Mastering Photoshop: The Top 5 Easy Photoshop Tools

photoshop graphics blogging


If there was one thing all bloggers should do to beef up their visual skills is to get familiar with Photoshop. I know what you are going to say. Who has the time? It's too expensive. My readers don't care.

But I'm here to tell you, you are mistaken. It doesn't take a long period of time to become familiar with Photoshop. And instead of having a mini Zara-shopping spree, maybe consider Photoshop a necessary investment and save up for a couple of months. Lastly, believe or not, your readers do care. Time and time again, we hear from major online companies like Pinterest, Google and Facebook that visual graphics that are eye-catching and fresh perform better on their platforms, which means more traffic and more followers.

Just today, I'm making a case for Photoshop and sharing the top 5 Photoshop tools you can master. No mess, no fuss, just plain Photoshop tools and settings you should know to create visuals that will help you stand out in the blogging community. Sharing her graphic design and Photoshop insight, I asked Katrina Tan from Pugly Pixel to offer her thoughts on what every blogger should get familiar with. If you haven't checked out her site, click over and book mark it.

Here are 5 Photoshop tools both myself and Katrina use frequently. Good news is that they're pretty basic. If you learn how to use them, you'll find that they're versatile and can do so many cool things! 
photoshop brushes

1. Brushes: This isn't your Microsoft Paint brush, trust me. This brush can do a variety of things, from straight lines to dotted or dashed. Katrina says, “Besides its ability to create painterly brush strokes, you can also use the brush tool as a rubber stamp, or even a roller brush. You can use it to create straight lines, dotted lines, dashed lines, or even give the impression of multi-colored confetti-like dots.” Here are a few examples that you can sift through including lace brushespencil/chalk brushes (resource links) and Katrina has a tutorial for  a confetti brush that feels like something the Kate Spade NY team would use and a collage enumeration with brushes. For more artistic brushes, download Katrina's paint and watercolor brushes resource.

photoshop shapes

2. Shapes: Want to create graphics that have callouts or indicate a special phrase? Use Photoshop's default set of useful shapes like ovals, squares/rectangles, and hearts. Katrina says, “The great thing about shapes is that they're vector-based elements, meaning that you can shrink or stretch them in Photoshop without loss of quality. I use shapes all the time. I use them to create labels for my photos and it's the primary tool that I use when I make blog photo layout templates for post collages or blog photo frames. You can download Katrina's arrow label shapes which we've used in various marketing materials and on the web. So cute and extremely handy for “calls to action”.

photoshop tools

3. Clipping Masks: You can use clipping masks to apply a pattern or photo to text or to a Photoshop shape. Doing this can give the effect of an elaborate photo cut-out of certain letters or shapes. It can be hard to understand what a Clipping Mask really is so think of it like a layer that drapes over a specific object. Anything can be made into a clipping mask, textures, photos, colors. What's great about clipping masks too is that you can create a basic template for your photo collages, giving you the chance to drop photos into the template and Save As. No more time on creating layouts; just use the template. For a tutorial on how to create clipping masks, visit Katrina's tutorial using a few fabric swatches.

photoshop masks

This is an image we took with a selected image and masked background.

4. Masks: At times, a portion of your image needs to be edited, whether it be your hair, your face, the background, etc. However, you don't want to do a rough-editing job and ruin the other portion of your image. Bring in the Photoshop Mask tool. These masks isolate and protect parts of an image, allowing you to paint parts of an image without touching the other parts of the image. You can create a To make a mask, use the Quick Select or Magic Wand tool and select your image. Then hit Quick Mask. Immediately, you can see that the red areas are the parts of the photo that are protected. AKA you can't ruin them. Change the saturation, levels, curves in that area only.

unsharp photoshop filter

Before & After of the Unsharp Mask Filter

5. Unsharp Mask: This tool is my ultimate retouching go-to in Photoshop. The Unsharp Mask filter makes your image look more focused by adjusting the contrast of the edge detail. Basically, your image looks more focused without actually sharpening the image. To use this filter, go to Filter in the Navigation Bar, then Sharpen, then Unsharp Mask. Here you will get a pop-up that will preview the image for you with and without the Unsharp Mask settings. Play with the Amount slider to sharpen as you see fit, then use the Radius slider to determine how many pixels will be effected. Finally, we have the Threshold filter, which according to Adobe Photoshop's Classroom in a Book,  “determines how different the sharpened pixels must be from the surrounding area before they are considered edge pixels and subsequently sharpened by the Unsharp Mask filter.” To familiarize yourself with the Unsharp Mask settings, adjust the sliders and see the before/after image. That way you can determine what settings work best for you.


All of these tools help take your photos to a more graphically designed visual which clearly states what your blog post is about. Less 2D, more 3D. Plus, they help your photos stand out, which is pretty important in this growing community.


What tools do you use in Photoshop? Which ones would you like to become more familiar with?

Many thanks to Katrina from Pugly Pixel for sharing her top tools and resources with us. 



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18 Responses

  1. kate heimann

    I’ve been using photoshop for about 2 years now for little projects and now for my own personal outfit shots, I’m really glad you guys simplified the top tools because even though I’ve used this program for nearly 2 years I had no idea about the unsharpening mask – that is brilliant! And super helpful!! 🙂 Thanks you’re the best!

    xo, Kate

  2. Lela

    I think resizing is a must for bloggers beginners! Very basic but very useful and important for getting the look you want.

  3. Castaneda

    I always mess around with the “Curves” of my photos to change the colors of them. Its a little bit more on the harder side to learn but its a good tip when your photos aren’t vibrant enough. To see what they look like check out any photo on my blog:

  4. Lizzie

    I play with curves, white balance and filters. Resizing for web is also a must.

  5. victoria | vmac+cheese

    If you’re using PS for product roundups, learning how to use the magic eraser tool and the quick selection tool (as well as how to refine edges) is essential for removing backgrounds behind products!

  6. Barbara

    I work in an ad agency as an accounts executive and I am yet to get the hang of photoshop. I look to really focusing on my blogging so I had better start now. Afterall they say ‘the earlier, the better’
    Lagos, Nigeria

  7. Maya B

    Oh loving all the links you put in there so handy! I mostly use filters to enhance my photo’s but some nice graphics could really make my photo’s even more eye-catching
    Maya from Archistas

  8. Jennah

    Hi guys,

    I always shoot my photos in RAW mode, and before I do anythign else with my shots I change the exposure (basically the amount of light hitting everything in your photo) if needed. It really makes a difference to too dark/too light pics 🙂

  9. Diwata Luna

    When I started using pixlr and Photoscape, I stopped learning Photoshop. But now I want to take it up again!

  10. Elizabeth

    This is great! I’ve had photoshop forever.. and I must confess I’ve only just begun using it. Nice to see what other tools I might be overlooking. Can’t wait to try these tips in my next editing session. Thanks!

  11. Silvia Gomes

    I have used photoshop for over 6 years, and for my blog I always without fail, I use photoshop to add a white frame to my photos and add a watermark, this is how I choose to present my images and I think it looks good, so I never post anything without going tru photoshop, usually I dont like to edit the photos just because I like to maintain the original feel of them, but I might be a bit adventurous one of these days and just go for it just for the fun of it, photoshop is an amazing software and I can say no money spent on photoshop is a waste as photoshop is a very important tool in the life of anyone who is part of the creative world of fashion.

  12. jacson marhew

    I think it more about how we use this tool , the most important part of photoshop you have covered if we concentrate little bit on mask, tool than we can be a pro if we are just starting with PS. Hats off to you as you have explain it to master the pS. in a nice manner