Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Digital Audio, Video > Adobe Photoshop

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


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 useful and 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, 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.


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.


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 2-18). 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 2-18Figure 2-18 Collapsing palettes

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 2-19). 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 2-19Figure 2-19 Mixing and matching palettes

For instance, David always keeps his Layers, Channels, and Paths palettes together on one palette. When he wants to work with one of these, he can click on that palette's tab heading. Or better yet, he uses a keystroke to make it active (see "Actions" in Chapter 14, Essential Image Techniques, for more on how to define your own keyboard shortcuts).

Bruce, on the other hand, always keeps his Layers and Channels palettes separate, even when he's working on a single-monitor system. Neither of us ever mixes the Info palette with another palette, because we want it open all the time.

Photoshop 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.


In-and-Out Palettes. You can store palettes in the Options bar as well: when your screen resolution is above 800 pixels wide, the Options bar contains a "palette well," onto which you can drag palettes. Then, to use one of these palettes, just click on its tab. When you press Enter or Return, or as soon as you start doing anything else (like use a tool or a menu), the palette minimizes into the well again. This behavior is perfect for the Swatches and Colors palettes, but is inappropriate for palettes you need open a lot, like the Info or Layers palettes.


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 Locations (in the Workspace sub-menu, in 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.

Saving Workspaces

If you have a favorite way you like your palettes to be arranged on your screen, and your co-worker is forever moving them, don't go berserk and throw your carrot sticks at him. Instead, use the Workspace feature to save your palette setup and then recall it whenever necessary. It's easy to save a workspace: just arrange the palettes exactly the way you want them, and then choose Save Workspace from the Workspace submenu (under the Window menu; see Figure 2-20).

Figure 2-20Figure 2-20 Workspaces

Later, when you want to recall your carefully customized creation, you can select it from the Workspace submenu. Workspaces are useful even if only one person is using the computer, too. For instance, David has one workspace for when he works on Web graphics (which has the Swatches palette and the Styles palette open) and another for print images (which has those palettes closed).


Save Info Palette Configurations. If you're like us, you probably use different info palette setups for different kinds of work. For example, when Bruce works on RGB files destined for CMYK output, he sets one readout to RGB and the other to CMYK. But if he's working on RGB files for RGB output on an inkjet or film recorder, he sets the Info palette to read RGB and Lab. When you save a workspace, it records not only palette locations, but also the Info palette configuration, so you can use workspaces to switch easily between different Info palette setups.

Layers Palette

In every version since 3.0 (the first time that the layers feature was introduced), the Layers palette has become increasingly important to how people use Photoshop. With such a crucial palette, there have to be at least a few good tips around here. No?


Displaying Multiple Layers. Every click takes another moment or two, and many people click in the display column of the Layers palette (the one with the little eyeballs in it) once for each layer they want to see. Cut out the clicker-chatter, and just click and drag through the column for all the layers you want to see.


Click to Turn Off Layers. Another way to make multiple layers appear or disappear is by Option-clicking in the display column of the Layers palette. When you Option-click on an eyeball, Photoshop hides all the layers except the one you clicked on. Then, if you Option-click again, it redisplays them all again. Even though this trick doesn't save you a lot of time, it sure feels like it does (which is often just as cool).


Creating a New Layer. Layers are the best thing since sliced bread, and we're creating new ones all the time. But if you're still making a new layer by clicking on the New Layer button in the Layers palette, you've got some learning to do: Just click Command-Shift-N (or Command-Option-Shift-N, if you don't want to see the New Layer dialog box). If you're trying to duplicate the current layer, just press Command-J (if you have pixels selected when you press this, only those pixels will copy to a new layer).


Rename your Layers. It's a very good idea to rename your layers from Layer 1 or Layer 2 to something a bit more descriptive. However, don't waste time looking for a "rename layer" feature. Instead, just double-click on the layer tile to rename it. Note that this works in the Channels, Paths, and File Browser palettes, too.


Creating Layer Sets. The more layers you have in your document, the more difficult it is to manage them. Fortunately, Photoshop now offers layer "sets" in which you can group contiguous layers (layers that are next to each other). Layer sets are so easy to use that they really don't require a great deal of explanation. Here are the basics, though.

  • To create a layer set, click on the New Layer Set button in the Layers palette (see Figure 2-21).

    Figure 2-21Figure 2-21 Layer sets

  • To add a layer to a set, just drag it on top of the set. Or, to create a new layer inside the set automatically, select the set or any layer within the set (in the Layers palette) and press the New Layer button. You can remove a layer from a set simply by dragging it out.

  • You can move layer sets in the same way you move layers: just drag them around in the palette. You can also copy a whole set of layers to a different document by dragging the layer set over.

  • If you have more than one layer set, it's helpful to color code them: just double-click on the layer set's name and pick a color in the Layer Set Properties dialog box. You should probably name the set, too, while you're there (the default "Set 1" doesn't help identify what's in it).Watch out, though: if you drag a color-coded layer out of the set, it still retains its color-coding!

  • If you want to move all the layers within a layer set at the same time, select the layer set in the Layers palette. This is easier and faster than linking the layers together.

  • You can add a layer mask to the layer set (see Chapter 13, Selections for more on masks) and it'll apply to every layer in the set. Similarly, locking a set locks every layer within the set.

  • Layer sets act almost like a single layer, so when you show or hide the set, all the layers in that set appear or disappear.

  • When you delete a layer set, Photoshop lets you choose to delete the set and the layers inside it or just the set itself (leaving the layers intact).

Unfortunately, you can't apply a layer effect (see Chapter 14, Essential Image Techniques) to a set or use a set as a clipping group (see Chapter 13, Selections).


Layer Sets and Blending Modes. If you had your coffee this morning, you'll notice that you can change the blending mode of a layer set. Normally, the blending mode is set to Pass Through, which means, "let each layer's blending mode speak for itself." In this mode, layers inside the set look the same as they do if they were outside the set. However, if you change the set's blending mode, a curious thing happens: Photoshop first composites the layers in the set together as though they were a single layer (following the blending modes you've specified for each layer), and then it composites that "single layer" together with the rest of your image using the layer set's blending mode. In this case, layers may appear very different whether they're inside or outside that set.

Similarly, when you change the opacity of the set, Photoshop first composites the layers in the set together (using their individual Opacity settings) and then applies this global Opacity setting to the result.

Info Palette

In a battle of the palettes, we don't know which Photoshop palette would win the "most important" prize, but we do know which would win in the "most telling" category: the Info palette. We almost never close this palette. It just provides us with too much critical information.

At its most basic task, as a densitometer, it tells us the gray values and RGB or CMYK values in our image. But there's much more. When you're working in RGB, the Info palette shows you how pixels will translate into CMYK or Grayscale. When working in Levels or Curves, it displays before-and-after values (see Chapter 6, Tonal Correction). New in Photoshop 7 is the Proof Color option, which shows the numbers that would result from the conversion you've specified in Proof Setup, which may be different from the one you've specified in Color Settings (see Chapter 5, Color Settings). The Proof Color numbers appear in italics, to provide a clue that you're looking at a different set of numbers than the ones you'd get from a mode change.

But wait, there's more! When you rotate a selection, the Info palette displays what angle you're at. And when you scale, it shows percentages. If you've selected a color that is out of the CMYK gamut (depending on your setup; see Chapter 5, Color Settings), a gamut alarm appears on the Info palette.


Finding Opacity. When you have transparency showing (e.g., on layers that have transparency when no background is showing), the Info palette can give you an opacity ("Op") reading. However, while Photoshop would display this automatically in earlier versions, now you have to do a little extra work: you must click on one of the little black eyedroppers in the Info palette and select Opacity (see Figure 2-22).

Figure 2-22Figure 2-22 The Info palette

Switch Units. While we typically work in pixel measurements, we do on occasion need to see "real world" physical measurements such as inches or centimeters. Instead of traversing the menus to open the Units dialog box (on the Preferences submenu under the File menu), we find it's usually faster to select from the Info palette's popout menus. Just click on the XY cursor icon (see Figure 2-23). Another option: double-clicking in one of the rulers opens the Units Preferences dialog box. Note that you can also do this by Control-clicking (on the Mac) or Right-button-clicking (in Windows) on one of the rulers. (Press Command-R if the rulers aren't visible.)

Figure 2-23Figure 2-23 Changing units

Color Palettes

The Color Picker and the Color palette both fit into one category, so we almost always group them together into one palette on our screen and switch between them as necessary. Or better yet, we just put them in the Options bar's palette well.

Most novice Photoshop users select a foreground or background color by clicking once on the icons in the Tool palette and choosing from the Color dialog box. Many pros, however, have abandoned this technique, and focus instead on these color palettes. Here are a few tips to make this technique more... ah... palettable.


Switching Color Bars. Instead of clicking on the foreground color swatch in the Tool palette, you might consider typing values into the Color palette. Are the fields labeled "RGB" when you want to type in "CMYK" or something else? Just choose a different mode from the popout menu on the palette. If you like choosing colors visually rather than numerically, you can use the color bar at the bottom of the palette (no, the Color Bar is not just another place to meet people). While the spectrum of colors that appear here usually covers the RGB gamut, you can switch to a different spectrum by Shift-clicking on the area. Click once, and you switch to CMYK; again, and you get a gradient in grayscale; a third time, and you see a gradient from your foreground color to your background color. Shift-clicking again takes you back to RGB.


Editing the Color Swatches. You've probably ignored all those swatches on the Swatches palette because they never seem to include colors that have anything to do with your images. Don't ignore... explore! You can add, delete, and edit those little color swatches on the Swatches palette. Table 2-2 shows you how. If you're looking for Web-safe colors, or other useful colors, check out the popout menu at the top of the palette.

You can't actually edit a color that's already there. Instead, you can click on the swatch (to make it the current foreground color), edit the foreground color, then Shift-click back on the swatch (which replaces it with the current foreground color).

Table 2-2 Editing the Swatches palette

To do this...

Do this...

Add foreground color

Click any empty swatch

Delete a color


Replace a color with foreground color


The File Browser

If you're like us, you've got way too many images floating around on various disks, and finding the right image at the right time can be a hassle. Fortunately, Photoshop 7 has made this process a giant step easier with the File Browser window, which acts like an Open dialog box on steroids (see Figure 2-24). You can browse through the images on your disk, create folders, move images in and out of folders, rename files, or even delete images from disk.

Figure 2-24Figure 2-24 The File Browser

You can also tell the File Browser to rotate images. In this case, the image on disk isn't actually changed. Instead, the File Browser itself remembers to rotate the image as soon as you open it inside Photoshop. You can select more than one image at a time in the File Browser window by Shift-clicking (for contiguous selections) or Command-clicking (for selections that aren't next to each other).


Turn Each Way. To flag one or more selected images for rotation, click on the Rotate button in the lower-right corner of the File Browser window. Each click rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise. If you want to rotate counter-clockwise, Option-click the button. You can also rotate an image by Control-clicking (Mac) or right-button-clicking (Windows) on an it and selecting Rotate from the context-sensitive menu.


Rank and File. You can change a file's name by clicking on it in the File Browser (or select the image and press Enter). This actually changes the file name on disk. You can also change a file's Rank by clicking in the Rank area (which is only visible when you have the File Browser set to "Large with Rank" view). Rank is simply an additional way of ordering images. For instance, if you take five snapshots of a model, you can rank them in the order of preference for easy reference later. Then, to view all the "A" ranked images, you could select Rank from the Sort By popup menu at the bottom of the File Browser window (see Figure 2-25).

Note that you can jump from one file name field to the next by typing Tab (or back to the previous file name field with Shift-Tab). Similarly, if you're editing a Rank field, you can jump the next or previous image's Rank field with Tab or Shift-Tab.

Figure 2-25Figure 2-25 View By Rank

Renaming a Folder. Most digital cameras assign names like P0001924.JPG to each image. Is that useful to anyone? If you have a folder full of these kinds of files, the File Browser can rename them all. First, make sure no thumbnails are selected in the File Browser. Then, choose Batch Rename from the File Browser's popup menu. Photoshop displays the Batch Rename dialog box, which gives you a number of options for naming files (see Figure 2-26). Careful with this one; you can't undo it after clicking OK.

Figure 2-26Figure 2-26 Batch Rename

Jump to File by Name. If your folder has dozens of images in it, it's a hassle to use the scroll bars in the File Browser. Instead, just click on any image in the File Browser window and then type the first few letters of the name of the image you're looking for. You can also use the arrow keys to move around this window.


Copying Images. You can move files from one folder into another by dragging the file's thumbnail into any other folder in the navigation area of the File Browser. Add the Option key and the file is copied instead of moved.

Extended File Info. Perhaps our favorite File Browser feature is the extended file information in the lower-left corner of the window. Here, the File Browser displays whatever information it can cull from the file. At a minimum, it shows you the file's creation date, file format, and size. However, if the capture device or software application that created the image saved more information in the EXIF (exchangeable image file) format, then Photoshop can display it here, too. This is particularly useful for people who use digital cameras, which typically save a plethora of data, including the date and time the picture was snapped, the exposure setting, and focal length.


Exporting the Cache. The first time you use the File Browser to view a folder of files, you'll notice that it takes some time to gather information and build a thumbnail for each image. The next time you browse that folder, the images show up almost instantaneously. The trick? Photoshop saves the thumbnails in a cache—along with file information, ranking, and rotation setting. The cache is saved in a compressed and proprietary format on your local hard drive.

We thought this was all just fine and dandy until our colleague Deke McClelland pointed out two problems. First, if your images are on a network server, having rank and rotation information saved on your local hard drive doesn't help anyone else who needs to see those images. Second, the cache references a specific folder name, so if you change the name of the folder, all the thumbnails, ranking, and so on, are lost.

Fortunately, Photoshop lets you save a folder's cache file within the folder itself. To do this, select Export Cache from the File Browser's popout menu (see Figure 2-27). When the exported cache files (which are called AdobePS7.tb0 and AdobePS7.md0) are present in a folder, Photoshop uses them instead of creating new cache files.

Figure 2-27Figure 2-27 The File Browser popout menu

If you later write the folder full of images to a CD, Photoshop can even read the cache off the CD. However, any subsequent changes you make to the rankings or image rotation are only stored in your local cache (not on the CD, as it is read-only).


Purge the Cache. Photoshop builds a cache for every folder you open in the File Browser. If you're looking at images all day, the cache will grow to take up an enormous amount of hard drive space. That's why it's a good idea to empty the cache folder every month or so by selecting Purge Cache from the File Browser's popout menu. Of course, this will delete all the ranking and rotation settings, too, which could be disastrous, depending on your workflow.


Opening the Composite. Do you have a large .TIF or .PSD file with a lot of layers, but you only want to open a flattened version? No problem: hold down Option and Shift while double-clicking on the image in the File Browser. This works in the Open dialog box, too. Note that for .PSD files, this only works when the file was saved with a composite image. If, when you saved the file, you had turned off the Always Maximize Compatibility for Photoshop (PSD) Files option in the Preferences dialog box, you won't be able to open the composite because there will be no composite to open (see "Preferences," later in this chapter).


Expanded File Browser. To maximize the thumbnail view on the right side of the File Browser and hide the navigation view, click on the Expanded View button at the bottom of the File Browser window—that's the little button with the double-headed arrow. Or, note that you can also just expand the File Browser window to any size you want and then move the borders between each section of the window by dragging them. For example, if you want more space to display the additional file information, you can just click-and-drag the border area between it and the thumbnail preview.


Close the Browser. You can leave the File Browser open all the time as a free-floating window, but we don't recommend it. When open, the File Browser is constantly working in the background and it will slow you down. Instead, it's best to put it into the Options Bar's palette well and just open it when you need it. To do this, select Dock to Palette Well from the File Browser's popout menu.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account