Photoshop is the industry standard photo editing app, but you can do a lot more with it than just manipulate photos. It’s very versatile and used by photographers, designers, videographers, and more to edit photos, create graphics, design websites, and build animated GIFs... just to name a few. Before we get into the most common ways people use Photoshop, you should know the different between pixels and vectors.
Pixels versus Vectors
Adobe Photoshop is primarily pixel-based, and Adobe Illustrator is vector-based.
- Pixel-based (or raster) graphics: When you capture an image on a digital camera or scanner, it is converted into pixels (small square blocks that are a single color). The more pixels you capture, the more information (detail) is in the image file. The number of pixels limits how far you can zoom in before seeing the pixels, or how large you can print the image at good quality.
- Vector-based graphics: Vector graphics are not made of pixels. They are comprised of paths (Bézier curves) that behind the scenes are mathematically described as perfectly clean lines, points, and curves. Vector graphics can be enlarged to any size with no loss of quality, so they are idea for graphics such as logos and icons.
Technically Photoshop does have some vector tools (which can be useful), but it’s primarily a pixel-based app and the vector tools don’t always work as you may expect compared to other vector drawing apps.
Photoshop is best known as a photo editor. You can do standard image improvements such as adjusting contrast, brightness, color, sharpness or more advanced things such as moving elements from one background to another, removing unwanted elements, and adding in new elements (like a better face in a group photo). What you can do in Photoshop is only limited by your imagination and your Photoshop skills.
Photoshop is one of the standard apps every graphic designer knows. You can use it to create graphics for many types of uses such as social media, web, emails, video, and print. The graphics can contain photos, text, logos, icons, etc. Photoshop can open and export a wide variety of graphic file formats, so you can use it for across many industries.
Because many designers know Photoshop, they use it when designing websites and web graphics. Adobe has added many web design features in the past few years. While some web and UI designers are now using other apps such as Sketch and Adobe XD, Photoshop is still used by many web designers and will probably continue to be used for quite some time.
Animated GIFs are popular on social media, HTML Emails, and more. You can create them with Photoshop or After Effects. Photoshop is easier for create simple animated GIFs. After Effects can create more complex animations (which you can make into animated GIFs), but it’s also a more complex app to learn/use, so it can be overkill for creating some animated GIFs.
As you can see, Photoshop is essential app for most creatives to know and be able to use. Because it does so much, it can sometimes seem daunting to learn, but don’t worry about learning everything Photoshop can do. Get started by focusing on what you need to do with it.