Learning to Speak “Image Manipulator”!

0800 156 0777

Learning to Speak “Image Manipulator”!

Here’s a tutorial for those of you who have used Photoshop for a little while but are still baffled by some of the “Adobe Speak” that gets used in some of the tools!

There are a number of functions, buttons and tools in Photoshop that have some weird and wonderful names. In this article I’d like to look at a few of them and tell you what they’re used for.


Let’s start off with the word ‘contiguous’!

You’ll find the contiguous button in the options bar when you click on the Magic Wand tool. (It also pops up as an option for the background erase tool).

Contiguous, when switched on, just means that the tool will select similar pixels that are touching. If you switch contiguous off it will select similar pixels, which do not have to touch each other.

Contiguous Switched On

Contiguous Switched On – on the skin tones it only affects similar colours on the face.


Contiguous Switched Off

Contiguous Switched Off – the magic wand picks up similar colours, which are not touching.

What is Anti-Alias?

The Anti-Alias option appears on most of the selection tools and there is also an option for Anti-Aliasing in varying amounts on the Type tool. When you make a selection with the Anti-Alias button switched off, the pixels are either selected or they are not selected. This can, unfortunately, lead to a bit of a jagged look along the edge of the selection. When you switch Anti-Aliasing on, (you do this BEFORE you make your selection), some of the pixels along the edge of the selection, are partially selected. You could think of this as a very subtle feathering. This will smooth out the selection edges.


The image shows on the left no anti-alias, on the right anti-alias for both text and a selection.

The Auto-Select Button

Have you ever found it very annoying having to go to the layers pallet all the time to select the layer you want to work on?

This is where Auto-Select comes in. If you select the Move tool, and then switch on Auto-Select in the Options bar, you’ll find that you can just click on the layer you want to work on and it will automatically select the layer. Be careful – it’s easy to think you’re on one layer and in fact you’re changing another layer that you have accidentally selected with the Auto-Select ON.  


Dither pops up in various areas around Photoshop, from the Gradient tool, through to when you’re saving for the web as a gif.

When there are only a limited number of colours that you want to look smoother, Dithering will give the appearance of smoothed out tones. It will make your gradients appear smoother, and your limited palette gifs look better.

No Dither

No Dither shows limited 8 Colour Palette appearing in a very posterised way.



With Dither, the same image appears a lot more detailed yet we still have the same number of colours in both.