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Photo editing basics: 6 tips for polishing and perfecting finished images



You have many choices among photo editing software programs, whether it's Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, Paintshop Pro, GIMP.net, and more — all of which now have very similar feature sets. These basic photo editing tips will help you work in pretty much any application available.

Working with layers in photo editing

The "magic" or Photoshop and its clones is the Layers feature. It's analogous to color separations, where each of the four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) in the four-color process are printed on separate plates, then printed on top or each other to create a full-color image. Each “CMYK plate” is a layer in the four-color process.

When you open a photograph in Photoshop, it has only one layer, the background layer, and it's called a flattened image. If you use the Lasso tool to outline one tulip in a field of many flowers, then cut and paste that tulip back into that same photo, Photoshop pastes it in a new layer, displays it in the Layers palette, and names it Layer 1

Right-click this box, choose Layer Properties, and enter a new name for this layer.

Each time you cut and paste a flower from the photos field of flowers, Photoshop creates a new layer so you can edit, recolor, reshape, resize, add a filter such as Watercolor, or a style from the Styles palette, or a boxes other features. Only the "selected" layer is affected. This way, you can use different effects and filters on each separate layer – and a mistake on one layer doesn't affect the other layers.

Why you should keep your original intact

The number one, most important tip I can share with you is this: Never edit your originals. Always make a copy and save that copy as a layered file, if possible, because layers can be adjusted and edited individually.

The best layered formats are PSD (Photoshop) and TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). Save As or Export to one of these two formats.

Why not save images as JPGs? Because JPG is a “lossy” format, which means the image is compressed, which creates smaller file sizes (to accommodate applications with limited resources such as email and cell phones). Each time it's re-saved, the image quality degrades a bit, and it does not support layers.

The remaining image formats, such as BMP, GIF, PHG, EPS and more, are not suitable “working” formats. In other words, they are not appropriate for editing images.


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