We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Getting To Know Photoshop – The Main Tool Bar

The Main Tool Bar (Exploded View)

Getting To Know Photoshop: The Main Tool Bar

Getting To Know Photoshop: The Main Tool Bar

If you click the image above you can view the photoshop main tool bar in its exploded view. A good feature in photoshop is that every tool is binded to a shortcut key on the keyboard, if you notice on each of the tools there is a letter which tells you which key you have to press to select that certain tool.

Getting To Know Photoshop: The Main Tool Bar

Most tools in the tool bar have a fly out menu, you can easily scroll through each tool in that tool set by holding down the shift key then pressing the tool shortcut. So for example if i have the “Brush Tool” (B) selected and wanted to switch to the “Pencil Tool” (B) which shares the same shortcut key i can simply hold down the shift key whilst pressing the shortcut key (B) and it will circle through each tool in that tool set.

Quick Tip:

if you hold down a shortcut key when another tool is selected, Photoshop temporarily changes to that tool. When you are finished using that tool, release the shortcut key and the tool reverts to the original tool you were using before.

The Main Tool Bar: Tools Explained

I’m now going to briefly explain a bit about each tool in the main tool bar.

Move Tool (Shortcut Key V): The move tool allows you to move elements around your canvas, it also allows you to move several other items such as guides, shape layers, masks and text objects.

Shape Selection Tools (Shortcut Key M): This tool set allows you to quickly make a selection using either a rectangle, ellipse, row or a column style selection.

Lasso Selection Tools (Shortcut Key L): These set of tools allow you to make quick selections in the form of a lasso tool in which can be randomly drawn with the mouse and left mouse button, polygonal lasso tool which allows you to make selections in vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines and finally the magnetic lasso tool which allows you to make selection just by using the mouse.

Quick Selection Tools (Shortcut Key W): These tools can select areas of the document by detecting areas that are similar.

Crop and Slice Tools (Shortcut Key C): The crop tool lets you select an area of the document which you want to keep then removes the area around it. The slice tool is used for slicing up web images.

Eye Dropper, Ruler, Note and Count Tools (Shortcut Key I): The eye dropper tool is used to select a new foreground color from pixels in an image, the ruler tool is used to measure areas in an image. The note tool is a cool little tool which enables you to add notes to an image and the count tool allows you to count and log items in an image.

Healing Tools (Shortcut Key J): The healing tools provide quick ways to heal areas of an image. The heal tools can remove red eye from photo’s, dust marks and scratches.

Brush Tools (Shortcut Key B): The brush tool set allows you to apply painting techniques to enhance and create images, the brush tool is also used in conjunction with many other tools.

Stamp Tools (Shortcut Key S): The stamp tool set consists of two types of tool, the clone stamp tool and the pattern stamp tool. The clone stamp tool allows you to select and area of an image and then stamp or brush that area onto another part of the image. Its a really use for tool for removing skin blemishes, spots etc… The pattern stamp tool allows you to apply a pattern to an image using brush strokes.

Eraser Tools (Shortcut Key E): The eraser tool does exactly what it says on the tin, it allows you to quickly erase pixel date from an image.

History Brush Tools (Shortcut Key Y): The history brush tools are used to repair areas of an image by painting data from a previously edited state of an image. Just like returning part of an image back to its original state after editing.

Blur, Sharpen and Smudge Tools (Shortcut Key NONE): This tool set allows you to sharpen, smudge and blur part of an image using brush strokes.

Dodge, Burn and Sponge Tools (Shortcut Key O): The dodge and burn tools allow you darken or lighten part of an image using brushes, where as the sponge tool allows you to add or remove saturation to an image.

Fill Tools (Shortcut Key B): The fill tools are used to fill elements on your canvas with either a solid color, pattern or gradient.

Path Creation Tools (Shortcut Key P): The path creation tool also known as the pen tool allows you to create vector shapes and custom shapes using paths and anchor points.

Path Selection Tools (Shortcut Key A): The Path Selection tools allow you to select and manipulate vector paths by adjusting the anchor points.

Type Text Tool (Shortcut Key T): The Text tools allow you to add textual elements to images, either vertically or horizontally. The type text tool can also be used in conjunction with the path selection tools allowing you to type text onto a selected path.

Shape Tools (Shortcut Key U): The Shapes tool set can easily be used to create and manipulate simple geometric vector shapes and lines as well as custom vector shapes.

3D Objects Tool (Photoshop Extended Only – Shortcut Key K): The 3D objects tool set will allow you to create and manipulate 3D objects within photoshop. This tool set is only available to Photoshop Extended Versions.

3D Camera Tool (Photoshop Extended Only – Shortcut Key N): The 3D camera tool set will allow you to manipulate camera views, this tool can also be used in conjunction with the 3D objects tool. This tool set is only available to Photoshop Extended Versions.

Hand and Rotate Tools (Shortcut Keys H and R): Using the Hand tool, you can grab onto the image and pan by dragging the mouse. This is available only when you are zoomed in on the image, but it’s very useful for navigating around your image. Alternatively you can hold down the spacebar key on your keyboard which will have the same effect. The Rotate View tool allows you to rotate the canvas in the document window by dragging with the mouse. If you hold down the Shift key while rotating the canvas, the rotation occurs in 15-degree increments. Rotating the canvas can be useful if you need to align elements.

Zoom Tool (Shortcut Key Z): The zoom tools is simply used for zooming in onto areas on your document, the zoom tool zooms in at 100 percent in segments allowing you to zoom in up 3200%. You can also zoom using photoshops preset options which are Actual Pixels, Print Size and screen size.

Background and Foreground (Shortcut Key NONE): The background and foreground color swatches indicate your current selected background and foreground colors. Clicking one of the swatches will allow you to pick a new color.

Default Background and Foreground Colors (Shortcut Key D): The default background and foreground color button will reset your color pallet back to its original colors. The original colors are foreground black and white for background.

Switch Background and Foreground Colors (Shortcut Key X): The switch button allows you to switch between your background and foreground colors.

Edit In Quick Mask Mode (Shortcut Key Q): This toggles between Normal and Quick Mask mode. The Edit in Quick Mask mode option allows you to tweak selections using the brush tool to
paint the exact shape.

Compact Menu (Shortcut Key NONE): This button will transform your tool bar into a more compact version, ideal for smaller monitors.


Thanks for checking out this article for beginners on getting to know the main tool bar, hopefully you should now know your way around each of the tools in the tool bar, obviously using the tools properly is another article in itself which we hope to be diving into soon. Look out for more beginner tutorials in the coming weeks.