A grab bag of Photoshop tips and tricks

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Here are a few of my favorite timesavers and hidden tips for Photoshop:

Duplicate layers easily

Like the other Adobe Creative Suite applications, Photoshop allows you to duplicate objects by holding down the Option key and dragging the object you wish to duplicate.

The shortcut also works in the Photoshop Layers panel. Holding down the Option key while dragging a layer will duplicate the layer, which is much easier than dragging the layer down to the new layer icon at the bottom of the panel.

Cloning from a secondary image source

Most people know how to use the Clone tool in Photoshop. But did you know you can clone in one image using a second image as the source?

Let’s say you have a great image of a cityscape, but the sky is dull and boring. You have another image of a beautiful cloudy sky. You can option click the cloudy sky then clone it into the cityscape image. To do this, simply Option-click in the source image (the image you want to clone from), then switch to your target image (the image you want to clone to) and start painting as you normally would.

Adjust multiple type layers at once

If you’re working on your Photoshop image and you have multiple type layers with different font faces and you decide your want to make them all a single font, it can be quite tedious to select each piece of type with your cursor and adjust the font face in the type panel. An easier way is to Command-click (or Shift-click if all your type layers are in a row) each type layer you wish to adjust and simply select a new font from the Options panel at the top of the screen.

Controlling depth-of-field

Controlling depth-of-field before taking a picture has been standard practice since the invention of photography. Photoshop’s Lens Blur filter provides a realistic way to simulate depth-of-field after a picture is taken.

There are lots of ways to simulate depth of field in Photoshop, but Doug Nelson offers a a great tip for controlling depth of field with Lens Blur. The tutorial is a few years old, but still applicable.

Crop and straightening scanned images

If you’re scanning several photos in for a project, it can be quite a pain to scan them one at a time for the sake of cropping and straightening them. Then again, if you try to scan them all at once, you have to manually straighten them and break them out to separate files, right?

Wrong. Photoshop has a built-in feature that will make this task much easier. Simply toss all your photos or artwork onto the scanner bed and scan them in—just take care to leave a quarter-inch or so between each photo.

Now open the image in Photoshop and go to File - > Automate - > Crop and Straighten Images. This automated task will analyze your image and take each photo, break it out to its own file and straighten the image based on the longest edge. So now you have a separate file for each photo in the scan, at the same resolution as the original scan, along with the original scan itself—which you can now get rid of, if you don’t want it any more.

[James Dempsey runs The Graphic Mac, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of design and Mac OS X topics.]

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