The toolbar, an introduction – Learning Photoshop

The toolbar is by default located on the left side of your photoshop window. It contains a vast variety of tools and most of them have a lot of different settings for you to be able to adapt them to your specific need at the time. In future posts, we will go through how to use and modify all the different tools. Today we will start introducing the toolbar, how it’s constructed and what you can do with it.

Moving the Toolbar
Image 1

Moving the toolbar

The toolbar is its own tab and can be moved around on your screen and placed anywhere. You grab hold at the top of the bar (Image 1. No. 1.) and place it where it fits you. To return it to its default position pull it to the very left of the photoshop window until you see a blue line appear. You can now release and the toolbar snaps back in place. 

It’s also possible to extend it to two columns by pressing the two arrows at the upper left corner of the toolbar. (Image 1 No. 2.) Click again to return it to one column.

Finding the toolbar if it has disappeared

If you can’t see the toolbar in your photoshop window you might have closed that tab. You can open it again from the menu. It is quite far down in this list. The tools tab should appear and you can place it back where you want it. Go to:

Window (in the top bar) – tools

Reset workspace

If there is already a checkmark beside the tools in your window it means the tab is already open. If you still can not find the toolbar you can reset your entire photoshop window. This will return everything, including the toolbar, back to its default position. You do this by going to: 

Windows – workspace – reset essentials (Image 2)

You can see your current workspace by the checkmark beside it, “essentials” being the default. All workspaces have different tabs open customizing them for different needs. Using the “essential workspace” will allow us to reset that specific workspace. All windows will then be reset to their default positions and you will find the toolbar to the very left again. 

Reseting the toolbar
Image 2

Toolbar layout – locating the tools in the toolbar

To make it more compact the tools are all divided into different groups, with similar tools sharing a group. All marquee tools are grouped for example. This means that there are a lot more tools hidden within the toolbar than displayed. You can see that many of the tools have a small arrow at the bottom right corner, showing you that this is a group. (Image 3) To enter a group click and hold on to a tool with the small arrow underneath. A popup will appear next to the toolbar with the rest of the tools in that group. (Image 4) You can then let go of the mouse and choose another tool to work with from this group. This new tool will now be displayed in the toolbar until you enter the group again and choose another tool. If there is a tool you can not find it is probably hiding in one of the many groups. 

The groups in the toolbar
Image 3
Access group in the toolbar
Image 4

The different elements of the toolbar

The main section of the toolbar is the tools but at the bottom of it, you can see some special tools.

Colors (Image 5 No. 1)

First, we have the two colored squares. The top square is the foreground color while the bottom square is the background color. The foreground is your main color and will, for example, be the color that appears when you draw with the brush tool. You can click on the individual squares to change their color.

Displaying the extra tools
Image 5

– By clicking the arrow symbol above you can switch the color between the foreground and the background color. (Image 5 No. 1.1)

– The black and white squares will reset your colors to black and white. (Image 5 No. 1.2)

Quick mask (Image 5 No. 2)

Underneath the colors we find a button to toggle on and off quick mask mode. This mode can be used to see what part of your canvas is selected. If you make a selection and toggle on the quick mask mode you will see that everything that is not selected has a red tint.

Screen mode (Image 5 No. 3)

The last button in the toolbar is where you can change the screen mode. There are three different modes. You can either click to toggle between the modes or click and hold to get the popup menu and then select what mode you want to use. The full-screen mode will remove all windows if you want to view your images without any distractions. To exit the full-screen mode press ECS.

Customize the toolbar

Just above the special tools, there is a button with three dots. (Image 5 No. 4) This is where you can customize the toolbar. Again click and hold this button until the popup ”edit toolbar” appears and select it. The customize toolbar window will now appear. You may also go through the menu to get to the same window. Go to:

Edit (in the top bar)- Toolbar

In this window, you can customize your toolbar however you’d like. The left side called ”Toolbar” shows you how your toolbar is currently set up. (Image 6 No. 1) The light gray boxes within this area show you how the tools are grouped. (Image 6 No. 2) If you can not find where a specific tool is located you can always go here and see the structure of the toolbar and the different groups. 

Move tools

You can move either a specific tool or an entire group by simply clicking, dragging, and releasing where you want to place it. The tool that you are moving will get a blue outline while a blue line will appear to show you where you are placing the tool. To move a whole group to another place, grab hold on the out edges of the light gray box and you will see a blue outline of the entire group. Then click and draw the group to place it where you want in your toolbar. 

To place a tool on its own make sure the blue line is outside the light gray area. If you like to group tools you place the blue line within the light gray area, almost on top of another tool.

Remove tools

To remove tools from the toolbar you can grab and drag them to the right into the box called ”extra tools”. (Image 6 No. 3) You will see live that the tool will disappear from the toolbar. 

The ”clear tools” button to the right will remove all tools from the toolbar by moving them all to ”extra tools”. As always you may move back whatever tools you want to use to the ”toolbar” section or simply leave it blank. 

At the bottom of the page, you can turn on and off the special tool from the toolbar. (Image 6 No. 4)

Saving the toolbar

When you have organized your toolbar to fit your needs you can press ”done” at the top right. This will save your toolbar, however, if you reset or reinstall photoshop the toolbar will go back to its default. To make sure you don’t lose your setup you can save a copy to your desktop, press ”save preset”. If the toolbar would ever reset you can bring it back. Choose ”load preset”, find the save on your desktop and upload it again. 

Resetting the toolbar to its default

To reset the toolbar to photoshops default you simply press ”Restore default”. All tools will have their original groups and placement. If you do not want to make any other changes simply press done. 

Customize toolbar window
Image 6

Hotkeys/ Shortcuts

In the “customize toolbar” window you will also see all the shortcuts for the different tools to the right of their names. You’ll notice that many of the tools that are grouped have the same shortcut. This means only the tool that is currently visible in the toolbar will be connected to that shortcut. If the tool is not visible you have to select it manually by entering the group. 

Change the shortcuts

To change the shortcut you click on the letter of the shortcut. (Image 6 No. 5) The letter will turn blue and you can change it. If a tool does not have a shortcut and you would like to add one you can click in the same area where the other tools display their shortcuts. The blue area will appear and you can enter a shortcut. You may only have the same shortcut for tools within the same group. However, you may change them so that the tools in the same group have different shortcuts. 

Option bar. 

The option bar is located at the top of your photoshop window. (Image 7)This bar is where you modify and control your tools. Because all the tools have different settings this area changes depending on what tool you have selected. Many of the tools are very diverse, having lots of different settings, some even their own widows with further settings. 

The option bar
Image 7

That’s all for today. Please leave any questions, comments, or feedback below. Next, we’ll start going through the individual tools, starting with the most common ones. 

See you then! 

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