Photoshop Top Tips

Creative professionals in almost every field use Adobe Photoshop CS. The program owes its popularity to a long, diverse list of features, but this complexity also makes Photoshop difficult to master. No matter what kind of work you do, the following tips will help you sharpen your Photoshop skills—and may even introduce you to aspects of the application you haven’t encountered before.

Get Three Lassos in One

Photoshop CS ($649; Adobe ) has three lasso selection tools—Lasso, Magnetic Lasso, and Polygonal Lasso—and each is a separate item in a fly-out menu. But when you use the Magnetic Lasso tool, you have the power of all three without having to go back to the Tools window. To select a free-form shape (as you would with the normal Lasso tool), hold the option key and drag within your image. To create straight segments in your selection (as you would with the Polygonal Lasso tool), hold down the option key and click on multiple areas of your image (without dragging). Release the option key to restore the Magnetic Lasso tool to its normal behavior.—BEN WILLMORE

Set Filter Defaults

You can change the default settings for any filters that use the new Filter Gallery dialog box within Photoshop. Just choose Filter: Filter Gallery, select the filter you’d like to work with from the pop-up menu, modify its setting, and Command-click on the Cancel button.—BEN WILLMORE

Control the File Browser

You can open the File Browser by clicking on its icon (which looks like a folder and a magnifying glass) on the right side of the Options bar. Command-clicking on that icon will hide all the visible palettes and cause the browser window to fill your screen. When Photoshop is active, you can also drag a folder from the desktop onto the File Browser icon to instantly navigate to that folder in the File Browser. When you double-click on a file to open it from the File Browser, hold down the option key to simultaneously close the File Browser. And when you’re opening a RAW-format image, you can hold the shift key to open the image directly in Photoshop, bypassing the Camera Raw dialog box altogether.—BEN WILLMORE

Preview in the Background

If you find that Photoshop takes too much time to generate thumbnail and preview images for all your files in the File Browser, choose Preferences from the Edit menu in the File Browser and select the Allow Background Processing option. This will allow Photoshop to create thumbnails and preview images while you spend your time checking your e-mail and browsing the Internet.—BEN WILLMORE

Autoflatten Layers

Do you have a large TIFF or PSD file with a lot of layers and wish you could open it as a flattened file? No problem—hold down the option and shift keys while double-clicking on the image in Photoshop’s File Browser or in the Open dialog box. Choose OK when asked, “Read the Composite Data Instead?” Note that this method works for a PSD file only when the file was saved with a composite image, which is the default.—DAVID BLATNER

Crop to an Aspect Ratio

Before sending digital photos to an online printing service, you may want to crop the images to the common print size, 4 by 6 inches. Just don’t use Photoshop’s Crop tool, which can’t crop an image without also changing its resolution. Instead, select the Rectangular Marquee tool and choose Fixed Aspect Ratio from the Style pop-up menu in the Options bar. The Options bar then lets you type values in the Height and Width fields (here, type

). Then use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the area you want cropped, and select Crop from the Image menu.—DAVID BLATNER

Change Camera Raw Defaults

By default, Photoshop CS’s Camera Raw dialog box blurs (in an attempt to remove noise) and then sharpens every RAW-format image you open. To change the defaults, open any RAW-format image, and when the Camera Raw dialog box appears, choose Camera Default from the Settings pop-up menu. Now select the Advanced option in the upper right corner of the dialog box and click on the Detail tab. Change both the Sharpness and the Color Noise Reduction settings to 0 (zero) and then choose Set Camera Defaults from the menu to the right of the Settings pop-up menu.—BEN WILLMORE

Control Your Batch Processing

The File Browser is the most convenient launching point for your batch operations, particularly if you want to control the order in which the files are processed. Simply drag and drop to move the files in the desired order, and then select only those files you want to process. The selected files will be processed in the order in which they appear. You can even process files that sit in different folders. Just flag the files first or add a common keyword or other metadata to all of them, and then perform a search for the desired flag or metadata. The files will appear in one view, where you can change their order and then batch-process them.—KEVIN CONNOR

Apply a Layer Mask to Another Layer

When you’ve perfectly masked one layer using a layer mask and want to apply the same mask to a second layer, just click on the layer to which you’d like to apply the mask, click on the layer mask you want to copy (but don’t release the mouse button), and drag it to the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. That copies the layer mask you dragged to the active layer.—BEN WILLMORE

Switch Layers Quickly

If you’re tired of mousing over to the Layers palette every time you want to switch to a different layer, choose the Move tool, hold down the Command key, and click on any visible area of the desired layer within the main image window. Once you’ve done that, Photoshop makes that layer active.—BEN WILLMORE

Take Command of Brush-Tool Settings

When working with the Brush tool, you can use your keyboard to change all the settings that appear in the Options bar at the top of your screen. Press the square-bracket keys ([ and ]) to change the brush size, and add the shift key to that command to change the softness of the brush. Hold shift and press the equal sign (=) and hyphen (-) keys to cycle through the choices that are available in the Blend Mode pop-up menus. Press the number keys to change the Opacity setting (03 equals 3 percent, 23 equals 23 percent, and so on), and add the shift key to change the Flow setting. Press shift-option-P to toggle the Airbrush option on or off.—BEN WILLMORE

Get out of Trouble Fast

If one of Photoshop’s tools isn’t acting the way you expect it to, you can reset it by holding down the control key, clicking on the tool icon that appears on the far left of the Options bar, and choosing Reset Tool.—BEN WILLMORE

Copy Image Sizes

If you want to create a new Photoshop image that’s the same size as one that’s already open, press Command-N to bring up the New Document dialog box, and then select the open file’s name from the bottom of the Window menu. The Window menu is still active when the New Document or the Image Size dialog box is open.—DAVID BLATNER

View All Layers

In previous versions of Photoshop, option-clicking on an eyeball icon in the Layers palette toggled the visibility of all other layers in the palette. In Photoshop CS, option-clicking twice on a layer’s eyeball icon brings back only the layers that were visible when you first option-clicked on that eyeball icon. To make all the layers visible in Photoshop CS, control-click on the eyeball icon and then choose Show/Hide All Other Layers from the resulting pop-up menu.—BEN WILLMORE

Zoom into Web Images

You can use Viewpoint’s ZoomView technology to export high-resolution images as fast-downloading, zoomable images. Go to File: Export: ZoomView, and follow the instructions. Individuals, such as photographers posting their online portfolios, can register for a free license to host these images on their Web sites. Companies running larger Web sites usually need to purchase a license from Viewpoint.—KEVIN CONNOR

Move Transparent Objects Magically

With the Patch tool, you can move a transparent object—such as a glass—from one location in a photo to another. Select the Patch tool and draw an outline around the transparent object. Select the Transparent option (in the Options bar) and drag the object to the new location, where the object automatically blends with its new background. Of course, it’s not really magic, and there are limits. This trick works best when the object is against a plain original background.—KEVIN CONNOR

[ David Blatner is a coauthor of Real World Scanning and Halftones , third edition (Peachpit Press, 2004). Kevin Connor is a Photoshop product manager at Adobe. Ben Willmore is a Photoshop author and educator. ]

Change Filter Defaults: The Filter Gallery dialog box, new to Photoshop CS, makes it easy to change default settings.Change Camera Raw Defaults: You can change the Camera Raw dialog box’s default settings so that it doesn’t automatically modify your images.View All Layers: In Photoshop CS, making all layers visible is a little more involved than it was in previous versions.

Sidebar: Illustrator Tips

Photoshop isn’t the only complex application in Adobe’s lineup. Illustrator CS ($499) has its own unplumbed depths. Let these tips be your guide.

Snap to Stroke Edges The dimensions Illustrator CS expresses for a stroked object such as a rectangle are based on the centerline of that stroke, not on the edge of the visible line. So when you ask for a square of 100 points with a 10-point stroke weight, the outer dimensions of that square are 110 points. To precisely control the size of such objects, always subtract the stroke weight from the size you specify. To get the edge of a stroked object to snap to a guide or another object, use the Object: Path: Outline Stroke command, which lets you snap the visible edge of an object to a point or guide.

Semi-semibold Reversed Type When printed, reversed type (white type on a black background) can appear to break up because the ink spreads slightly and pinches the closed narrow portions of certain characters. The traditional solution for this has been to use a semibold version of the typeface to thicken up the thin strokes. But when a semibold isn’t available, or when, as in the bottom line in the screenshot, semibold is just too bold, you can use Illustrator CS’s Stroke command to thicken type a wee bit. The top line in the illustration shows Baskerville Regular. The middle line shows the same face with a 0.25-point stroke applied to it. Since the stroke is applied along the centerline of the character’s outline, only half that stroke weight—0.125 point—is actually added to the weight of the character, creating a sort of semi-semibold.

Control Headroom You’re trying to make text sit below the top of an Illustrator frame. Logically, you go to Window: Type: Paragraph, choose Show Options from the fly-out menu, and tweak the Space Before Paragraph control. Nothing happens. This is because Illustrator’s First Baseline alignment is set to Ascent by default. To move it down, select the text frame with the selection tool and go to Type: Area Type Options. In the resulting dialog box, set First Baseline to Leading; then, with the first line of text selected, adjust your leading to position the text vertically. The leading control defines the distance from the first baseline of the text to the top of the frame.—JIM FELICI

Sidebar: See Your Name in Print

We can’t promise you a spot on the New York Times Best-Seller List—but we can publish your Mac advice. We’re interested in your workarounds for Adobe InDesign and your advice on using type in any program. We’ll publish our favorites in a future Create column.

And fame isn’t your only reward. The first 500 people to submit tips will receive a copy of Words At Play, a typographic tour de force you can’t buy anywhere. This brainchild of Adobe uses the company’s typefaces and InDesign CS to illustrate quotations from 21 well-known people.

For official contest rules and restrictions, and to submit your tips and tricks, click here. Please include your name, street address, city, state, zip code, and e-mail address.

When a typeface isn’t the right weight for reversing out of black, you can customize it in Illustrator.

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