Photoshop Tutorials: The Little Things to Improve your Designs

Objective & Purpose:  Following are short tutorials on techniques that you can use to enhance your documents. My aim is to only include those that can take 10 minutes or less.


Tutorial#      ||    2    ||   3    ||   4    ||   5    ||    6    ||   || 8 More to come


#1 Tricks with Custom Shapes:

Using your imagination, you can do lots of enhancements with the Photoshop's custom vector shapes.

  1. Choose Custom Shape tool.
  2. From the options menu, Choose Ornaments. Then choose Floral Ornament 3
  3. Draw the shape.
little shape
  1. Duplicate the Layer (LAYER/Duplicate Layer)
  2. Flip one layer (EDIT/Transform/Flip Horizontally
  3. Choose the Move tool. Then nudge (with keyboard arrow) until satisfied with look.
little shape
Combined for a more
interesting shape

#2 Got Shadows?

Here is an example of how you can simply duplicate a frame in order to add visual interest to it. Although I used a banner, you can use this technique on any number of shapes.

  1. Little shadowUsing almost the same instructions from the above tutorial, draw a banner or shape.
  2. Duplicate the Layer (LAYER/Duplicate Layer)
  3. Choose the Move tool. Then nudge (with keyboard arrow) until satisfied with the shadow you've created
  4. Then for an even better 3-D look, add a shadow on your lower layer:
    • LAYER/Layer Styles.
    • Drop Shadow For a more subtle appearance, I used the setting:
      Angle 130, Distance 3, Size 3


#3 Don't Crop that Background

This one is more of a tip than a tutorial. Often we have large backgrounds that we want to keep in the design, but not want it to dominate or take up too much space. In the example below, notice how a semi-transparent rectangle is used in order to cover, but not conceal the water. The beauty of the Ravenel Bridge is still visible! I also used a hard black shadow behind the words to make them pop.

keep background
Click for larger image

#4 Get Warped

Using similar techniques from #2 above, you will create an interesting frame by skewing the rectangle and overlapping the text.


  1. Using almost the same instructions from the above tutorial, draw a rectangle by using the Rectangle Tool.
  2. Skew the the bottom sides of the rectangle by choosing EDIT/Transform/Skew.
  3. Duplicate the Layer by choosing LAYER/Duplicate Layer. (or pressing Ctrl-J)
  4. Choose the Move tool. Then nudge (with keyboard arrow) until satisfied with the shadow you've created
  5. Of course, change your foreground color Then fill back rectangle by pressing ALT-BKS.
  6. Type text as desired. Overlapping the top line was just my idea of prettifying it.
  7. Note that the word “attention” is rotated to match the slope of the bottom of the rectangle. (Click EDIT/Transform/Rotate)



#5 Don't Default on that Shadow!

Fuzzy shadows are not the only way to go. Consider customizing the setting of the shadow. In this simple exercise, by using 180 degree and a hard shadow, the words seem to be lifted off of the page.



  1. Create a new file or open an existing one.
    (The grunge background is NOT a part of this tutorial)
    (In case you're wondering, the "&" is typed in a separate textbox.)
  2. Change the font as desired.
  3. Choose LAYER/Style/Dropshadow.
    • Change the Opacity to 100 for a hard shadow.
    • Change the setting to 180 degree angle, Spread of 0, Size of 0.
    • Change the Distance to whatever you want. dialog box



#6 Stand Out Quickly: Vignette Spotlight

There are a number of ways to create a vignette. This one is quick, and allows you to apply a kind of spotlight to make your subject stand out. See before and after below. This is only a subtle spotlight, but once you isolate the layers, you can apply other filters to the layer if you want to spotlight your subject even more.



    1. Open a photo. 
    2. Choose the Elliptical Marquee tool; then drag around the area you wish to keep.
    3. MODIFY/Feather. Type a larger number between 2-50.
    4. SELECT/Inverse
    5. Press Ctrl-J to duplicate the layer.
      On the Layer's palette, notice that the new layer is void of your cut-out selection.
    6. On the top layer, choose Multiply from the Layer’s palette.
      This will darken this layer, allowing your subject to be highlighted

#7 Two Little Things:

In this exercise, you will learn how to select a sphere and how to make a flat image look more realistic with an inner shadow.

golf ball

  1. Find a flat or cartoony image of ball or sphere. Paste it against some kind of background.
  2. Select it in order to isolate:
    • With the Ellipse tool, start dragging from approximate center....
    • While dragging, hold down both ALT & SHIFT
      (ALT is for center; SHIFT is to keep perfect circle)
    • If your selection needs re-sizing, choose SELECT/Modify/Expand
  3. To isolate, do one of these:
    - SELECT/Inverse. Then Delete.
    - LAYER/Layer Mask/Reveal Selection
  4. To apply the shadow:
    - LAYER/Layer Style. Choose Inner Shadow.
    - Then alter the Distance, Size, and Angle to get the right look.

#8 Loving the Clips

I’m just in love with Clipping Masks, that’s all. So here’s another 5-minute design.
You can see from the Layers palette screenshot how this is done.  In case you need a little help, here are the steps.

clipping flower layer clipping mask
  1. New file
  2. Draw rectangle with Round Rectangle Tool (Shape Layer option)
  3. Draw the small orange rectangle with Rectangle Tool
  4. Stay on “orange rectangle”. On Layer Palette, choose Clipping Mask
  5. Change its color (ALT-BACKSPACE)
  6. Paste a picture.  Make sure to have the round Rectangle layer selected.
    Your pasted picture is still clipped because you were between the clipped layers.
  7. Resize pasted picture as needed.
  8. Embellish as desired, for instance:
    -reduce opacity of "small orange rectangle"
    -type text on it; drop shadow the text so that it pops better
    -place a gradient Stroke around the round rectangle




MORE little ones to come...