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- A guided tour of Photoshop
- Setting up your environment
- Color modes, bit depth, and image resolution
- The Histogram
- File formats
- Basic adjustments
- Output workflow
Skill Level Beginner
Photoshop enables you to apply a variety of different preferences based on of course your own personal preferences. That means you can essentially configure the way Photoshop operates based on the way you prefer to work. Let's take a look at some of the basic options available in a Preferences dialog. We'll start off by choosing Edit and then Preferences followed by General, that will bring up the Preferences dialog, which as you can see at first glance, has a lot of controls and actually this is just the beginning of it.
Over on the left side of the Preferences dialog you'll see that there is a list of individual sections of various preferences. Now I'm not going to put you to sleep by listing out every single option that's available, but I will take you through some of the preferences that I think are most useful. We'll start off on the general page, and here there aren't too many things that I feel are really critical, I leave most of these set at their default values. One thing that I do think is helpful is to leave the Use Shift Key for tool Switch option turned on.
You may already be aware that the tools on the toolbox, have keyboard shortcuts. For example the B key on your keyboard, will access the Brush tool. But also found, below the Brush tool, on the same button is the Pencil tool and the B key is also the keyboard shortcut for the Pencil tool. So if you press the letter B you'll get whichever of those tools was most recently used. But you can switch between those tools by holding the Shift key, while pressing the letter B. The reason I prefer leaving this option turned on is that I then explicitly switch between tools. Let's assume that you're using the Brush tool and you press the letter B, because you want to use the Brush tool.
Well, the Brush tool was already active, so now you've just switched to the Pencil tool, when you didn't intend to. So a minor little issue but one that can be helpful. Another setting that I have an opinion on is the Zoom Resizes Windows option. What that means is if you have a floating window and you zoom in or out, the window for the image will also resize. I don't generally have floating windows anyway, but I do find the resizing of those windows a little bit annoying, so I leave that option turned off. Most of the other settings on the general page here, are relatively self explanatory or, not really something you need to worry about when you're first getting started with Photoshop. I'll switch to the interface page, and this one I think, is perhaps more helpful, because the interface is how you interact with Photoshop on a daily basis. We can adjust the color theme, switching between a darker version, or a lighter version, for example.
Or even a relatively bright version, I generally prefer the second option which is a little bit dark, but that way the interface doesn't seem to get in the way of my photos. We can also specify some of the color settings for the standard and full screen modes, as well as determine whether or not we want a drop shadow for our photos in those screen modes. If you're not really keen on the use of tabs in Photoshop, you can also turn off the Open Documents As Tabs checkbox. That will cause all images to open then as floating windows. You might also want to turn on the Show tool Tips checkbox. That will cause a tool Tip to appear if you hold your mouse over a control. And that tool Tip will give you some information about the control that you're pointing to.
I frankly find these tool tips a little bit distracting so I prefer to turn this option off but it can be helpful again especially as you are just getting started with Photoshop. I'll switch to the file handling page and here we don't have to worry about too many of the settings but there are a couple that I want to mention to you. One is the Ask Before Saving Layered TIFF Files option. I prefer to have that option turned on so that if you're saving a TIFF image and there are layers, you'll get the TIFF options dialog where you can adjust the settings for those layers. I also prefer to set my maximize PSD and PSB file compatibility option to always.
The only drawback to having this option turned on is that it does increase the overall file size of your images. However, it also ensures that many applications are able to show you a preview of the image. In addition, this setting is required if you're going to use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to manage your images. You can't import PSD files into Lightroom unless maximized compatibility has been turned on. The performance section obviously relates to the overall performance of Photoshop. These settings are a little bit advanced and so I wouldn't worry too much about them when you're just getting started with Photoshop.
I will suggest that it's a good idea to increase the memory allocation for Photoshop generally to somewhere around 75% of the available memory. The history in cash, you don't need to worry about too much, however I do suggest that you increase the number of history states. If you need to undo something that you did a little while ago, more than twenty steps ago this can be a little bit frustrating and so I will generally increase this value to somewhere around a 100. This doesn't consume a huge amount of memory and it helps to ensure that you can undo tasks as needed that will be able to step back enough to really solve any issues that you might run up against if you've made a mistake working on your image.
The scratch disk settings are only applicable if you have multiple hard drives installed inside of your computer. I wouldn't worry to much about scratch disks if your just getting started with Photoshop, but it is worth exploring later in order to help optimize the performance of Photoshop. And the graphic processor settings enables some really advanced and pretty cool features in Photoshop. My recommendation is to leave the use graphics processor option turned on. You don't really need to worry about the advanced settings options. However if you find that Photoshop seems to be crashing or you're getting some odd behaviors you might try turning this option off as a troubleshooting mechanism.
Under cursors there are a couple of option I recommend here. First off I recommend for painting cursors that you use the normal brush tip shape option. That will give you a circle for example, representing the circular brush, or the shape of the brush itself. I also like turning on the show cross hair and brush tip option so you can see a cross hair in the center of the brush. For the other cursors, for example for the Eye Dropper tool, I prefer the precise option. The standard option gives you a cute little mouse icon, but it doesn't exactly make it clear where you should click with the mouse.
The precise option gives you essentially a target that you can use, making things much, much easier. Next I'll switch to the transparency and gamut settings, which, frankly, I don't think you need to worry about at all. The default settings, generally speaking, are perfectly fine. Units and Rulers is relatively self explanatory. You can choose whether you want the rulers to be in inches or centimeters, for example. But overall, you should be perfectly fine with the default settings here in most cases. For guides, grids, and slices, this just determines the viewing options for guides, grids, and slices of course, and the defaults are generally fine, but you can feel free to fine tune things as you see fit.
Plug in's, you really don't need to worry about at all. Rarely will you ever need to adjust anything here. And the type options only relate to type, of course, text that you can add to your images, and so you don't generally have to worry too much about these options, the default's I think are perfectly fine. So, that takes care of all of the preference settings that I think you need to worry about. You might explore some of the other options here. There are obviously many, many settings you can choose from so, exploring them can be a little bit helpful. But generally speaking, I think you'll find that the default settings are more or less just fine and the others are just a matter of personal preference. But of course, setting things up the way you prefer can make your experience in Photoshop that much more enjoyable.
With all those settings established, I'll go ahead and click OK and I'm ready to continue working in Photoshop.