change the layer color to whatever is currently selected as the Background Color in the Color Palette.

9. Color Profile

If you are using a color-managed workflow or want to use a color profile of a specific device or Color Space, you may select that profile from this dropdown.  
** Click here to learn more about adding and managing color profiles.




10. Pixel Aspect Ratio
Pixel Aspect Ratio List
The pixel aspect ratio is useful for those who are creating graphics to be used for video work that is not HD or does not use square pixels. 





Image Size

This refers to the file size of your new document, meaning how much space on a hard drive or disk is needed to save the file. This number is measures in bytes, kilobytes (K) , megabytes (M), and gigabytes (G).