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A Random Collection of Photoshop CS Tips

by Deke McClelland, author of Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One

I'll be honest with you. When O'Reilly approached me about doing a Photoshop CS Tips-and-Tricks article, my heart sank. Pardon me, I asked (tears of indignation smarting in my eyes), are you speaking to moi? No, no, no, I am not a common tipster/trickster, peddling his "Gosh, didya know this"s from corner to corner like a foolish Photoshop street monkey. I am an Educator!

But then it came to me. Why not put a new spin on it, reinvent the paradigm in a way only a classically trained Educator like myself can? Instead of an elaborate parade of 101 tips, I'll write, say, fourteen. And instead of one tip following another in a thematic, logical order, mine will be completely random. And instead of short, pithy tips, mine will be long and intricate and occasionally flat-out bizarre. An article so strange and meandering as to be immediately mistaken for Genius!

Then I thought, ah give it a rest. Just slap some tips down on the page and have done with it. And that's what I did. So, alas, I am a foolish Photoshop street monkey after all. Look at me dance, do my silly antics amuse you? Well, such is life, eh?

But there is one small twist: in addition to being random, meandering, and occasionally bizarre, the tips are actually shockingly helpful. Really, there are some good ones here, especially if you know a thing or two about Photoshop CS. In fact, I have to admit, this introduction has nothing to do with the tips that follow. I just wrote it so I could work in the word "monkey" in a few times, which I find inherently funny. So join me as we take a tour of fourteen random tips and tricks--well, OK, that part's the same--plus one to grow on.


Let's start at the beginning. Are you still greeted by the Welcome Screen every time you launch Photoshop CS? Personally, I like that third button down, Working With What's New. Click it to see a really useful Total Training video (or, more precisely, a page that explains how to insert the CD that contains the really useful Total Training video). But once you've done that, it's time to make the Welcome Screen go away forever. With the Screen on screen, as it were, turn off the itsy bitsy Show This Dialog At Startup check box in the lower left corner. Then click Close to quash said screen like a bug. If you decide later you want to see the screen again--because, say, you've completely lost your mind--choose Help > Welcome Screen and there it is.


OK, that was simple; this is more complicated. If you own one of the many mid-range and high-end cameras that can capture "raw" data, then you've probably experienced the miraculous Camera Raw dialog box. Pictured below, it lets you correct the colors in an image as you convert them to something Photoshop can use. The Exposure and Shadows values (midway down on the right) control the white and black points, respectively. Here's the tip: To preview exactly which pixels will change to white or black, press the Option key (PC: Alt) as you drag either slider triangle. All pixels colored something other than black (Exposure) or white (Shadows) will get clipped. The second screen below shows me option-dragging the Shadows slider triangle.

Click for full-size view (Click for full-size view)


Most cameras that offer a raw format capture 10 or 12 bits of data per channel. This means you interpolate away millions of potential colors when you convert to Photoshop's 8-bit-per-channel standard. (Yes, you can upsample to 16 bits per channel, but it's rarely worth the overhead.) As long as you're downsampling the colors, you might as well upsample the pixels. To do so, select the next larger pair of values in the Size pop-up menu--the first set with a (+) after them. In the case of my Olympus E-1, this turns a 5 megapixel image into a 7 megapixel one while at the same time retaining moderately sharp edges. Mathematically speaking, it's a more sound upsampling technique than any other available inside Photoshop. (This really is an incredible tip; try it and see if you don't agree.)


Before you accept your Camera Raw settings, be sure to save them as a preset. You do this by clicking the right-pointing arrow next to the Settings pop-up menu and choosing Save Settings, as illustrated below. Then name the file, click OK, and it becomes a Settings option. Now you can apply these settings to other images shot under similar circumstances.



How? (you ask, with that darling quizzical look on your face). Why, inside the File Browser, of course. After opening a raw image, do this: Go back to the File Browser. Then select the range of thumbnails shot in a similar space under similar lighting conditions. Right-click one of the thumbnails (or, if you have a single-button Apple mouse, throw it in the trash and drive to the store and buy a two-button mouse) and choose Apply Camera Raw Settings, as below. Choose your saved preset from the Apply Settings From pop-up menu and click Update. The thumbnails will actually update right there before your very eyes.

Click for full-size view (Click for full-size view)


Now that you've associated specific Camera Raw settings with your digital photographs, you can open them without revisiting the dialog box. Select the images that you want to open in the File Browser. Then press Shift-Return (PC: Shift+Enter) to open the photos subject to your preset. I ask you, could life be any easier?

Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One

Related Reading

Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One
By Deke McClelland


OK, enough Camera Raw tips. Now let's turn our attention to one of my favorite new functions, Shadow/Highlight. I devoted an entire Deke Space to this command in the April/May 2004 Photoshop User, during which I showed how great it is for fixing photos shot under inconsistent light. The problem with this command are its default settings, which overcompensate in the shadows and ignore the highlights. Fortunately, you can establish your own defaults. Choose Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlight. Modify the Shadows and Highlights values to taste. Then click the Show More Options check box. Among the many new options, you'll see the Save As Defaults button. Click it, then click OK. For what it's worth, my preferred default settings appear below. They won't fix every image by any means, but they come closer than Photoshop's defaults.

Click for full-size view (Click for full-size view)


By now, you probably realize that you can scroll the image willy- nilly in either of the full screen modes. If not, open an image, press the F key, and then press the spacebar while dragging your image. Look at it go--really, it is a sight to behold. But here's the rub: what do you do if you want to recenter the image? Sometimes, you can press Command-minus and then Command-plus. Other times, you have to double-click the hand tool icon to fit the image to the window and then zoom back in or out to where you were. But my favorite method is to press the F key three times a in a row. This cycles through the screen modes and centers the image without changing the zoom setting.


Photoshop CS has made a wonderful but very slight enhancement to the Layers palette that's easy to overlook. As you probably know, clicking an eyeball hides the associated layer. Meanwhile, Option-clicking (PC: Alt- clicking) an eyeball hides all other layers. (This also works when hiding and showing layer effects, incidentally.) But here's the interesting thing: In Photoshop 7, Option-clicking an eyeball a second time showed all layers, regardless of whether they were previously visible or not, frequently leaving your composition a complete mess. In CS, this same technique turns on only those layers that were previously visible. In other words, Photoshop CS has taken an old, flawed trick and fixed it.


Have you ever pressed a keyboard shortcut that you know produces a specific result and had Photoshop completely ignore you, or worse yet deliver an angry alert message? This is usually the result of having a palette option active inadvertently. (It's a very common problem on the PC, where settings have a tendency to "stick" after you apply them, but it can happen on the Mac as well.) The solution: the moment you notice Photoshop is not behaving, press the Esc key. Don't even try to track down the offending option, just press Esc. Then try your shortcut again. With any luck, everything should be better.


If you're a keyboard junky, you may have found yourself wishing for a shortcut that isn't there. For example, here's a personal peeve: Pressing Command-Shift-N (PC: Ctrl+Shift+N) makes a new layer in the layers palette. So wouldn't it be ducky if you could press Command-Shift- Option-N (PC: Ctrl+Shift+Alt+N) to put all linked layers into a layer set? Well, you can, by creating your own shortcut. Choose Edit>Keyboard Shortcuts. Change the Shortcuts For option to Palette Menus. Twirl open Layers and scroll down to New Set From Linked. Click to the right of it and press Command-Shift-Option-N (or Ctrl+Shift+Alt+N). Photoshop will warn you that you're replacing a weird trick that bypasses a dialog box when making a new layer. Me, I say who cares? Click the Accept button, then click OK. Just like that, you got yourself a new shortcut.



Too esoteric for you? OK, check this out: If you're a power user, you probably use adjustment layers right, left, and center. They're non- destructive, they're editable, they make you cry with joy. Unfortunately, none of them has a keyboard shortcut. For example, Command-L (PC: Ctrl+L) applies the Levels command, but it's the static version. Meanwhile, the Levels adjustment layer gets nada. Don't like it? Change it. Again, choose Edit>Keyboard Shortcuts. Set the Shortcuts For option to Application Menu. Twirl open Layer and scroll down until you come to an item called New Adjustment Layer>. Right at the top, you'll see Levels. Click to the right of it and press Command-L (or Ctrl+L). As shown below, Photoshop complains that you're about to switch the shortcut for the static Levels command. There is no That's The Idea, Fool button, so click Accept instead. Then click OK. Now press Command-L (or Ctrl+L) and Photoshop asks you to name a new adjustment layer. I ask you, could life be sweeter?



Wish you could mark an entire folder-full of images as copyrighted and include contact info? In Photoshop CS, that's easy. Open a representative image. Choose File>File Info. Change the Copyright Status option to Copyrighted. Then enter the desired info into the Author, Copyright Notice, and Copyright Info URL fields. Click the right-pointing arrow in the top-right corner of the dialog box and choose Save Metadata Template, as below. Name the template and click Save. Then click OK to close the File Info dialog box. That's Step 1, now for Step 2: Go to the File Browser and locate the folder of images you want to change. Select all the images and click the right-pointing arrow to the right of the Metadata tab in the lower-left area of the Browser. You should see a command called Replace followed by the name of your template. (If not, try closing the File Browser and reopening it to refresh the menu.) When you choose the command, Photoshop will warn you that you have multiple images selected. Click Yes to assure the program you are not a moron. If any of your images are camera raw files (which Photoshop can't modify), it'll alert you that it has saved the copyright info to XMP sidecar files. That's fine, so select Don't Show Again and then click OK. A few seconds later, the selected images are marked as copyrighted.

Click for full-size view (Click for full-size view)


As you may have heard, Photoshop CS now includes technology that prevents it from opening certain kinds of banknotes. Rumor has it, the technology responds to patterns in the new $20 bill (including the yellow 0's below) that also appear in Euros and other protected currency. I'm enough of a civil libertarian to find this intrusive. Designers have long been-- and continue to be--permitted to reproduce money for non-fraudulent purposes at certain sizes. Meanwhile, Photoshop won't even open the treatment shown below, even though I did it in Photoshop! So naturally, there must be a workaround: Open the money in ImageReady, then click the Edit in Photoshop button at the bottom of the ImageReady toolbox. ImageReady puts the artwork on an independent layer, which prevents Photoshop from complaining. I imagine Adobe will kill this back door solution in a future release, but so long as you save the layered document as a PSD file, you're safe for now.

Click for full-size view (Click for full-size view)


So, there you have it--14 arbitrary Photoshop CS tips designed to free your mind and elevate your spirit. And just because you've been such a great reader, one last tip to whisk you on your way. Prior to using Photoshop CS, did you by any chance use Photoshop 7? And have you long ago uninstalled it from your computer? If so, here's a great way to free up a big patch of space on your hard disk: Go to the desktop level and search for "FileBrowser" (one word). You'll find a FileBrowser folder. Open it and inside you should find a folder called Photoshop7. Assuming you made frequent use of Photoshop 7's File Browser, this folder is stuffed full of cache files that you no longer need. Throw it away and you'll reclaim anywhere from 100MB to a 1GB of storage space.

Not bad, eh? The foolish Photoshop street monkey comes through again.

Deke McClelland is an electronic publishing pioneer and a popular lecturer on Adobe Photoshop and the larger realm of computer graphics and design. He has hosted Adobe's official "Video Workshop" DVDs that shipped with many versions of Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as hundreds of hours of tutorial-style video training for industry leader lynda.com, with whom his work has won a record-setting eight international awards in the last 12 months. In addition to his video work, Deke has written over 80 books translated into 24 languages, with more than 4 million copies in print. In 2004, Deke created the bestselling One-on-One book series. Published with O'Reilly Media, One-on-One uses video, step-by-step exercises, and hundreds of full-color illustrations to provide readers with the closest thing possible to private instruction from a recognized expert.

In April 2004, O'Reilly Media, Inc., released Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One.

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