Lesson 4: Manipulating Photos

Ok--today's lesson is about how to manipulate photos in Photoshop. This is, of course, a HUGE area, but I'm not going to cover every detail--my goal here is to teach you five things that will help you create a page. I will only show you the most fundamental and basic things about manipulating photos--the first of which, is cropping.

The crop tool looks like this. You may recognize it, as it's the same in Word and other programs.

Now, you are going to want to use the crop tool BEFORE you pull the photo into your page. This is, obviously, because if you try to crop it AFTER, you will end up cropping your whole scrapbook page.

1. Open Photoshop

2. Create a blank page in the size you want for a scrapbook page for later.

3. Pull a picture into Photoshop, but NOT into your scrapbook page.

4. Click on the crop tool

5. Draw the size you want. You can resize it after you click and drag to make it exactly what you want.

6. Press Enter.

7. Pull it into your scrapbook page. (It may be big, but don't worry--we're fixing that next.)

That's it. However, Photoshop DOES have one useful little tool. When you click on the crop tool, notice that the options tool bar changes. If there is a certain size you want, you can enter it into the width and height boxes. I do this if I want every picture on my page to be the same proporitons. Or if I am doing a full bleed picture and I want it exactly 8 1/2 x 11.


This is probably one of the most imporant tools you will use. Tranform allows you to change the size of your pictures. The shortcut is CTRL+T, or you can go to Image, Transform, Scale. But--why would you? That takes WAY longer, and you use this tool A LOT. So just stick to CTRL+T

1. Go to your scrapbook page where you have pulled in the photo you just cropped.
2. Make sure you have the layer of the photo selected.
3. Press CTRL+T. You will now see that the photo has clear boxes on the corners and sides. These allow you to resize the photo.
4. Place your cursor on the corner and drag. This will change the size.
5. Press enter when finished. (Don't forget this step! Or you will be stuck in transform and won't be able to do anything else!)

Now, here are a couple tips for transforming:
  • If you want the picture to keep its proportion when you resize it, hold down the SHIFT key as you click and drag.

  • Always resize from the corner if you want to keep the proportion of your picture

  • If you want to SKEW your picture, try holding down the CTRL key while dragging. I've rarely needed to do this, but it's good to know.
  • You can also grab the corner and and tilt your pictures.

Now, there are SO many ways to mess with the color and lighting on a photo--I'm only going the show you the ones that I use the most. And to me, Curves is the best way to do this. The shortcut for curves is CTRL+M. Or, you can do the long way and go to Image, Adjustment, Curves.

Curves allows you to change the lighting of your picture. I usually lighten up nearly every photo I've got. When you pull it up, you will see a staight line. I usually pull up the top and down the bottom, so the line looks something like this.

But, this is something you'll just have to experiment with. You'll get it. If you have CS4, you can also click on the picture of the finger, on the middle left, and then use your mouse cursor on your actual picture to lighten and darken your picture.

Usually, curves is the only adjustment I use with my pictures. There are a few others under Image, Adjustment that you will want to mess with. There are also some important features on the image menu you may also want to mess with--particularly image size and image rotation.
Saturation & Color Change
Saturation is how much color is in your photo. It is possible to remove ALL the saturation, which would make your photo black and white. Or you can just take out some of it, so that your photos look a little more aged.
The quick keys for making your photo black and white is CTRL+SHIFT+U. Make sure you have the right layer selected!
You can also go to Image, Adjustments, Saturation. This allows you to gauge how much desaturation you want. Just move the adjusment lever and watch the change.
Notice there is also a color lever at the top. This allows you to change the colors in your photo. Now, I don't use this much on actual photos, but say you have a ribbon that you'd like to change the color of? Using the Saturation and Color options, you usually can get a pretty close shade. Also try checking the "colorize" box, this will give you a wider range.
Other Notes
There are a couple other simple things I want to tack on to this lesson that will make your life much easier.
  • CTRL + and CTRL - will allow you to zoom in and out of your page. I use that ALL the time.

  • The History bar is very important! CTRL+Z will only take you back ONE step. If you want to go back farther than that, look at your history bar. You should already have it up by default, but if you don't go to Window, History. This will show you a list of all the actions you've taken. You can just scroll it back as far as you want. There IS a limit, though--it will only go back so many steps, but it goes back pretty far.
Now, watch the video to see me doing all these steps!

(click to view)


  1. CTR+ALT+Z will take you back as many steps as you want, one at a time. I've never used the history bar, but I can see it would be helpful if going back more than a few steps.

  2. I just found your blog at the 2Peas forums. Looks great and I'm looking forward to browsing your site! I use Gimp on occasion and have only had trial versions of PSE, but one of these days I will own it. LOL

  3. Awesome! From 2Peas here too. I am learning so much. Thank you!