Photoshop includes a huge number of tools, and here we expose some of its less well-known features and reveal new ways to use some familiar favourites. Some will help you achieve results faster – so you can concentrate on fine-tuning your compositions – while others unlock the possibilities of what can be achieved in Adobe’s flagship tool.

Many of these tips will work in Photoshop CS or later – though some require newer versions. We’ve noted these in the tips concerned.

1. Brush up on clouds
The best way to create realistic clouds in Photoshop using brushes is to select the Texture tab in the Brushes panel (F5), then, for the pattern, use Clouds 128x128 (it’s in the predefined list named ‘Patterns’). Also make the Scale much bigger than the brush size and use Color Burn for the blending mode.


2. Lighten up
To create a streaming light-ray effect, use the Gradient Tool: in the Gradient Editor, set the Gradient Type to Noise with 100% roughness, then use the Angle Gradient.


3. Use Smart Objects
Introduced in CS2, Smart Objects are layers that can be edited on-the-fly simply by double-clicking their layer icon. Once changes have been saved, the objects update automatically along with any duplicates (or instances). To paste artwork from Illustrator as a Smart Object, check the relevant option.


4. Bitmap it
Convert images to Bitmap mode (Image > Mode > Bitmap) to create super-stylish halftone and woodcut effects. Colour images will need to be turned into greyscale first (Image > Mode > Grayscale).


5. Be a better selector
Creating selections accurately is an essential Photoshop skill if you’re going to perform tricky compositing tasks. The Refine Edge command and its cousin, Refine Mask (both introduced in CS5), make the process less tedious and enable you to extract difficult subjects – such as wispy hair.