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Essential Photoshop 6 Tips

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Photoshop is deep. Really, really deep. It's like those National Geographic movies that talk about the world below the surface of the ocean: on the surface it's smooth and straightforward, but down below you'll find things that'll knock your socks off.

In this article, David Blatner and Bruce Fraser dive down deep and map out some of the canyons along the sea bed. You can dog-paddle around Photoshop without these tips, but you'll never really swim with the sharks until you've explored these territories. Don't forget your flippers!

This article is excerpted from Real World Adobe Photoshop 6, by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser.
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Bruce has a second monitor set up on his computer just so he can open all of Photoshop's palettes on it and free up his primary monitor's precious space. There's little doubt that palettes are both incredibly important and yet incredibly annoying at times. Fortunately, Photoshop has some built-in but hidden features that make working with palettes a much happier experience. For instance, palettes are "sticky" -- if you move them near the side of the monitor or near another palette, they'll "snap-to" align to that side or palette. (Even better, you can hold down the Shift key while you drag a palette, to force it to the side of the screen.) This (if nothing else) helps you keep a neat and tidy screen on which to work.

Tip: Make the Palettes Go Away.

If you only have one monitor on which to store both your image and Photoshop's plethora of palettes, you should remember two keyboard shortcuts. First, pressing Tab makes the palettes disappear (or reappear, if they're already hidden). We find this absolutely invaluable, and use it daily.

Second, pressing Shift-Tab makes all palettes except the Tool palette disappear (or reappear). We find this only slightly better than completely useless; we would prefer that the keystroke hid all the palettes except the Info palette.

Tip: Making Palettes Smaller.

Another way to maximize your screen real estate is by collapsing one or more of your open palettes. If you double-click on the palette's name tab, the palette collapses to just the title bar and name (see Figure 1). Or if you click in the zoom box of a palette (the checkbox in the upper-right corner of the palette), the palette reduces in size to only a few key elements. For instance, if you click in the zoom box of the Layers palette, you can still use the Opacity sliders and Mode popup menu (but the Layer tiles and icons get hidden).

Figure 1 Collapsing palettes

Tip: Mix and Match Palettes.

There's one more way to save space on your computer screen: mix and match your palettes. Palettes in Photoshop have a curious attribute: you can drag one on top of another and they become one (see Figure 2). Then if you want, you can drag them apart again by clicking and dragging the palette's tab heading. (In fact, these kinds of palettes are called "tabbed palettes.")

Figure 2 Mixing and matching palettes

Photoshop 6 offers one more way to combine palettes: by docking them. Docking a palette means that one palette is attached to the bottom of another one. Docked palettes always move together, and when you hide one they both disappear. To dock one palette to another, drag it over the other palette's bottom edge; don't let go of the mouse button until you see the bottom edge of the palette become highlighted.

Tip: Reset Palette Positions.

Every now and again, your palettes might get really messed up-placed partly or entirely off your screen, and so on. Don't panic; that's what Reset Palette Positions (at the bottom of the Window menu) is for. In earlier versions, this feature was hidden as a button labeled "Reset Palette Locations to Default" in the Preferences dialog box.

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