Photoshop for Beginners - Tips

Some quick tips to get you started in Photoshop

Channels in colour

Did you ever wonder why colour channels are black and white? Well, you can change them so that the thumbnails and channels in the main window will appear in their colour. Just choose Photoshop (PC: Edit)>Preferences>Display & Cursors and click the Colour Channels in Colour checkbox. Why is their default black and white? I don’t know but it’s easier to see what’s going on with greyscale previews.

Palette/Panel options

Mostly everyone knows that you can change the thumbnail size in the Layers Panel by choosing Panel Options from the panels fly-out menu (the little lines at the top right). What you may not know is that you can do the same thing for the Channels and Paths palettes as well.

Can't see the Rubylith?

When you create an alpha channel and display it with other layers, you’ll see a reddish tint to the page-known as a Rubylith, which is a throwback to the days before digital. What if you’re working on a red image and can’t really see the Rubylith? Just double-click on the alpha channel’s thumbnail and from the dialogue, you’ll see options where you can change the colour and opacity of the mask.

Quick Mask Mode

Refer to the previous tip and think Quick Mask. Double-click the Edit in Quick Mask Mode icon (Q) at the bottom of the Toolbox to access the options and make all your quick masks display the way you’d like.

Move your Options Bar

Have you noticed when you choose a tool, context-sensitive options appear in the Options Bar at the top of your window? You can make the Options Bar float on the screen (not recommended) or you can dock it at the bottom (which is a better choice than the centre of your screen). Place your cursor on the far left of the Options Bar and click-and-drag the bar to a different location.

Saving Workspaces

Now that you’ve learned how to drag things all over your desktop, why not save different workspaces so that you can recall your favourite setup anytime? For example, you might have a different setup for illustration and photo retouching. You can save all of these workspaces by choosing Window>Workspace>Save Workspace and recall them by choosing Window>Workspace>Load Workspace.

Enhance redraw

Do you find that redraw is slow on your computer while performing tasks such as painting? Speed things up by going under Photoshop (PC: Edit)>Preferences>Display & Cursors, and turning on Use Pixel Doubling. This Makes the update appear first as a low-resolution proxy and then refresh to full resolution-very handy for painting and smudging.

Logging work history

Ever wonder what images you have opened? How about billing by the hour? Would you like to know exactly how long your client’s image is open in Photoshop while you slave over it? Head to the Preferences menu, choose General and turn on History Log. I like to choose the Text File option and save it on my desktop. This file now logs the time and date that you open and close Photoshop and any image. Now you can prove how hard you’ve been working on that job!

Reset Preferences

When trouble strikes Photoshop, resetting the preferences fixes many woes. Something could be corrupting Photoshop, such as pattern and resetting Preferences restores Photoshop to its factory settings. For this reason, make sure that you back up all your brushes, swatches, textures, styles, shapes, contours and actions then press-and-hold Command-Option-Shift (PC: Control-Alt-Shift) while launching Photoshop to reset the preferences.

Random Access Memory

There’s no such thing as too much RAM, but too little RAM can be a big problem, so buy more RAM if you can. If you have plenty of RAM, however, and you’re primarily running Photoshop on its own, go under the Photoshop (PC: Edit) menu and choose Preferences>Memory & Image Cache. Then, under Maximum Used by Photoshop, increase the % of RAM.

Note: You should only reduce this % if you’re getting tons of crashes and have little RAM on your machine.

Second hard drive

When in the Photoshop (PC: Edit) Preferences menu, you may have asked, “What is a scratch disk?” Scratch disk is a hard drive that Photoshop uses to simulate RAM. By default, the first is the Startup drive. To help the performance of my computer, I added a second drive and defined it as the Second in the Scratch Disk list. Photoshop CS2 supports four scratch disks.

Limit file size in Bridge

If Bridge is unstable or not displaying your large files, go under the Bridge menu and choose Preferences>Advanced. The default for Do Not Process Files Larger Than is set at 200MB, which means that any 300MB images won't be displayed. If you work with files larger than 200MB (closed size), then you’ll want to increase the amount so you can view them. You can also lower this file size, as large files take some time to appear and very large files may cause some crashes.

Plug-ins and libraries

It’s great to have everything installed in Photoshop so that you have unlimited access to brushes, patterns, layer styles and plug-ins but these extras all have to load with Photoshop and add to start up time. When Photoshop crashes on startup, it’s usually because one of these extras is corrupt. The solution: Go to Edit>Preset Manager and save the libraries in new folders and then load only the files you use most often. You should notice a faster start-up time now.

Magic memory button

If you’re working on a large document and your system is running slower and slower (more applicable to print designers and prepress), then you get a message saying there’s not enough memory.

There is a “magic” button that says, “Make it faster.” Not really, but try this: Choose Edit>Purge>All to erase the clipboard, undo, and history buffers. These can use up lots of memory because they save multiple versions of your files as you’re working. Another way to save memory is to go under Preferences>General and reduce the number of History States.

Crop to page size

When working on a layered document, if a layer is larger than the canvas size, the extra pixels still add to the file size, for example, in this image file (image file not available), you can see the bounding box of a layer. Here’s the fix: Press Command-A (PC: Control-A) to select all and choose Image>Crop to delete the excess. This will cut down the file size, sometimes by a huge amount.

Note: Do this only if you’re in a jam because if later you want to move a layer, the overlap is gone and everything will be cropped to the page size.

Fix the bigger culprit

A few minutes of basic system maintenance every week will keep your computer running peak and you’ll notice overall performance improvements.

• Mac users should repair disk permissions by going to their hard drive then choosing Application: Utilities: Disk Utility. In the dialogue, select your primary drive from the list on the left and click Repair Disk Permissions.

• At the very least, Windows users should run disk defragmentation once a week. This takes all the bits of info and organizes them so your hard drive accesses the data faster. In Windows XP, go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter.

Article courtesy of Adobe Photoshop Magazine

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