Getting Started: Adobe Photoshop for Architecture Students

Getting Started: Adobe Photoshop for Architecture Students

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Adobe Photoshop may very well be one of the most well-known software out there and it’s not just for architects. Photographers, artists, designers all use Adobe Photoshop in some way. Hence, there are plenty of tutorials, guides and courses out there to teach you the ins and outs of this software.

But in this article wewant to focus on why it is such an incredible resource to use and delve intosome of the things you should definitely start working on. For students andbeginners, the interface and range of options can seem overwhelming to say theleast. This isn’t a full-fledged guide but if you are looking for somethinglike that, here’s a few guides we love.

Click HERE.

We’re going to breakdownin detail, what Adobe Photoshop is used for during your architectural studies. Thisitself gives you many routes and uses so to follow we go further into settingup a document, playing with images and then looking at some of the basic yetimportant tools.

Whatis Adobe Photoshop Used For?

Although Photoshop wascreated as a photo-editing program, it has evolved into a bigger and all-purposesoftware for most projects. For architecture students, it can be used for avariety of purposes. Editing photographs of a site, prototype models, finishedmodels or general research.

A good photograph canmake all the difference on a portfolio page. Even if your models are rubbish,they can be altered in such a way that it look’s like a completely differentand new model by the time you’re done. So, try and take photographs of all themodels you make even if they look bad. We’ll discuss this more in the future. IfPhotoshop doesn’t have all the features you want, you can also try using AdobeLightroom for even more in-depth editing.

Adding ‘people’ to yourdrawings can also be created in Photoshop especially if you want to create yourown custom ones that can be used in any drawings. Having these pre-made notonly saves time but can be really fun. You can also create textures by importingimages and editing them to use later on in your illustrations or perspectives.

Probably the most commonway architects use Photoshop is by creating illustrations and perspectives oredit renderings for your design project. Depending on your style or the kind ofqualities you are looking for in the final outcome, creating such images havedifferent paths. There are quite a lot of examples already out there and someeven come with tutorials if you’re lucky.

We’re letting you know now;this isn’t a tutorial on how to create beautiful and stunning images (we have stuffplanned for that in due time). This is basically a breakdown of some of the toolsthat are handy for students and beginners. Let’s get started.

BasicRules + Setting Up a Document

After you open up AdobePhotoshop, go to File > New. The dialogue box that comes up will haveseveral options to customise your file. File size, Resolution, Colour mode andother options that you don’t need to worry about.

File Size

Measurements are in cm,mm, px, points, inches, picas or columns. The ones you will be usingpredominantly are mm/cm and pixels. A pixel is a single dot in your image and alarge amount of pixels make up your image. Don’t worry too much about it atthis stage. Photoshop is a raster image editor (as compared to Adobe Illustrator– a vector-based program) so working in pixels is better for high qualityprints. Using standard dimensions such as mm/cm is better when you want to createa page for printing.


Image resolution ismeasured/described in PPI (pixels per inch). This is a measure of how manypixels are displayed per inch of an image which is its pixel density. Higher PPIcreates a high-quality image. By default, it’s set to 72 PPI (pixels per inch)as that is the common resolution for monitors but most of your work - assumingit’s for printing - should be set at 300PPI or higher. There are options tochange this after you have already created your work, but it’s good tomake this a habit beforehand.


RGB and CMYK are the twomodes in Photoshop. You don’t need to know too much apart from if you’replanning on printing your artwork at some stage, it’s a good idea to use CMYKbecause those are the colours a printer is familiar with. If you accidentallyuse RGB, the colours many come out slightly different which can become an issueif you’re paying a large amount for a high-quality print or if colour is a keypart of the project.


Layer’s aren’t a part ofsetting up the document but essentially they are the backbone to any project, bigor small. There are many features within the layers panel itself which we willdiscuss further. You can think of layers similar to sheets of tracing paper. Ifyou did all your work on the same layer, then wanted to go back and delete anelement or change something slightly, it would be much harder to do ifeverything was on the same layer.

By using of layers, you notonly make it easier for yourself, but sometimes you can get some amazing effectsin your projects. Over time, you will find that for larger images or rendersand illustrations, you will end up using a lot of layers. Here, organisation iskey. We suggest two important things; naming your layers and grouping yourlayers.

Layers are where you canstack images, change blend modes, add filters and effects, etc. The order oflayers determines which image will in front or behind. This is also somethingto note when you are experimenting with blend modes. You can create folders and‘group’ layers so that some parts of the design are in the same place but alsoto apply an effect to a large amount of elements.

Let’s break down thepanel. To add and delete a layer it’s pretty simple.


To name a layer, doubleclick and replace with whatever you want to name it. After you have 5 or morelayers, it can get hard to keep track of. To create a folder of layers, clickon the Folder icon next to the ‘New Layer’ icon. Then, to add into thegroup, select all the layers by using the Shift button and either selectspecific ones or click on the top-most and then the bottom layer to select allof them at once.


The blend modesare located in the drop-down menu that as set to default as ‘Normal’. The opacityis located next to that. The eye icon next to each layer simply turnsthe layer on or off. This is pretty useful so you can work on specific elementswithout have other stuff cluttered around. To lock the layer, click onthe lock icon – simple right?


There are so many toolsin Photoshop sometimes it’s hard to keep track of. You definitely won’t beusing them all in one go so don’t worry about knowing what each one does. Tobegin, we suggest you check out the tools yourself. Some are pretty straightforwardwhereas others can be a little trickier to understand.

The Rectangle MarqueeTool is a great selection tool. There are other ways of selecting areassuch as the Polygonal Lasso Tool and the Magic Wand or Quick SelectionTool. Each of these have different methods and results, so depending on theuse, any is great.

Also keep in mind thatmost tools have a shortcut key. If you think about it, you’re going to be usingPhotoshop is some way or another and since there are always a number of thingsyou need to be doing, cutting down time while using Photoshop is basically a hack.It makes you faster and it’s definitely much easier. Another thing to note isto keep the panels and toolbars how you prefer. You don’t have to stickto the default setup and over time you’re going to realise which tools andpanels you use the most.

The Eyedropper Toolis for picking colours from images our from a colour palette you have created.If you’re using the shortcut it’ll cut down time and make the whole processmuch faster. If you happen to have a graphics tablet; doesn’t have to be afancy, expensive one, then the Brush Tool can come in very handy. Itgives you that hand-drawn quality and you can also experiment with differentbrush packs made for architecture.

Of course, this is onlya handful of tools. As you start using Adobe Photoshop you might need to use someof the other tools depending on what you want to do. Don’t worry, we will havefuture tutorials going into detail on how to create perspectives or edit photographs.

Some advice for firstyear students and beginners; don’t feel the pressure to learn everything about AdobePhotoshop in one go. It takes a lot more time then that and even when you feelconfident you might not know every single thing. Here at :scale, we’reconstantly learning something new and you can do this by watching YouTubevideos, finding free courses online or even something simple as searching upwhat you want to do.

For example, if you wanta certain effect or you need to know how to create an element but don’t know howto go about doing it, search it up in Google. Most of the time, you can findthe answers online if you know what you’re looking for. Once you learn something,you’ll get quicker and won’t have to search things up each time.

Just remember, it takes patience to learn a software in general. You can’t be an expert in a day, and we aren’t experts either! For more of our Getting Started series and to learn other Adobe programs, click HERE.

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