Learn How to Edit Photos In Photoshop – Expanding your Skills

In the previous guide, you learned the most basic photo editing skills within Photoshop. In this guide, it is time to take a look at some of the more advanced, but still common techniques for editing photos in Photoshop. Explaining each of the photo editing techniques below could easily extend to a whole article per technique, for an in-depth explanation. However, here I want to give you an overview of how to use Photoshop for a wider range of photo editing tasks.

Many of the following techniques you will probably use occasionally and maybe only one of them for each photo you edit in Photoshop. So there is no particular order, you need to follow for using these tools and functions in Photoshop.

Make a Simple Conversion to Black and White

Some photos are just better in black and white. Photoshop offers a bunch of different ways to convert your images to black and white. The Black and White Adjustment Layer is quite simple yet powerful. The reason why I prefer this method is that it includes a color mixer and it is non-destructive. This means that it doesn’t ruin the image underneath. You can always disable the adjustment layer to return to your original photo. Further, a color mixer is essential if you want to control how your image is converted to black and white.

BW Adjustmen Layer DialogueClick the Black and White icon in the Adjustments Layers panel Black and White Adjustment Layer Icon in Photoshop or go to Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Black and White to convert your image to black and white.

In the settings dialogue, you will see the color mixer sliders. Here you can adjust how you want each specific color to convert into black and white.

If you push the slider for the red colors to the left, the original red colors are converted as shadows. If you instead push the red color slider to the right, what used to be red, will become bright tones.

Black and white images need tonal contrast to avoid looking flat. A good way to achieve this is by making use of the complementary colors in your image and adjusting the sliders accordingly as bright and dark in the color mix. I.e. make red colors bright by pushing the sliders to the right, while making green colors appear as darks by pushing the green color slider to the left.

To learn more about what makes up a great black and white image, take a look at the e-book Mono – Learning The Art of Black and White Photography.


Magnolia-color Magnolia-default-BW Magnolia-BW

By adjusting the color sliders in the Black and White Adjustment Layer Properties, you can make your black and white image pop. Take a look at the above example with the flowers on the magnolia tree. From left to right you have the color version, and then the standard black and white conversion. Not very impressive, right? To the right, you see the result of using the sliders as shown in the above black and white adjustment properties sample. As you can see, the magnolia flowers in the last image pop more, than in the default conversion. I just moved the red slider to the right to increase how bright the red tones should be and moved the blue slider to the left to make it darker. Finally, I balanced the other sliders so none very too far apart, which gives a more pleasing result. How you should adjust the color sliders, depends on what colors are present in your photo.

Use Photoshop to Replace a Color

Color Replacement Tool in The Brush Toolbar SubsetWhen editing your photos, you may wish to change the color of a single object, like a flower or a boat to make it more pleasing. In photoshop you can do this with the Color Replacement Tool. You can find the tool nested under the brush tool in the toolbar. Right click on the brush tool and select the color replacement tool from the sub tool menu that appears.

Your mouse cursor will turn into a circle with a crosshair in the center. Photoshop will use the foreground color as the color to put instead of the sampled color. Photoshop samples what is underneath the center cross-hair to ensure it only changes the sampled colors within the brush circle.

If you want to replace a white colored boat with a blue colored boat, use the color replacement tool on the white areas of the boat and make sure that the crosshair only touches the white areas of the boat when clicking to replace the color. By sampling the white boat color, Photoshop only changes these areas of the boat. The sample that Photoshop makes from beneath the crosshairs, helps create more precise color changes.Color Replacement Tool Sample - Photoshop

The color replacement tool doesn’t function like a magic wand, where you only need to touch a specific color to change everything. Instead, you need to paint over the area you wish to change the color of, with broad strokes. Just make sure that the sample crosshair is always is on top of an area you want to change. If you feel that the color replacement tool is replacing too much or too little, you can change the tolerance level in the options bar or the brush size.

How to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop (non-destructively)?

Quite often, you would want to modify your image by dodging (lighting) or burning (darken) areas, to emphasize specific parts of your images. However, you should be careful to use Photoshops dodge and burn tools for this as it can ruin your image.

The basic method to dodge and burn in Photoshop change the pixels on your original image layer. With a limited number of undo steps in Photoshop, you will regret if you use the Dodge and Burn tools from the toolbar. Instead, you should create a dodge and burn layer. By moving the dodge and burn process to its separate layer, you can always hide it and go back to the original.

Hold down the Option key (Mac) / Alt key (Win) and click on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will make the New Layers Dialogue appear. Rename the layer to “Dodge & Burn” in the Name field. Next, change the Mode of the new layer to Overlay.

Finally, you need to check the box Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray).

Now you have an invisible dodge and burn layer on top of your original background layer. All you need to do is select the Brush tool (B) to begin dodging and burning with the brush tool.

Use a white foreground color to dodge (lighten) or burn (darken) with a black foreground color. If you feel that the dodge/burn effect is too strong, lower the opacity of the brush. Alternatively, you could use a gray color for the brush.

By the way, I made a Photoshop action that creates this non-destructive Dodge & Burn Layer with a single click. It is bundled together with a lot of other useful Photoshop actions.

How To Add a Vignette In Photoshop?

There are several ways you can create a vignette in Photoshop. The easiest way to create a vignette in Photoshop is by using the Marquee tool.

Right click on the Marquee tool and choose the Elliptical Marquee tool.

Next, you should go to the options bar at the top and increase the feather value. By setting a feather value, you soften the selection edge and smooth it out. The higher the value, the softer a transition the vignette will have. Try with the feather value set to around 150 px for a start.


Next, you are ready to draw out the shape of the vignette. Left click and drag from somewhere in the upper left corner, where you want the vignette to begin. Drag downwards towards the lower right corner and release the mouse. This will give you a selection. If you are not satisfied with the size, you can draw the selection again. If you want to just move the selection, switch to the Move tool (V) and reposition the selection.

vignette inverse selection photoshop

The inverted selection. If you look closely you can see the circle around the head, and a rectangular selection at the edge of the image. Everything between the edge and the circle will become affected by whatever changes we make with this selection active in Photoshop. The beauty of Photoshop is that you select exactly how and where you want to create a vignette, by making a precise selection first.

When you are satisfied with the selection, it is time to move on to the next step. You need to inverse the selection, so the selection covers what is on the outside of the ellipsis, instead of the inside. You invert the selection by going to Select > Inverse.

Next, add a new Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer. Click on the brightness/contrast icon brightness-contrast-icon in the Adjustment Layers Panel. With the brightness/contrast adjustment layer, you can shade in the vignette by pulling the brightness slider a little bit to the left. For this image, I lowered the brightness to -50.


Before adding a vignette in Photoshop



After adding a subtle vignette. You can see that the edges are darker, while the lions head is still bright, making it pop more, because of the vignette added.

How to Remove any Object in Your Photo?

Sometimes, you will find objects in your photos, like a beer-can, some tissues or other stuff, that you didn’t notice when you took the image. Things that you wouldn’t find at the location if you had come by a day earlier or a week later. You might want to remove that to tidy up your image, but how can you do this in Photoshop?

Begin with duplicating the image layer, by pressing CMD+j (Mac)/CTRL+j (Win). This way you can always go back to the original.

Next, make a rough selection around the area you want to remove with the lasso tool Lasso tool in Photoshop CC. Keep a little space between the object and the selection.

lasso tool for content aware fill

To remove the object hit the Shift + Delete key, or go to Edit > Fill and make sure the Fill properties is set to Content-Aware in the Contents field.content_aware_fill  

Press OK, to make Photoshop analyze the selection and the content around the selection. Photoshop will then attempt to replace the object with image content from the surrounding area. Photoshop does a pretty good job. However, you might need to tidy up the area with the clone stamp tool or use the healing brush. Take a look at the two images below.

remove objects in Photoshop

Before: a lot of distractions, stones, and one ugly jellyfish.

After removing stones and a jellyfish in Photoshop CC

After: Now, that is much cleaner. 1 minutes work. You could be even more thorough and go over the areas with a healing spot brush or clone stamp. However, this is the result from just using the lasso tool and content-aware fill.

Change the Color Mix Using a Color Balance Adjustment Layer

Often you want to tweak the overall color mix in your photo to cure any color imbalances that you find. This could be if you spot that there is too much green in the photo, or it lacks red colors and so on.

Click the color balance icon Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 20.09.21 in the Adjustments Panel to bring up a new Color Balance Adjustment Layer.  In the properties panel, you can select whether you want to change the colors for the shadows, mid-tones or highlights. Now drag the color slider to get the look you want. Drag the sliders towards the color you want more off. Drag the sliders away from the colors you want less off.

Check Preserve Luminosity to keep the tonal values while still altering the colors.

How to Make a Specific Color Pop Using Photoshop?

If you find, that there is just one color range (like the greens) that you want to pop, without decreasing other colors, you can create a Hue/Saturation Adjustments Layer. You do this by clicking on the Hue/Saturation icon Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 20.10.01 in the Adjustments Panel.

Hue-saturation_green_color_popIf you just begin playing around the hue or saturation sliders, you will affect the whole image, because you are controlling the “master” color range. However, to only change a single color range and make it pop, you need to make a selection of one of the primary color ranges, which you can then modify to restrict or expand the color tones included.

For this example go to where it says “master” in the properties panel and change it to “greens.”

Now try to boost the saturation and how to an extreme amount. This will look awful, but don’t worry; we will change it soon. However, it shows you just how much of the greens you affect.

To extend the range to cover more of the green go to the bottom of the properties panel and extend the selected color range by dragging in each end. Because the hue and saturation are set to an extreme value, you can see how much of the greens are within the range and thereby affected.

When you see that you affect the range you want, you can set back the hue and saturation sliders to the starting point and slowly boost them by moving them to the right. This will make the green color pop more in your photo.


As you can see on the right side of the image, the green color got some extra pop. As you might notice, the branches on the top also got a little greener. However, you can easily remove this by adding a layer mask.

Concluding words

Hopefully, this guide has helped you get a better grasp on how to use Photoshop for a greater range of photo editing tasks. There is a lot more to Photoshop, and you can dig deeper into how to use each of the tools. However, getting used to each tool and using the techniques covered in this guide for post processing a handful of images will get you comfortable to go further with learning to master Photoshop for Photo editing.

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