Monday, February 28, 2011


Tip #59. I seem to be in a performance loop. Bridge uses up a lot of your computer’s resources, too. If you have been digging through your stash for something that will be ‘just right’ you have also been building a large cache of images that’s taking up drive space. When you close Bridge, it might want to pause before it closes and optimize the cache. Never stop it from doing that. In fact, you might want to force it to do that by going to Edit | Preferences and selecting the Cache page. There, you can tell Bridge to optimize or purge the cache. You can limit the overall size of the cache by limiting the number of items to store in it. The range is from 10,000 to 500,000 items, so the cache can handle a lot of items if it has to. You might find that making your cache size too small means you are always waiting for images to become visible after you open a folder. I don’t mind waiting, so I keep the cache small.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Tip #58. If you are one of those folks who likes to do a little work in Photoshop, switch to E-mail, pop open Word to read a document you just downloaded from a website, and listen to music all at the same time, you might be having trouble with Photoshop taking forever to do anything. Close any application that you don’t need to have open. If you must check your G-mail or pop in on Facebook, then make sure you close your browser when you are done. Use a radio or a CD player. Don’t you have an iPod you haven’t used in ages? Putting on headphones means you don’t have to answer the phone when they call trying to sell you lawn care service and Photoshop will run faster.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Moving to a Medium Tablet

As soon as the budget allows, I'm getting a larger tablet. I use an Intuos 4 small and it simply does not work with the things that I want to do. There is a relationship (that can be changed) between the tablet and the screen. I can set the tablet so it only works for a portion of my screen. That only works for specific jobs. I use a dual monitor setup. Making the tablet active on a portion of one monitor leaves me with a lot of screen inactive.

There are also features on the Medium that are not available for the small. There are more buttons. The buttons have an LCD screen next to each button, so I can tell what functions I've assigned to each button. Right now, I don't use the buttons because I never remember which button is which. I have enough to remember already.

I've been experimenting with different settings for my pen. There are two buttons on the side of the standard pen, and I only regularly use the lower one. I can also set the eraser to perform a specific function when I tap it on the tablet, which I have not done yet. I'm thinking about setting it for a double-click.

The Intuos manual is extremely well written. The folks there know right brained folks and left brained folks and have created a manual that both types would be happy with. There is a lot of detail, explained in plain English. If you don't read the manual, you won't understand the features and won't get the full benefit of the tablet.


Tip # 57. Another option to save space is to save as .tiff, not .psd. Tiff files are much smaller and you’ll still have layers available.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Tip #56. Many .psd files are huge. Like many times the size of a .jpg, and is that ten times larger, or a thousand, or that wonky 1,024 that never divides evenly? Like you didn’t think you were going to fill up that external hard drive already, but you have. What to do? Flatten when you can. You don’t have to flatten the entire image. You can merge several layers into a single layer and reduce the total number of layers. A frame with doo-dads on it can become a single layer instead of a frame layer and separate layers for each doo-dad. If you added a layer and then turned off the visibility, but didn’t delete the layer, go back and delete that layer. But if you can flatten the entire image, you might want to. An image with 10 layers dropped down to 26% of what it was before I flattened it. And for crying out loud, you don’t have to save everything with the quality at 12!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Tip # 55. Be patient. Sometimes, the task you think should be simple, isn’t. Your processor is busy crunching numbers trying to figure out how to adjust all of those pixels and it’s going to take some time before it does the math and comes up with the answers. That Dry Brush Artistic Filter that will make your photo look like a painting is going to take some time before it is complete and you can see what it looks like. Relax. Let Photoshop do the job it was designed to do. If you have to wait for Photoshop to do something that really is simple, like fill an area with color, you might want to look for a newer and more capable computer with a better processor and more RAM.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Tip #54. If you aren’t interested in learning a bunch of lower and upper case letters, try an option-click or right-click with your cursor on the tool, to see all of the possible tool options and select the one you want. Why do I know this? Sometimes, my hand wobbles and it is difficult to click exactly on that itsy-bitsy triangle. Sometimes, I’m just in too much of a hurry to be picky about those darned triangles. A right-click is much more user friendly.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Tip #53. There is a system to keyboard shortcuts. You just learned to use a single letter to select a particular tool and then use shift and the same letter to cycle through tool options. That doesn’t only work on the Marquee tools. Need I say more?

Monday, February 21, 2011


Tip #52. Because Photoshop often expects you to be able to accurately put your cursor on a teensy triangle to see and select options, it can be a lot easier and faster to use a keyboard shortcut. For example, to switch to the Elliptical or the Rectangular Marquee tools, simply press the ‘M’ key. If you get the Rectangle, and you wanted the Elliptical, or the other way around, just use the shift key to hit a capital ‘M’ and you’ll get the other tool.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #51. If you have completely confuzzled yourself loading style after style, return to the default styles by clicking on the teensy arrow to the right of the tabs at the top of the Styles panel and then selecting Reset Styles. When the pop up window asks if you would like to replace the current styles with the defaults, click OK. Your life will become much simpler. Or at least your styles will.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Learned About Lightroom

Now that I've been working with Lightroom for a while, I've learned a few things. I don't use Collections. My folder system is such that Collections are only duplicate effort, that's wasted. I spent a lot of time setting up collections. It helped me learn how to move photos around in Lightroom, but aside from that, it wasn't worth it.

I've learned how to import and rename photos and get them into folders on my hard drive. Lightroom does this well. It took a couple of oopsies, with photos landing inside folders that I didn't expect them to be inside before I learned how to determine where they will go.

Before I had Lightroom, renaming photos was difficult. Now I always rename and sequence my photos, giving them a name and a number. It is much easier working with '2-18-2011 Josh Birthday-7.jpg', than it is to work with 'DSC_0926.jpg'.

I've added a step to my import process. Immediately after I import, I go through quickly and delete the duds. The exposure tests, the flash failures, the ones where someone sneezed. You know. This reduces the total number of photos I save. It also makes me look like a more competent photographer. I have fewer duds.

Looking through my photos like that has also cued me in to some of the errors that I make when framing up photos in my camera and has made me decrease the frequency of that error. The first step in correcting something is to recognize that it needs correcting.


Tip # 50. Photoshop comes with a very nice set of styles built in. Not all of the styles are loaded by default. Instead of spending your hard earned money for a style someone else created, try loading and playing with the styles that you already have. The list starts with ‘Abstract Styles’ and ends with ‘Web Styles.’ Click on the teensy arrow to the right of the tabs at the top of the Styles panel and then select something from the list. I like ‘Glass Buttons’ and use it a lot. A pop up will appear asking if you’d like to Replace your current styles with the ones from the set you just chose. I strongly recommend clicking on the Append button. This will add your newly loaded styles to the end of the set you already have. Otherwise, you will lose any styles you created and haven’t saved yet. Or, you won’t have access to that style you just used unless you load it again.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Tip #49. If you hover your cursor over a style image in the Styles panel, a tooltip will appear giving the name of the style. Often, the name is descriptive enough that you can figure out what the style will do without applying it to check. You can also choose Large Thumbnails from the Styles options list and the teeny squares will be middle sized. They don’t ever get really large.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Tip #48. Until you remove a Style or a set of Styles, Photoshop will keep them available for use, even when you close Photoshop and then open it again. So if you hate loading styles, you can avoid having to do it again and again. But you will end up scrolling through lots and lots of teensy images trying to find the plastic glitter style that matches the kit you are using.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Tip #47. When you are installing Styles, there are a couple of different places you can put the styles on your hard drive. Loading a Style is a multi-step process. First you put the file with the Styles in the correct folder on your hard drive. The right place for the files is not the same, depending on the version of Photoshop that you have. It’s OK to rename those files something descriptive as long as you don’t change the file extension. In order to use those styles, you load the styles; you tell Photoshop to open up that file and make the styles available for use by clicking on the drop down options at the right of the tabs in the Styles panel. You can either select from the list, or open the Preset Manager, which allows you to edit styles within a set after you load them and load more than one set of styles. Once you have loaded styles, you can click on the little picture in the Styles panel and apply that style to a layer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Tip # 46. What is a Style? A style is a way to apply a set of adjustments to an object. All the adjustments have been saved as a single Style. When you right-click or Control-click on a layer in the layers panel, and select Blending Options, what opens up is a Pop-up with the title ‘Layer Style.’ (Don’t ask me about the title thing here. I have no clue.)There are many settings you can change for the panel that appears when you select it from the choices on the left. If you have Preview checked you can see what will happen before you click OK. Not only will that little gray box change, the item you clicked on will also change in the image you are working on. Once you have all the things you want changed, you can save that set of changes as a style and apply it very easily to another object. Once you have applied it, you can still open up the Blending Options and change things.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I Read Those Books

I'm playing with my Christmas reflector stand and reflector. I'm feeling just a bit like a newbie, because I'm learning the order in which you need to set one of these things up. It took me far too long to cover the frame put the frame in the clamps and then set the whole thing up. Once I did, I also realized that it's tippy. Wobbly. Prone to fall over. It's a good thing I'm indoors and there is no breeze. The pros use sandbags as counterweights. I know this because I read it in one of Joe McNally's books. Great. I don't own sandbags.

It is now time for the Mother of Invention to step in and give me an idea.


Tip #45. The color picker is the two larger squares, usually black and white, that are at the bottom of the tool panel. If you have changed your colors, you can reset to black and white by clicking on the mini set of squares just above the larger set. The top left layer is our foreground color and the lower one on the right is the background color. To switch between foreground and background, click on the curved, double ended arrow that is to the right of the mini squares. Or, just press the shortcut key ‘X’. If you click on the foreground square, you can change the foreground color. That’s the one you usually change. A pop up window will appear, with a rainbow-like stripe, next to a square that’s more detailed. Click on the stripe to select your general color and then click in the square to pick the shade or tint that’s exactly what you want. Or, you can enter specific numbers for Red Green and Blue, or CMYK, or the color chart you happen to have. You can also save a ‘perfect’ color as a swatch. You know how I am about naming things… If you move your cursor off the window, it will turn into an eyedropper. Using that, you can take a sample of the color that’s at the tip of the eyedropper. If you accidentally click in an area of color that you don’t want, it’s OK. You can take as many samples as you need to before you click on OK.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Tip #44. Those marching ants that show you what you have selected are really more of a visual guide to the general area that has been selected than they are a perfectly drawn outline of each pixel in the selected area. In fact, if the area is small enough, there will be no ants visible at all unless you zoom in a lot. This means you need to zoom in a lot if you require precision in determining if your selection is correct. Don’t let yourself get confuzzled by the difference between a selection, and a selected area. A selection would be the actual marching ants. The selected area is what’s inside the marching ants. You can adjust the marching ants without acting on the area inside them and also change the area inside and the marching ants will stay put. I can move a selection to a different layer, or even to a different file. I can only move or copy a selected area onto a new layer. But the new layer doesn’t have to be in the same file.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Tip #43. It is easy to change the name of a layer. After all, who wants to try to remember that layer 37 is the ‘M’ in the title and layer 12 is the sunburst? Simply double click on the words ‘Layer 37’ in the layers panel and then type in whatever you want. You can press Enter or Return, or you can just click on anything else. Me, I press Enter, because random clicks in Photoshop aren’t always harmless. This also works if you want to rename a group something other than Group 3.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Tip #42. When you are making a selection that you want to fill with color, go ahead and make your selection. Use the keyboard shortcut ‘G’ to switch to the paint bucket tool. You might have to press G more than once, as the first option is the Gradient tool. Then you’ll want to click on the color picker icon at the bottom of the tool bar and select your color. Click on OK, move your cursor into your selected area and click. The important thing to remember about this is that you are going to be painting an area of the active layer the color you selected. You won’t be creating a new layer unless you click on the new layer icon, or press Shift + Command or Control + N. Make sure that the new layer is the active one before you click to fill your selected area.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Tip #41. A flattened image is one that no longer has separate layers in it. They have been merged, or flattened into one layer. It is customary to flatten images before printing them, or before publishing them on the Web. A flattened image is much smaller than one that has not yet been flattened. To flatten an image, go to Layer | Flatten Image. Or, if you save a file as a .jpg, you will flatten it as you save it. Grouping layers is not the same as flattening. You can ungroup a set of layers. When you flatten an image, you can’t expand it again. It is a good idea to save your images in a layered format and save them a second time as a flattened image. That way, if you find an error or a problem, you can correct it much more easily in the layered version.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Tip #40. If you can use the History to undo a mistake, or preview something before it happens, why not experiment more? Instead of following some recipe to create an effect, try a different option than the one in the instructions. Increase the opacity, use a different blend mode. Play!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Tip #39. All the best people use a tablet. ;) It doesn’t matter if you are using a Bamboo Fun, or an Intuos 4 Large. Any tablet is a zillion times more accurate and easier to control than a mouse. There is a learning curve when you start, and you might be frustrated at first. Once you become accustomed to it, you will sneer at mice. Photoshop was designed to be used with a tablet and there are options inside it that a mouse cannot access. The stylus on a tablet can be pressure and angle sensitive. You will be able to move the stylus exactly as you would a paintbrush and Photoshop will respond. Press harder and watch the line get thicker, darker or both. Some tablets have interchangeable nibs for the stylus that change how it feels as it moves across the surface. Other tablets respond to fingertips as well as a stylus.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Tip #38. To change the order of layers, just click and drag the layer in the Layers panel. When you start there will be a ghost image of the layer you want to move. A double line will appear between two layers as you drag over them. Release, and the layer will drop in between them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Tip #37. To select more than one layer at a time, just press Command or Control while clicking on the layers in the Layers Panel. Then, if you perform an action, it will affect all of the layers you selected. When you want only one layer selected, just click on that layer.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Tip #36. It doesn’t matter if you use the Rectangular Marquee for your first selection, change to the Elliptical Marquee and make another selection and then use the magic wand to make your final selection when adding to or subtracting from selections to end up with exactly what you want. Photoshop doesn’t care. Use whatever selection tools you need.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #35. Don’t be afraid of the Pen tool. What freaks some folks out is that you aren’t creating a selection with the Pen tool. You are creating a path. After you create a path, go to the Paths tab in the Layers panel. Control-click or right-click on the Work Path that is there. Choose Make Selection and then click on OK in the pop-up window that appears. Poof! Marching ants will appear where the path was. You will have to go back to the layers panel, select Layers, and make sure the correct layer is active before you take action.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Configuration, Again

I had recently gotten a larger hard drive. I installed Photoshop and Lightroom and got them configured. The drive failed, and I got a replacement drive. I had to install my applications again and configure them a second time. Because I have been thinking about and writing down the things you do to configure Photoshop and Bridge for future tips, I didn't have to test settings and try to remember what I did. I didn't even have to look at the tips I'd written. I knew what I wanted to do.

The more you know about a difficult, complex application, the less stress you have when working with it.

And no, I didn't lose any data at all when the drive failed. It failed slowly, I spotted symptoms, and identified that it was a failing drive. I was able to ensure that all of my more recent changes were captured in convenient locations and I lost no data at all.


Tip #34. Use descriptive names. CaMi_DILC.psd will not help you find the layout you did of Carly Michaels, Dreaming in Living Color. Really it won’t. Carly_Dreaming.psd is a much better name. You don’t have to change the name of every single file you ever touch, but when you have created something, you ought to name it so you can easily find it again. And there’s nothing wrong with Carly_Dreaming_Draft.psd and Carly_Dreaming_Final.psd, either.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Tip #33. If you open a pop-up option box and realize you didn’t want to do anything, close it by clicking on Cancel. That’s a lot safer than clicking on OK. You might have changed something without noticing it and clicking on OK will make changes to your document. This tip is good at any time you want to close without making changes in any application on your computer.

Since my hard drive was replaced yesterday, I'm doing pretty well to have not missed a day of tips!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Tip #32. Don’t make your History too large. If you keep too many actions in History, Photoshop will slow down to a creep. And it isn’t usually all that blindingly fast to begin with. You probably won’t need more than 75-100 entries, and you can set that in the Preferences pop up, in the Performance section. That should be a hint that History affects performance, eh?