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Essential Photoshop Tips and Tricks

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In this article, David Blatner and Bruce Fraser visit the depths of Photoshop to bring you valuable tips and tricks.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

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 chapter, we 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!

Upgrading to a New Version

There are few things as inevitable as death, taxes, and upgrading your software. Some people upgrade as soon as the box hits the proverbial shelf; others take years, buying a new version only after their service bureau or printer refuses to take their old files anymore. Sooner or later, though, you'll be faced with new features, new challenges, and a new bottle of aspirin.

What's New in Version 7

Those of you familiar with Photoshop 6 will be pleased with most of the interface changes in version 7, though some might throw you off a little at first. Fortunately, Adobe has left Photoshop's color management features alone this time around. If you really understood Photoshop's Color Settings and Proof Setup dialog box in version 6, then you're set with version 7. However, if you still have misgivings about Photoshop's somewhat mysterious color engine, we strongly urge you to take the time to work through Chapter 5, Color Settings. Without a thorough understanding of the Color Settings dialog box, you'll be lost before too long (and you may not even know how lost you are).

Here are a few important changes in version 7 (again, we're not listing every new feature in Photoshop 7 here, just the ones you'd better know about before jumping into the rest of the book).

New tools. There are two new tools in Photoshop 7. The most important one is the Healing Brush tool, which acts like the Clone tool but is much better at preserving the underlying grain of your images. The Patch tool (which is "under" the Healing Brush tool in the Tool palette) is a combination of the Healing Brush tool and the Lasso tool. These tools are lifesavers when it comes to retouching or cleaning up images. We discuss them both in Chapter 14, Essential Image Techniques.

One tool, the Airbrush tool, has disappeared from the Tool palette. Instead, the Airbrush tool has become part of the regular painting tools. When you select any of the painting tools (Brush, History Brush, Eraser, Clone tool, and so on), you can turn on the Airbrush button in the Options bar. When this option is on, that tool acts like an airbrush—that is, when the Flow control (also in the Options bar) is set to something lower than 100 percent, the longer you hold the active brush in one area of the image, the more "paint" is laid down.

OS X native. As we mentioned in the last chapter, the Macintosh version of Photoshop 7 has been carbonized for Mac OS X, which means it can run as a native application and take advantage of protected, dynamic memory, the new Aqua interface, and other Mac OS X features. However, there is one reason why you might not want to run Photoshop 7 in native mode. Old plug-ins won't work (or even show up) until they have been rewritten to run natively under OS X. If you're running Mac OS X and you need to use old plug-ins, you can select the Photoshop application on the desktop, choose Get Info from the File menu, and turn on the "Open in the Classic environment" checkbox to make Photoshop launch in Classic mode. But you'll lose most of the benefits of OS X, and if you try to allocate more than 400 MB of RAM to Photoshop, it will crash, so it's only a stopgap solution.

File Browser. One of the coolest features in Photoshop Elements (Photoshop's younger consumer-grade sibling) is the File Browser, which is like the Open dialog box on steroids. Fortunately, the File Browser has now finally come to Photoshop. This great tool usually lives as a palette in the palette well (in the Options bar), and lets you browse through all the images on your disk, see information about each file (a thumbnail, image resolution data, and so on), and then open. It'll even let you rotate images before opening them. We cover the File Browser in more depth later in this chapter.

Workspaces. For years we've asked for a quick way to hide all the palettes except the info palette. This time, the Photoshop team gave us much more than we asked for. Photoshop 7 lets you save tool presets and palette arrangements ("workspaces") so that you can quickly switch among them. For example, you might save a 30-pixel soft-edged brush for your high-resolution images and a 5-pixel hard-edged brush for your low-resolution images; you can switch between them quickly from the Tool Presets palette or the Tool Presets popup menu in the Options bar. You can save different palette arrangements as workspaces, and recall them quickly from the Workspace submenu in the Window menu. We'll explore these features in more depth later in this chapter.

Scripting. You won't hear much from Adobe's marketing department about one of the most awesome features in Photoshop 7: the ability to script Photoshop. It's not that the marketing folks don't want you to know about it; it's just that most of them don't know why it's so amazing. Scripting lets you automate Photoshop from behind the scenes. For instance, you could set up a database program (like FileMaker Pro) to automate Photoshop using information in your database. You could create a workflow that automates both Photoshop and QuarkXPress (or InDesign, which is also scriptable) to create an entire catalog in minutes.

You can write scripts for Photoshop on the Macintosh using AppleScript or Javascript, and on the Windows platform using Javascript or Visual Basic. We discuss this more in Chapter 14, Essential Image Techniques.

Brush palette. After removing the Brush palette entirely in Photoshop 6, Adobe has reinstated it in version 7. However, this time, the Brush palette has become three times as big and five times as powerful. We'll cover this new palette later in this chapter.

Photoshop 7 has all kinds of other new features, too, from a funky new look in the Tool palette (including rollover effects when you move the cursor over a tool), to the ability to tile or cascade your document windows, to the ability for the Eyedropper tool to pick up a color from anywhere on the screen, even outside of Photoshop. We cover these features throughout the book.

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