5 Common Photoshop Mistakes!

We all make mistakes in Photoshop! Here are five common mistakes people make and how to correct them. If you are a Photoshop user, these things are important to remember next time something isn’t working right in Photoshop!

1. A Sneaky Selection

Often if you are working in Photoshop and are trying to apply an effect on a particular area, or clone in a particular area, and nothing is happening – the first stop should be your Select menu. If “Deselect” is an option that is available, that means you have a stray bit of marching ants somewhere in your image and whatever effect you are attempting is ONLY wanting to be applied to that selection. Simply hit Select > Deselect (Command-D Mac / Control-D PC) to deselect that bit and carry on.

2. What channel / layer are you on?

Another common mistake is that you have been doing some work with your Channels and you forgot to click back on the composite RGB channel. If things are looking strange, or you are trying to do something and you’ve already run through Select > Deselect and you are still experiencing something odd – check out the Channels palette and make sure that you have RGB selected and not a singular channel. And while you are at it, look at your Layers palette. If you are on the wrong layer, that would also explain it.

3. Zoom in, dude!

If you are working on a smaller laptop screen, and you are doing any retouching clone work – you should be zooming in to 100% and critically looking at your work. If you are not zoomed in, your work will be sloppy and your client will be able to see your Photoshop work, which negates the point of retouching entirely.

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4. Raise the opacity

Another common oversight when working with Photoshop is becoming cognizant of the Opacity option. It is available on your Tools like Paintbrush and Burn/Dodge – but it is also available to each layer specifically. So if you are cloning or painting and nothing is happening, perhaps your opacity is too low.

5. You might be blending!

Strange things can happen if you have a blending mode enabled without meaning to. Much like Opacity, Blending Modes show up as an option to some of your Tools, but are also an option on your Layers. If you have a blending mode on a paintbrush, and you paint with it, that blend will occur for every paint-stroke, which you may or may not desire. And the layers also have blending modes that affect how they relate to each other. Moral of the story: keep a close eye on your Layers, Channels, Opacity, and Blending Modes while you work so as not to inadvertently create an unpleasant effect.


  • Jeff McLain

    Jeff McLain is a photographer, videographer, digital technician, and location sound mixer. After his photography education, Jeff got his start as a freelance photo assistant in San Francisco working on editorial, catalog and advertising shoots. His skills in Photoshop and computing allowed him to help photographers bridge the gap between the film days and all-digital workflows, and he stood at the forefront of the advent of the career of the "Digital Technician." Jeff then moved laterally to video capture. Locally, he is the Director of Arrowroot Productions, LLC, a commercial videography business. His background as a multi-instrumental musician has also benefited his understanding of sound design and audio capture, which can be a technically challenging aspect of film-making. He is regularly called by filmmakers and television networks to record sound-for-video. He has been a freelancer for over 20 years and takes a 'real-world' approach to his perspective of the photographic and video industry and the skills needed in today's market.