As the number of online businesses has increased, the need for branding, graphics, and other digital assets has grown exponentially. It’s probably not a surprise that being able to create and edit images and graphics is a valuable skill.

Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for image editing and has become a widely used tool for many digital careers, especially for roles such as Graphic Designers, Photographers, and Web Developers.

In this overview, you’ll learn about what Photoshop is, what it can do, who uses it, and how and where to learn it so you can determine if this is a skill you need and want to have in your career arsenal.

What is Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is the gold standard of photo editing software. In fact, a staggering 90% of creative professionals use it.

What’s so special about Photoshop?

According to Adobe, it transforms images into “flights of pure imagination.”

Photoshop users who know how to use the software can edit existing digital or digitalized photos (also called raster artwork), combine multiple images, and even create digital paintings. More advanced users can create GIFs—the brief, looped moving images you often see on social media—or even edit simple videos.

The most common use for Photoshop is digital image correction. Photoshop allows you to do anything from correcting color to changing the background to adding or removing people from images. It’s become such a common practice, there’s even an action named after it: “So-and-so Photoshopped that image.” If you can dream it, you can probably do it in Photoshop.

Professionals across almost every industry use the software.

Key Components of Photoshop

Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool, and a great place to begin learning Adobe software. You might even think of it as the Swiss Army knife of Adobe tools. With all of the available features, though, it can feel overwhelming to figure out what will be most important for you and where to start learning.

These 6 features are essential for many Photoshop users, and things the program excels at.

Retouching Tools

Photoshop retouching tools allow you to alter images slightly, like when correcting red eye or smoothing skin in a photograph. They can do things like “heal” or “erase” imperfections such as wrinkles and pimples, as well as repair rips and tears on old photos. There are a few ways to do these corrections, although the more you use the tools, the more comfortable and creative you can be as you decide how to enhance images.

Adjustment Tools

Adjusting images is an important part of photo editing, and tools creative professionals use often. Photoshop can make adjustments to many key elements like color, tone, brightness, and contrast. It has extensive color changing capabilities.

One neat Photoshop adjustment is the capability to make changes on the original image or on an adjustment layer. Essentially, you can retain the original image but also make any corrections or adjustments you want.

Compositing Images

One of Photoshop’s most popular and well-known features is compositing images. This means you can put multiple photos together to create a new image. This is one area Photoshop performs best in because of its abilities to work with the individual parts of any image down to the smallest detail.

Since Photoshop is based on raster images, or those composed of pixels, you can edit each image down to a single pixel at a time, if you want or need. Compositing allows for beautiful, creative images and artwork.

Masking & Special Effects

There are multiple masking tools within Photoshop that allow you to “hide'' certain parts of layers in an image. You can mask entire layers, parts of layers based on pixels or vectors, and even use a Clipping Mask to hide a group of layers. These are particularly useful when you’re working on multi-layered images because it allows complete customization of any individual area or areas of the image.

Photoshop also offers a variety of special effect filters to change the appearance of images. From transforming an image to black and white or using motion blur to create the effect that an object is moving, special effects make it possible to transform an image in almost any way imaginable. You can even use masks and filters together.


Layers might be one of Photoshop’s most useful features because you can create a multi-dimensional image that’s easily editable and adjustable. Layers function almost like tracing paper. You can place images, text, color—whatever you might be working on—on separate layers that way you can adjust one aspect at a time. You have the option to view many (or few) layers at a time, which means that as you work, you can see how the changes fit into the image as a whole.

You can use layers to edit an image without changing the original file, change the background of an image, and have different levels of transparency.

Create Animated GIFs

One feature that may seem surprising about a photo editing software is that it can create simple animated GIFs. They’re a fun way to bring images to life, and have become extremely popular—there’s likely even a GIF library in the text messaging app on your phone!

Photoshop allows you to create simple GIFs with frame by frame style animations. It doesn’t do more complicated animation, Adobe After Effects is the program for that, but if you want to create a little motion in an image for your email list or social media fans, Photoshop has some capability in that area.

Careers that Use Photoshop

Although it may initially seem like only Photographers or Graphic Designers use Photoshop, there are actually many careers that use the software.

Consider that the main goal of Photoshop is to edit and create images and graphics. In our digital world, there are images and graphics everywhere working in all different capacities from informing to selling to marketing to entertaining.

These are some careers that commonly use Photoshop:

  • Graphic Designers create designs for digital and print projects. They usually work with customers or businesses, and can also coordinate the production of items with their design on it, like hats or shirts. These artists often use Photoshop as one of their primary designing tools.
  • Web Designers design and create websites. Their main goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing and potentially high-converting website for individual clients and/or businesses. Web designers can use Photoshop to prepare images for website publication.
  • Marketers develop marketing campaigns and execute them with the goal of driving sales. They’re often responsible for managing a team of Marketers, as well as analyzing campaign results. Marketers frequently use Photoshop to create branded graphics for their campaigns, including social media, website, and email images.
  • Public Relations (PR) Specialists are in charge of managing a business’s or brand’s public image. They work closely with social media, websites, and printed materials to make sure the messaging and images are on brand and sending the desired message to the audience. Photoshop comes into play when PR specialists use it for branding deliverables such as social media images and even potentially press releases.
  • Social Media Managers post strategically on social channels, interact with the audience, and design all visual aspects of a business’s social media presence, including images. Using campaigns, similar to PR, Social Media Managers focus on honing in on the target audience and getting results for a business. Photoshop is a great tool for creating these kinds of targeted graphics.
  • User Experience (UX) Designers ensure that websites are intuitive and easy to navigate. They do quite a bit of research and are experts in how people navigate the web. UX Designers can utilize Photoshop to make graphics that help website visitors navigate their sites more effectively, and keep them engaged with the site content.
  • Content Creators write the content on websites, like blogs, social media, and sales pages. These writers, although experts in words and messaging, can use software like Photoshop to help supplement their message with well-placed images and branded designs.
  • Artists create and design 2-Dimensional (flat) images for projects like animation, filmmaking, architecture, and even electrical engineering. It’s their job to visually bring ideas to life, and Photoshop provides a great place to create those images.
  • Architectural Designer/Drafters assist with drafting digital plans to supplement blueprints and building projects. They also help move projects through the procedural parts of construction, like getting permits. They can use Photoshop in addition to more technical drawings to create the complete picture of a design project.

How to Learn Photoshop

You might be thinking...this all sounds great, but how do I learn Photoshop?

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go to a college or university to get Photoshop training and start a creative career (or pivot to something you love!).

You can start learning the basics of Photoshop for free online. Adobe has in-depth tutorials to guide you as you learn the basics. Whether you’re new to the Creative Cloud, or a current user wanting to uplevel your skills, Adobe has classes for you to start with.

You can also begin learning about the Creative Cloud, including Photoshop, through Noble Desktop’s free online courses. They have Getting Started, Intro to Layers, and Using Photoshop’s Refine Edge courses.

When you’re ready to take your learning to the next level or take a more in-depth course, Noble offers a variety of paid Photoshop training both in-person in New York City or live online.

Some available topics include:

  • Photoshop in a Day
  • Photoshop for Web Design & UI
  • Photoshop Advanced Retouching
  • Photoshop Bootcamp

Where to Learn Photoshop

If you’re ready to learn Photoshop, there are many great options in-person, live online, and by specialized topics.

Noble Desktop offers several Photoshop courses. From Photoshop in a Day to Photoshop Bootcamp to Advanced Retouching, there are classes for beginners and more advanced users.

Interested in learning online? Find live online Photoshop courses using the Noble Desktop Classes Near Me tool. You can locate Photoshop courses in your area with the same tool.

The Classes Near Me tool offers a concise way to see what training courses are available from multiple different training schools.

How Do You Purchase Photoshop?

In order to use Photoshop, individuals must purchase the program through one of several pathways.

For professionals needing the full features of this powerful tool, Photoshop is the way to go. As part of the Creative Cloud, Photoshop is the most powerful version of the software, and the one professional photographers and photo editors use. Although it does require a subscription of about $21 per month (if you purchase the program on its own), creative professionals can get the most bang for their buck with a multitude of features only found in the original program, such as customizable Photoshop brushes.

Photoshop on iPad is part of any Adobe plan which includes Photoshop. The iPad app allows you to do the same edits and adjustments as you would on a desktop or laptop, with the flexibility of using a tablet.

Photo and image-based experts can also use Photoshop Lightroom, which allows the user to bulk edit images, easily search images by content (thanks to Adobe’s machine learning software Adobe Sensei), and edit on the go. Users have access to professionally created presets to make editing quicker and easier. You can get Lightroom as part of the Creative Cloud subscription or as an a la carte item for about $10 per month.

Photoshop Elements is a simplified version of Photoshop which includes important elements like the ability to colorize images, adjust facial features, smooth skin, and remove subjects from images. For less than $100, and no required subscription, you can get the Photoshop essentials.

Since we live in the age of smartphones, there has to be an app, right? Adobe Photoshop Express is great for creatives editing on the go with “intelligent Photoshop tools” and a simple platform to keep things user- and mobile-friendly but still professional. It’s a bonus that users can connect the app with Google Photos, Dropbox, and Facebook. It’s free to download, and users can purchase extra items within the app.