I've been using Photoshop for many years now and because of my experience I was asked to teach Photoshop on a one-off basis to a class of 20. These people are beginners and have likely never even opened Photoshop before. Therein lies my problem, I have no idea WHAT to teach. I suppose my experience in Graphic Design has taught me specific ways to use the program, i.e. doing cutouts, improving compositions etc, but I'm not sure I can fill a day's session with what I use it for.

Can anybody suggest what they would teach if they were to do a similar session to mine? What would you consider to be the basics.

[I know this question is slightly subjective, however it is very constructive for me to see the answers and it will help me a great deal]

  • How is the session structured time-wise? Is this all day, a couple hours, an hour or so spread across a couple weeks? Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 14:29
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    Ask the class...what do they want to learn?
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 14:41
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    It's an all day session - 10am to 5pm. @DA01 the issue with asking them is that a lot of the delegates will be made to go on the course by employers and don't really have much interest or knowledge on photo-editing to make suitable suggestions.
    – Dan Hanly
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 14:49
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    @DA01: 20 people and and a day-long schedule really requires a pre-determined course plan here regardless of previous experience. Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 14:53
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    If it's a forced class, then have fun with it. Show them how to photoshop LOLCATS or something. ;)
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 16:06

4 Answers 4


I would really stick with the core basics:

  • Creating a file, saving a file, exporting to different formats
  • The core selection tools: marquee tools, lasso, magic wand, transform
  • Core creation and editing tools: paint bucket, gradients, eraser
  • Then get into the core power of Photoshop: Layers and Masks
  • Finally, do the core filters as this is a fairly deep subject on its own: Blur, Render, Sharpen, Stylize

I would leave it at that because that offers a good foundation for further exploration on their own. Be sure to have ready example photos and art for them to use to walk through the basic features. That also ensures everyone will be (more or less) doing the same thing at the same time and you'll understand the context of a given question.

Since you have all day, you could structure the class around task-oriented exercises, so doing some common tasks with photos (i.e., removing red-eye, moving images of people between files), basic postcard layouts. Leave enough time for questions during and after the teacher-led exercises.

  • That's the kind of guide I've already written for them, you have reinforced what I already thought, cheers. I've put in a few tasks to get them to understand layers and masks as they are two of the most important aspects to photo-editing
    – Dan Hanly
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 14:55
  • I'd also just mention how shift, ctrl, and alt behave as modifier keys, they should try them out for themselves to see how they work. oh and space bar to pan...
    – Hemi
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 6:11
  • Philip nailed it. I'd add; Quickmask was the first time i realized photoshop was all about selections and it makes it easier to understand masks later on. And adjustment layers really empower non-destructive editing. Hope it helps
    – Hemi
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 6:23

If I didn't know how to use Photoshop, these would be the basic skills I'd like to be taught first.

  • Use of the magic wand – like cutting out people and adding them in other photos.
  • Use of textures to make a basic poster.
  • Making a forum signature in Photoshop using a few starting images.
  • Demonstration of how a Graphics Tablet can be used in Photoshop.
  • You had me until that last point. The use of a graphics table is really ancillary to the Photoshop experience. My company has a whole stable of award-winning designers, and none of them have a graphics tablet (though that's not to say they don't want one). Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 14:28

I would teach:

Define objectives. What do I need to do? What do I want to do?

This is important, any tool you learn now will be for a purpose a step to achieve something.

This also makes you understand what is the main goal to use Photoshop. It is not to make calculations to go to the moon, it is mainly image retouching and compositing software, or you can use it as a painting program... but I think the first definition is better for a course.

Then you go from basic USABLE specific objectives. "Let's make this image happier" adjusting contrast, saturation, cropping, reframing, sharpening... Objective accomplished.

Then more "sophisticated" ones, removing an object, cloning, stamping, masking.

Then more advanced ones. Masking and converting into a new object, layers, blending modes, adjusting the previous knowledge to adjust the compositing; contrast, saturation, add shadows, etc.

I am sure, after a curse like that with usable knowledge, people will walk out of the course, happy and with more objectives and a methodology to solve problems.


I would teach them how to use the pen tool, and why you would use it. The pen tool is tool is challenging to learn. The pen tool is a very under appreciated tool, but so very neccessary.

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    Only the pen tool? Why? Why is it so challenging to learn and so very neccessary? Can you please explain better?
    – Mensch
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 4:16

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