Photoshop tools and toolbar tutorial

Photoshop Tools And Toolbar Overview

Learn all about Photoshop's tools and the Toolbar. You'll learn how the tools are organized in the Toolbar and how to access Photoshop's many hidden tools. This tutorial also includes a complete summary of all 66 Photoshop tools that you can use as a reference.

Written by Steve Patterson.

In the first tutorial in this series on Photoshop's Interface, we took a general tour of the interface and its main features. In this tutorial, we'll learn more about the tools and the Toolbar in Photoshop. The Toolbar (also known as the Toolbox or the Tools panel) is where Photoshop holds the many tools we have to work with. There are tools for making selections, for cropping an image, for editing and retouching, and many more.

We’ll begin this tutorial with a look at the Toolbar, how it’s organized, and how to access all of Photoshop’s tools that are hidden within it. Then, we’ll look more closely at the tools themselves, with a summary of what each of Photoshop’s tools is used for. I’ll be using Photoshop CC but this tutorial is also compatible with Photoshop CS6. Let’s get started!

The Photoshop Toolbar

As we learned in the previous Getting To Know The Photoshop Interface tutorial, Photoshop's Toolbar is located along the left of the screen:

The Photoshop Toolbar and tools.
The Toolbar in Photoshop.

Single Or Double Column Toolbar

By default, the Toolbar appears as a long, single column. It can be expanded into a shorter, double column by clicking the double arrows icon at the top. Click the same icon again to return the Toolbar to a single column:

The Photoshop toolbar in a double column layout.
The Toolbar can be viewed as a single or double column.

The Tools Layout

Let's look at how the Toolbar in Photoshop is organized. While it may seem like the tools are listed randomly, there's actually a logical order to it, with related tools grouped together. At the top, we have Photoshop's Move and Selection tools. Directly below them are the Crop and Slice tools. Below that are the Measurement tools, followed by Photoshop's many Retouching and Painting tools. Next are the Drawing and Type tools. And finally, near the bottom of the Toolbar, we find Photoshop's Navigation tools:

The Tools layout in the Photoshop Toolbar.
The tools layout in the Toolbar.

The Hidden Tools

Each tool in the Toolbar is represented by an icon, and there are many more tools available than what we see. A small arrow in the bottom right corner of a tool's icon means that there are additional tools hiding behind it in that same spot:

The arrow in the Toolbar indicating that other tools are available.
Most of the spots in the Toolbar contain more than one tool.

To view and access the additional tools, click and hold on the icon. Or, right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) on the icon. Either way displays a fly-out menu showing the other tools that are available. For example, if I click and hold on the Rectangular Marquee Tool's icon, the fly-out menu tells me that along with that tool, the Elliptical Marquee Tool, the Single Row Marquee Tool and the Single Column Marquee Tool are also nested in with it. To choose one of the additional tools, select it from the list. I'll choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool. We'll see why in a moment:

Choosing a hidden tool in the Photoshop Toolbar.
Choosing a hidden tool from the fly-out menu.

The Default Tool

The tool that's initially displayed in each spot in the Toolbar is known as the default tool. The Rectangular Marquee Tool is the default tool for the spot we're looking at here (second from the top). However, Photoshop won't always display the default tool. Instead, it will display the last tool that was selected. Notice that, after choosing the Elliptical Marquee Tool from the fly-out menu, the Rectangular Marquee Tool is no longer displayed in the Toolbar. The Elliptical Marquee Tool has taken its place:

The Elliptical Marquee Tool is now the visible tool in the Toolbar.
Each spot in the Toolbar displays either the default tool or the last tool selected.

To select the Rectangular Marquee Tool at this point, I would need to either click and hold, or right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac), on the Elliptical Marquee Tool's icon. Then, I could select the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the menu:

Selecting the default tool from behind the previously selected tool in the Photoshop Toolbar.
Selecting the Rectangular Marquee Tool from behind the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

Photoshop Tools Summary

Now that we've learned how Photoshop's Toolbar is organized and how to access all of the tools within it, let's look at the tools themselves. Here's a quick summary of each tool you'll find in the Toolbar, along with a brief description of what each tool is used for. Specific tools will be covered in more detail in other lessons. I've listed the tools in the order they're displayed in the Toolbar, beginning with the Move and Selection tools at the top.

An asterisk (*) after a tool's name indicates a default tool. The letter in parenthesis is the tool's keyboard shortcut. To cycle through tools with the same keyboard shortcut, press and hold Shift as you press the letter. Note that if you're using Photoshop CS6, some tools are only available in the CS6 Extended version. All tools are available in Photoshop CC.

  • Move And Selection Tools
    • Photoshop Move Tool.
    • Move Tool * ( V )
    • The Move Tool is used to move layers, selections and guides within a Photoshop document. Enable "Auto-Select" to automatically select the layer or group you click on.
    • Photoshop Artboard Tool.
    • Artboard Tool ( V )
    • The Artboard Tool (new in Photoshop CC) allows you to easily design multiple web or UX (user experience) layouts for different devices or screen sizes.
    • Photoshop Rectangular Marquee Tool.
    • Rectangular Marquee Tool * ( M )
    • The Rectangular Marquee Tool draws rectangular selection outlines. Press and hold Shift as you drag to draw a square selection.
    • Photoshop Elliptical Marquee Tool.
    • Elliptical Marquee Tool ( M )
    • The Elliptical Marquee Tool draws elliptical selection outlines. Press and hold Shift to draw a selection in a perfect circle.
    • Photoshop Single Row Marquee Tool.
    • Single Row Marquee Tool
    • The Single Row Marquee Tool in Photoshop selects a single row of pixels in the image from left to right.
    • Photoshop Single Row Marquee Tool.
    • Single Column Marquee Tool
    • Use the Single Column Marquee Tool to select a single column of pixels from top to bottom.
    • Photoshop Lasso Tool.
    • Lasso Tool * ( L )
    • With the Lasso Tool, you can draw a freeform selection outline around an object.
    • Photoshop Polygonal Lasso Tool.
    • Polygonal Lasso Tool ( L )
    • Click around an object with the Polygonal Lasso Tool to surround it with a polygonal, straight-edged selection outline.
    • Photoshop Magnetic Lasso Tool.
    • Magnetic Lasso Tool ( L )
    • The Magnetic Lasso Tool snaps the selection outline to the edges of the object as you move your mouse cursor around it.
    • Photoshop Quick Selection Tool.
    • Quick Selection Tool * ( W )
    • The Quick Selection Tool lets you easily select an object simply by painting over it with a brush. Enable "Auto-Enhance" in the Options Bar for better quality selections.
    • Photoshop Magic Wand Tool.
    • Magic Wand Tool ( W )
    • Photoshop's Magic Wand Tool selects areas of similar color with a single click. The "Tolerance" value in the Options Bar sets the range of colors that will be selected.
  • Crop And Slice Tools
    • Photoshop Perspective Crop Tool.
    • Perspective Crop Tool ( C )
    • Use the Perspective Crop Tool to both crop an image and fix common distortion or perspective problems.
    • Photoshop Slice Tool.
    • Slice Tool ( C )
    • The Slice Tool divides an image or layout into smaller sections (slices) which can be exported and optimized separately.
    • Photoshop Slice Select Tool.
    • Slice Select Tool ( C )
    • Use the Slice Select Tool to select individual slices created with the Slice Tool.
  • Measurement Tools
    • Photoshop Eyedropper Tool.
    • Eyedropper Tool * ( I )
    • Photoshop's Eyedropper Tool samples colors in an image. Increase "Sample Size" in the Options Bar for a better representation of the sampled area's color.
    • Photoshop 3D Material Eyedropper Tool.
    • 3D Material Eyedropper Tool ( I )
    • Use the 3D Material Eyedropper Tool to sample material from a 3D model in Photoshop.
    • Photoshop Color Sampler Tool.
    • Color Sampler Tool ( I )
    • The Color Sampler Tool displays color values for the selected (sampled) area in an image. Up to four areas can be sampled at a time. View the color information in Photoshop's Info panel.
    • Photoshop Ruler Tool.
    • Ruler Tool ( I )
    • The Ruler Tool measures distances, locations and angles. Great for positioning images and elements exactly where you want them.
    • Photoshop Note Tool.
    • Note Tool ( I )
    • The Note Tool allows you to attach text-based notes to your Photoshop document, either for yourself or for others working on the same project. Notes are saved as part of the .PSD file.
    • Photoshop Count Tool.
    • Count Tool ( I )
    • Use the Count Tool to manually count the number of objects in an image, or to have Photoshop automatically count multiple selected areas in the image.
  • Retouching And Painting Tools
    • Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool.
    • Spot Healing Brush Tool * ( J )
    • The Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop quickly removes blemishes and other minor problem areas in an image. Use a brush size slightly larger than the blemish for best results.
    • Photoshop Healing Brush Tool.
    • Healing Brush Tool ( J )
    • The Healing Brush lets you repair larger problem areas in an image by painting over them. Hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and click to sample good texture, then paint over the problem area to repair it.
    • Photoshop Patch Tool.
    • Patch Tool ( J )
    • With the Patch Tool, draw a freeform selection outline around a problem area. Then repair it by dragging the selection outline over an area of good texture.
    • Photoshop Content-Aware Move Tool.
    • Content-Aware Move Tool ( J )
    • Use the Content-Aware Move Tool to select and move part of an image to a different area. Photoshop automatically fills in the hole in the original spot using elements from the surrounding areas.
    • Photoshop Red Eye Tool.
    • Red Eye Tool ( J )
    • The Red Eye Tool removes common red eye problems in a photo resulting from camera flash.
    • Photoshop Brush Tool.
    • Brush Tool * ( B )
    • The Brush Tool is Photoshop's primary painting tool. Use it to paint brush strokes on a layer or on a layer mask.
    • Photoshop Brush Tool.
    • Pencil Tool ( B )
    • The Pencil Tool is another of Photoshop's painting tools. But while the Brush Tool can paint soft-edge brush strokes, the Pencil Tool always paints with hard edges.
    • Photoshop Color Replacement Tool.
    • Color Replacement Tool ( B )
    • Use the Color Replacement Tool in Photoshop to easily replace the color of an object with a different color.
    • Photoshop Mixer Brush Tool.
    • Mixer Brush Tool ( B )
    • Unlike the standard Brush Tool, the Mixer Brush in Photoshop can simulate elements of real painting such as mixing and combining colors, and paint wetness.
    • Photoshop Clone Stamp Tool.
    • Clone Stamp Tool * ( S )
    • The Clone Stamp Tool is the most basic of Photoshop's retouching tools. It samples pixels from one area of the image and paints them over pixels in another area.
    • Photoshop Pattern Stamp Tool.
    • Pattern Stamp Tool ( S )
    • Use the Pattern Stamp Tool to paint a pattern over the image.
    • Photoshop History Brush Tool.
    • History Brush Tool * ( Y )
    • The History Brush Tool paints a snapshot from an earlier step (history state) into the current version of the image. Choose the previous state from the History panel.
    • Photoshop Art History Brush Tool.
    • Art History Brush Tool ( Y )
    • The Art History Brush also paints a snapshot from an earlier history state into the image, but does so using stylized brush strokes.
    • Photoshop Eraser Tool.
    • Eraser Tool * ( E )
    • The Eraser Tool in Photoshop permanently erases pixels on a layer. It can also be used to paint in a previous history state.
    • Photoshop Background Eraser Tool.
    • Background Eraser Tool ( E )
    • The Background Eraser Tool erases areas of similar color in an image by painting over them.
    • Photoshop Magic Eraser Tool.
    • Magic Eraser Tool ( E )
    • The Magic Eraser Tool is similar to the Magic Wand Tool in that it selects areas of similar color with a single click. But the Magic Eraser Tool then permanently deletes those areas.
    • Photoshop Gradient Tool.
    • Gradient Tool * ( G )
    • Photoshop's Gradient Tool draws gradual blends between multiple colors. The Gradient Editor lets you create and customize your own gradients.
    • Photoshop Paint Bucket Tool.
    • Paint Bucket Tool ( G )
    • The Paint Bucket Tool fills an area of similar color with your Foreground color or a pattern. The "Tolerance" value determines the range of colors that will be affected around the area where you clicked.
    • Photoshop 3D Material Drop Tool.
    • 3D Material Drop Tool ( G )
    • Used in 3D modeling, the 3D Material Drop Tool lets you sample a material from one area and then drop it into another area of your model, mesh or 3D layer.
    • Photoshop Blur Tool.
    • Blur Tool *
    • The Blur Tool blurs and softens areas you paint over with the tool.
    • Photoshop Sharpen Tool.
    • Sharpen Tool
    • The Sharpen Tool sharpens areas you paint over.
    • Photoshop Smudge Tool.
    • Smudge Tool
    • The Smudge Tool in Photoshop smudges and smears the areas you paint over. It can also be used to create a finger painting effect.
    • Photoshop Dodge Tool.
    • Dodge Tool * ( O )
    • Paint over areas in the image with the Dodge Tool to lighten them.
    • Photoshop Dodge Tool.
    • Burn Tool ( O )
    • The Burn Tool will darken the areas you paint over.
    • Photoshop Sponge Tool.
    • Sponge Tool ( O )
    • Paint over areas with the Sponge Tool to increase or decrease color saturation.
  • Drawing And Type Tools
    • Photoshop Pen Tool.
    • Pen Tool * ( P )
    • Photoshop's Pen Tool allows you to draw extremely precise paths, vector shapes or selections.
    • Photoshop Freeform Pen Tool.
    • Freeform Pen Tool ( P )
    • The Freeform Pen Tool allows you to draw freehand paths or shapes. Anchor points are automatically added to the path as you draw.
    • Photoshop Add Anchor Point Tool.
    • Add Anchor Point Tool
    • Use the Add Anchor Point Tool to add additional anchor points along a path.
    • Photoshop Add Anchor Point Tool.
    • Delete Anchor Point Tool
    • Click on an existing anchor point along a path with the Delete Anchor Point Tool to remove the point.
    • Photoshop Convert Point Tool.
    • Convert Point Tool
    • On a path, click on a smooth anchor point with the Convert Point Tool to convert it to a corner point. Click a corner point to convert it to a smooth point.
    • Photoshop Horizontal Type Tool.
    • Horizontal Type Tool * ( T )
    • Known simply as the Type Tool in Photoshop, use the Horizontal Type Tool to add standard type to your document.
    • Photoshop Vertical Type Tool.
    • Vertical Type Tool ( T )
    • The Vertical Type Tool adds type vertically from top to bottom.
    • Photoshop Vertical Mask Type Tool.
    • Vertical Type Mask Tool ( T )
    • Rather than adding editable text to your document, the Vertical Type Mask Tool creates a selection outline in the shape of vertical type.
    • Photoshop Horizontal Mask Type Tool.
    • Horizontal Type Mask Tool ( T )
    • Like the Vertical Mask Type Tool, the Horizontal Type Mask Tool creates a selection outline in the shape of type. However, the type is added horizontally rather than vertically.
    • Photoshop Horizontal Mask Type Tool.
    • Path Selection Tool * ( A )
    • Use the Path Selection Tool (the black arrow) in Photoshop to select and move an entire path at once.
    • Photoshop Horizontal Mask Type Tool.
    • Direct Selection Tool ( A )
    • Use the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow) to select and move an individual path segment, anchor point or direction handle.
    • Photoshop Rectangle Tool.
    • Rectangle Tool * ( U )
    • The Rectangle Tool draws rectangular vector shapes, paths or pixel shapes. Press and hold Shift as you drag to force the shape into a perfect square.
    • Photoshop Rounded Rectangle Tool.
    • Rounded Rectangle Tool ( U )
    • The Rounded Rectangle Tool is similar to the standard Rectangle Tool but draws the shapes with rounded corners. Press and hold Shift to draw a square with rounded corners.
    • Photoshop Ellipse Tool.
    • Ellipse Tool ( U )
    • The Ellipse Tool draws elliptical vector shapes, paths or pixel shapes. Press and hold Shift as you drag to draw a perfect circle.
    • Photoshop Polygon Tool.
    • Polygon Tool ( U )
    • The Polygon Tool draws polygonal, straight-edged vector shapes, paths or pixel shapes. Use the "Sides" option in the Options Bar to set the number of sides.
    • Photoshop Line Tool.
    • Line Tool ( U )
    • The Line Tool draws straight lines, either as shapes or paths. The "Weight" option in the Options Bar controls the width of the line.
    • Photoshop Custom Shape Tool.
    • Custom Shape Tool ( U )
    • Photoshop's Custom Shape Tool lets you select and draw custom shapes. Choose from Photoshop's built-in custom shapes or create your own.
  • Navigation Tools
    • Photoshop Hand Tool.
    • Hand Tool * ( H )
    • The Hand Tool lets us click and drag an image around on the screen to view different areas when zoomed in.
    • Photoshop Rotate View Tool.
    • Rotate View Tool ( R )
    • Use the Rotate View Tool in Photoshop to rotate the canvas so you can view and edit the image from different angles.
    • Photoshop Zoom Tool.
    • Zoom Tool * ( Z )
    • Click on the image with the Zoom Tool to zoom in on a specific area. Press and hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and click with the Zoom Tool to zoom out.

Where to go next...

And there we have it! Now that we know more about Photoshop's Toolbar and its many tools, in the next tutorial in this series, we'll learn how to reset Photoshop's Toolbar back to its original, default layout. Visit our Photoshop Basics section to learn more about the basics of Photoshop!