Written by Steve Patterson. In this tutorial, we'll learn how to open images in Photoshop CC. Adobe Photoshop may be the world's most powerful image editor, but before we can do anything with our photos, we first need to know how to get them into Photoshop. Opening images may sound like a no-brainer, but when you're dealing with a program as massive as Photoshop, even a simple task, like how to open an image, can be less obvious than you'd expect.
In a previous tutorial, we learned how to create new documents using the redesigned New Document dialog box in Photoshop CC 2017. Here, we'll be learning how to open existing images. The difference between creating a new document and opening an image is that when we create a new document in Photoshop, we essentially create a blank canvas. We can then add or import images, graphics, type and other design assets into the document, but other than a simple background, new documents begin their life completely empty.
New blank documents are ideal for things like designing print and web layouts, compositing multiple images, and digital painting. You can learn all about creating new documents in our How To Create New Documents In Photoshop CC tutorial.
If you're a photographer, rather than creating a blank document, you'll most likely want to start by opening an existing image into Photoshop, and that's what we'll be covering in this tutorial. We'll learn how to open images using a few different methods; one that's new to Photoshop CC and a couple that have been around forever. We'll also look at the important difference between opening a standard JPEG image and opening a photo that was captured in the raw file format.
To get the most from this tutorial, you'll want to be using Photoshop CC, and you'll want to make sure that your copy of Photoshop CC is up to date. And with that, let's get started!
Opening Images From The Start Screen
When we launch Photoshop CC, the first thing we see is the Start screen, also known as the Start workspace. If you've already opened one or more images, they'll appear as thumbnails in the Recent Files area in the center of the screen:
If this is the first time you've launched Photoshop CC, or you've cleared your Recent Files history, you won't see any thumbnails. Instead, the Start screen will appear in its initial state, with instructions in the center explaining how to get started:
To open an image from the Start screen, click the Open... button in the menu area along the left:
This will open a File Explorer window on a Windows PC, or a Finder window on a Mac (which is what I'm using here). Navigate to the file location on your computer where your image is stored. In my case, my images are in a folder on my Desktop. Once you've located your image, double-click on it to select it:
The image will open in Photoshop, ready for editing:
To close the image, go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen and choose Close:
Re-Opening A Recent File
This returns us to Photoshop's Start screen where we find a thumbnail of the image we just opened in the Recent Files area in the center. If we need to re-open the image for further editing, all we need to do is click on the thumbnail:
The image instantly re-opens in Photoshop:
Opening An Image From The File Menu
I'll leave my image open this time and I'll open a second image. With my first image still open, I don't have access to Photoshop's Start screen, but that's okay because another way to open an image in Photoshop is by going up to the File menu at the top of the screen and choosing Open. This is also how you can open images if you have the Start screen disabled:
This re-opens my Finder window on a Mac (File Explorer on a Windows PC). I'll select a second image to open by double-clicking on it:
And just like the first one, the second image opens in Photoshop:
Opening An Image From The Keyboard
We've seen that we can open images in Photoshop either by clicking the Open... button on the Start screen or by choosing the Open command under the File menu. We can also open images directly from the keyboard. Just press Ctrl+O (Win) / Command+O (Mac). This will once again re-open my Finder window (File Explorer on a Windows PC) where I can choose a third image to open by double-clicking on it:
And here, we see my third image open in Photoshop:
Switching Between Multiple Open Images
I now have three images open. Photoshop places each new image in its own separate tabbed document. They're called tabbed documents because each document has its own tab along the top. Each tab shows the name of the image along with other information. To switch between your open images, simply click the tab of the image you want to view.
For example, I'm currently viewing my "old car.jpg" image. To switch to the first image I opened ("flower.jpg"), all I need to do is click on its tab:
This hides the "old car.jpg" photo and returns me to the previous "flower.jpg" image:
Closing Tabbed Documents
To close an image without closing any other photos you've opened, first select the image you want to close by clicking its tab. Then, go up to the File menu and choose Close. Or, a faster way is by clicking the small "x" icon in the tab itself. On a Windows PC, the "x" is found on the right side of the tab. On a Mac, it's found on the left side:
To close all open images at once, rather than closing individual tabs, go up to the File menu and choose Close All:
With all of your images now closed, you'll be returned once again to Photoshop's Start screen. Here, we see all three photos now appearing as thumbnails in my Recent Files area:
Opening Raw Files
So far, all of the images I've opened in Photoshop have been JPEG files. We know they were JPEG files because each one had a ".jpg" file extension at the end of its name.
I'll press Ctrl+O (Win) / Command+O (Mac) on my keyboard to quickly re-open my Finder window (File Explorer on a Windows PC), then I'll double-click on a fourth image to open it. Notice, though, that this image I'm about to open has a different file extension, ".dng". DNG stands for Digital Negative, Adobe's version of the raw file format:
Each camera manufacturer has its own version of the raw format, each with its own unique extension. Canon raw files, for example, typically have a ".cr2" extension. Nikon uses ".nef", while Fuji uses ".raf". And as we've seen, Adobe also has its own raw format with a ".dng" extension. Raw files are beyond the scope of this tutorial, but you can learn more about them in our Raw vs JPEG For Photo Editing tutorial.
When we open JPEG files, they open directly into Photoshop. Yet when we open a raw file, something different happens. Rather than going straight to Photoshop, images that were captured as raw files open first in Adobe Camera Raw. Camera Raw is a separate plug-in included with Photoshop that launches automatically whenever we open a raw file. It's often thought of as a digital darkroom because we use it to develop the raw image (correcting exposure and color, adding some initial sharpening, and much more) before sending it off to Photoshop:
Camera Raw is a whole other topic that we'll be covering in detail in other tutorials. For now, if your image opened in Camera Raw, simply click the Open Image button at the bottom of the dialog box:
This closes Camera Raw and opens the image in Photoshop:
I'll close the photo by going up to the File menu and choosing Close:
This once again returns me to Photoshop's Start screen where all four of my images now appear as thumbnails in the Recent Files area:
And there we have it! That's how to open images using the Open... button on the Start screen, the Open command under the File menu, and using the handy keyboard shortcut, as well as how to re-open images from the Recent Files area of the Start screen, in the latest version Photoshop CC!
In this tutorial, we learned how to open images with Photoshop already running. But you can also set Photoshop as your operating system's default image editor so that Photoshop launches automatically any time you open an image from your computer. If you're a PC user, check out our Make Photoshop Your Default Image Editor In Windows 10 tutorial. If you're a Mac user, check out Make Photoshop Your Default Image Editor In Mac OS X.