Sat. Jan 21st, 2023

Graphic Tools

Below are a list of common operations in graphics work. For each, there is a short description and one or more links to further information or tutorials. This is focused on Adobe Photoshop, although other packages with similar functionality are available. The Adobe help pages are very good, and tutorials come complete with files for you to work along on.

Freehand Draw

Using either the mouse or a dedicated input device (graphics tablet, Apple Pencil) to draw images freehand.

Freehand drawing


The process of selecting multiple items in a design and instructing the software to treat them ‘as one’ – when you move one component, the others that have been grouped together will move in the same way. Resizing one part of the group will result in all parts being resized, and so on. Distinct to merging items together, grouped items can be separated again if required.

About grouping objects

Colour Balance

This is a tricky topic. Colour temperature is a measurement used to describe what white looks like, and is measured in Kelvin. In simple terms, white is not always the same colour: a sheet of white paper is a very different colour under fluorescent lighting that it is outdoors at sunset. The human brain understands that the sheet of paper is white, and therefore corrects for this difference, but computers are not able to do this.

Furthermore, different displays will show the same image in different manners.

As a designer, you can strive for accuracy or use colour balance manipulation for creative effect. You can alter the white balance to change the time of day that an image appears to have been shot.

You can also manipulate the colour balance between green and magenta shades, and yellow and blue.

Editing colour balance


Filters allow you add creative effects to images. For instance, film-style grain, or outlining, blurring, pixellation and many more. An important note regarding filters in Photoshop: Smart filters allow you to non-destructively apply filters – instead of changing the base image, a smart filter is applied in real-time. This is incredibly useful as it allows you to change settings on a filter later if you wish.

Using filters

Using smart filters


The process of choosing one or more elements within an image in order to apply an operation. For example, the magic wand creates a selection where the colour is broadly identical. Selections are identified by marching ants at their border.

Making selections in Photoshop

Hue and Saturation

Hue refers to the colour of an object. Typically, the hue is changed using either a slider or a numerical shift. It results in groups of colours being altered – for example, reds can become greens, blues can become yellows and so on.

Saturation refers to how much of the colour there is; how strong it looks. It does not affect the brightness of the image, but determines how far away from grey the colour is. A saturation of zero would be greyscale (often -100 in editing software, where 0 is ‘normal’ and +100 is a doubling).

Many editing packages allow for individual hues to have their saturation altered. In this way you can easily create a greyscale image but retain one accent colour:

Adjusting hue and saturation


Selecting a part of an image/layer to edit. A mask is like a stencil placed on top of a layer in an image, which allows you to determine where an edit or effect is applied. Masks are greyscale, with black representing a ‘hole’ and white representing a block. Shades of grey in between allow for varying levels of pass-through.

Layer masks

Hiding layers with masks


Layering allows an image to be composed of multiple items, stacked one on top of another. The order of stacking can be changed, and affects the final image.

Introduction to layers in Photoshop


Editing techniques such as blemish removal, rubbish removal (you take a photo of a park and need to remove a piece of litter for example).

Simple image retouching tutorial

Opacity and Transparency

An opaque layer or image will block 100% of everything beneath it, and appear solid.

A layer which is 100% transparent will show everything beneath it, and will not itself be visible.

Selecting transparency levels between the two extremes allows designers to decide how much of lower layers will be visible, and to what extent the layer itself is visible.

Transparency in Photoshop

Editing and Combining Paths

A path is an ‘outline’ created by a set of inter-connected points. Points can be altered to allow for curves rather than simple polygons.

Simple paths tutorial