Monday, March 28, 2011

Tips on Hold!

I'm heading off to Photoshop World in Orlando this week and I'll have Even Better Tips when I get back.

Don't fret, I'll get us caught up, so you won't miss any tips, but for now, I'm getting my act together and taking it on the road!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Tip #84. If you change settings in the options bar, those settings become the default setting. The next time you use the tool, that’s what you are going to get. This can be very convenient, in that you don’t have to adjust things to get your preferred settings each time. It can also be a major frustration when you change to something obscure and can’t remember what you did, because you changed that tool a week ago and haven’t opened Photoshop since. The first thing to look at when your tool does funky things is the settings in the options bar.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Tip #83. A clipping mask is a way to control what is visible. It requires two layers. The bottom layer is the shape that you want to use. The top layer is the image you want visible inside the shape. Make the top layer the active layer. When you press Command - Option - G or Control – Alt- G, the top layer is now visible inside the shape. The best part is that using your Move tool, you can adjust the top layer so exactly what you want will be visible. You don’t have to keep the cursor inside your clipped shape. This doesn’t work to put a photo inside a frame. What will happen is that the photo becomes the frame. I am deliberately not being specific about the bottom shape, as long as it isn’t a selection.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Tip #82. Practice. If you don’t use it, you lose it. This doesn’t mean you need to sit down and do ten minutes of scales each time you sit at the keyboard. You do need to use things you have learned enough for you to become comfortable with them. Use keyboard shortcuts to change tools, when you are just staring at your layout trying to think of what it needs. Try a Feathered edge, just because you can. Later, when it is what you want to do, you won’t be frustrated with not remembering how to do it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #81. Photoshop keeps separate History files for each document you have open. If I have been editing a photo to go on a layout that I also have open, when the photo is the active document, the History shows what I have done to the photo. When my layout is active, the History shows what I have done to the layout. This means if my History limit is 100, and I have three documents open, there are up to 300 total actions in History.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Tip #80, To make a soft edge when you crop something, use the Marquee tools and adjust the edge by setting Feather in the options bar to a number that you find pleasing. I start at 15px, and see how I like that. This will also round the corners of the area. If you want to have a picture with an edge that fades into nothing, this is how to do it. Make your selection on the photo you want to add to your layout. Adjust the Feather to 15px. Move the selected area to your layout. If you don’t like it, use the History to remove that and try again with a different Feather setting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Tip #79. Have you ever tried to take a picture of something like a painting on a wall and had it come out looking skewed? It might look like it is leaning back against the wall instead of hanging flat. To correct this, use the crop tool, but click the Perspective check box in the Options bar after you draw your shape. You can then drag the corners of the bounding box to line up with the edges of the frame. When you complete the Crop, the area you selected will crop and straighten to have square corners. Photoshop will adjust the perspective and it won’t look distorted.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Sorry, I've been lax...

Tip #77. There is another way to open Bridge, or Mini Bridge if you have CS5, than going through the Start | Programs, or the Chooser. There are icons you can click on in the menu bar of Photoshop for Bridge and Mini Bridge. Don’t laugh, but it was over a year before I learned they were there and what they did.

Tip #78. The Crop tool and the Rectangular Marquee will both work if you want to crop a picture into a specific size. The Crop tool is more flexible. For the Crop tool, you can enter your desired Width and Height, just as you can for the Marquee tool, using either numbers alone for ratios, or indicating a size in inches, centimeters, or pixels. Then, you draw your shape and drag it to where you want. The area you will crop away is shadowed. You can drag on the handles of the bounding box to adjust the size, or click and drag in the center to move the box around. To complete the crop, press Enter or Return, or click on the check in the options bar. For the Marquee tool, you have to go to Image | Crop after you have drawn and placed your selection, and opening the menu is much slower. But the Elliptical Marquee will allow you to crop to an oval, or a circle.

And now we should be caught up. OK?


Tip #76. By default, Photoshop is set so objects will snap to a line in the grid when they get close. They’ll suddenly move into position for you. If you don’t want things to snap to your grid, you must turn it off. Go to View | Snap and clear the check for Snap. You can further adjust whether snapping is turned on for Guides, which are specific lines that you draw, Grids, which we discussed in the previous tip, Document Bounds, or Layers. The default settings are for snapping to be turned on for everything. Objects will snap sideways as well as up or down. When I am trying to space letters to make separate words, snapping sideways is annoying. I’ll snap to a horizontal line, turn off the grid and then use the arrow keys to nudge letters into the correct spacing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Tip #75. The keyboard shortcut for a grid is Command or Control and the ‘ key. The shortcut will turn the grid on or off. You can set characteristics for the grid in the Options box, under Edit | Options and the Guides, Grid and Slices page. I set mine for grid lines every 1” and I set the subdivisions to 4. That gives me a bolder line every inch and three dotted lines indicating ¼”. Grids are really useful when you are aligning things.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Tip #74. Some kits come with alphas. Some have all the letters and symbols on a single page, some have each letter or character as in individual file and some kit designers provide both. When all the characters are in a single file, you will want to use a polygonal or lasso selection tool to surround the letter you want to use and then the Move tool to position it on your layout. If you want to Transform the letters, I strongly suggest that you Merge Down, so all of the letters are on a single layer and then transform them as a group. Otherwise, you are going to be jotting down numbers, so you can transform them to all be the same size. Once you merge, you can’t move one letter at a time though. You’ll need to align and space them all first.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

I apologize for the gap. We went out of town and I don't think I fired up a computer at all while we were away.

Catching up for Saturday.

Tip #71. After selecting Transform, if you click on the curved window, you can warp your shape. Instead of a bounding box, a 9 square grid is drawn. There are several standard warps in the dropdown box to the left in the Options bar, or you can just click and drag on the grid. If a line with a dot at the end appears, you can also click on the dot to move the grid further. Warping is good when you have things like leaves and you want them to look naturally curled. It also works for flags. Even if you select a preset, you can further edit it. If you hate the warp, you can cancel out of it and make no changes by clicking on the ‘Don’t’ sign in the middle of the options bar.

For Sunday

Tip #72. There is a limit to how much you can make most files larger in Photoshop. Eventually, you run out of pixels. If your image starts with a high pixel count, you can make it quite large before you start getting ugly stair steps where there should be smooth diagonals, but at some point, most images will do that. This is where pixels per inch comes in. The more pixels per inch there are, the larger you can make the image before stair steps show up.

Today's Tip

Tip #73.The exception to the enlargement limit is files created with vectors. The average user rarely touches vectors unless they are converting type into vectors. If I want to perform certain actions on my type, I must convert it into a vector image. Photoshop will ask me if I want to do this before it completes the action. I don’t have to remember which ones require it. The conversion is one way. I can’t convert the vector back into type to correct a spelling error. Remember when True Type Fonts first came out? They were the first fonts that were created with vectors, so I could make a True Type Font any size I wanted. While Photoshop uses True Type Fonts, it still has to group the individual characters into a single vector image for it to carry out some actions. The grouping means I can’t edit the type any more.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #70. If you have something that’s the wrong size, or tilting the wrong direction, or both, you can Transform it. The keyboard shortcut is Command or Control and the letter T. The object on the active layer will have a bounding box with handles appear around it. Up in the Options bar, about the middle of the screen, there will be three pictures. One looks like a wedge shaped window above a curve and next to it are the international don’t sign and a check. If you want to cancel out of transform, making no changes, just click on a different tool, or click on that Don’t sign. To transform the object, just drag the bounding box handles. If you want to rotate the object move your cursor to a corner and it will change to a double ended, curved arrow. If you don’t want the object to distort as you transform it, press the shift key as you drag a corner, and it won’t go tall and skinny, or short and fat. It will just get larger, or smaller. If you are into a lot of numbers, you can enter values in the Options bar to change the size and shape. When you like your transformation, you can click on the check or press the Enter or Return key. Warp sometimes takes a couple of seconds to complete.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #69. The keyboard shortcut to save something is Command, or Control and the letter S. If you want to ‘Save As’ just hit Shift and Command or Control, and the S. That was easy. So why haven’t you saved those changes yet? History is saved until you close the image. If you don’t like what you did, even if you saved it, if you haven’t closed the image, you can use History to undo those changes. Remember to save when you undo, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Tip #68. Many folks haven’t spent a lot of time looking at shadows in the real world and as a result, their drop shadows look strange. Spend a few minutes with a desk lamp and some objects, experimenting. When are the edges of the shadow sharp? When are they blurry? Shadows change size as the object moves closer to and farther away from where the shadow lands. And a shadow is only directly under an object when the light is exactly on top. Light from the left and below an object creates a shadow above and to the right. Once you understand what happens when the light and distances change, you’ll have a much easier time with the size, spread and distance options for the Drop Shadow Layer Style.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Tip #67. It’s a good idea to save your favorite Styles as a set. That way, you can quickly load them after you reset Styles. If your favorite set of Styles changes, just save it again and write over the old set. I discovered that I couldn’t remember exactly which Styles I liked when I had more than 60 sets of styles to choose from.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Tip #66. It is a two-step process to save styles that you create. First, double click on the layer style in the layers palette to open the Layer Style options pop-up. Then click on ‘New Style’ and give it a name. It will append to the end of the list in the Styles Panel. It is not saved yet! If you reset or replace your current styles, it will be lost. The second step is to create an .asl file using the Preset Manager tool. Make sure that only the styles you want to save in that set are selected. When you click on the Save Set button, you will be taken to where you can give your set a name and save it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Tip #65. The Preset Manager is a very, very useful thing. I usually use the Styles Panel drop down menu to open it. Like many things in Photoshop, you can get to it in several different ways. Once you have it open, you can use it to load styles. You can also delete styles that are loaded from a set of styles. You are just unloading them; you aren’t actually deleting the styles. If you have one style that you want out of a set of many, you can load the set, and then remove all but that one style. If you want to load several sets of styles at once, it’s a convenient way to do it. If you select a single style and click the Rename button you can give the style a more descriptive name to help you find it. Shadow-1, Shadow-2 and Shadow-3 can become Big Shadow, Bigger Shadow and Biggest Shadow.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Tip # 64. Some old terminology has changed with the release of CS5. What used to be called Palettes, are now called Panels. If you have an older reference, and you are comparing it to a newer reference, don’t be confused. They are in the same locations, accessed through the same clicks and double clicks and they do the same things.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Tip #63. A 4” x 6” print doesn’t become 5” x 7” or 16” x 20” without a lot of issues. If you multiply the width by 4, you have to multiply the height by 4, to maintain proportion. What you end up with is 16” x 24”. Cutting off 4” will usually do horrible things to the composition. Use a much larger frame and a custom cut matte to make it work.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Tip #62. When I am trying to get something to print out at a particular size, I create a new file that will be exactly that size, or slightly larger. I create what I want. When I’m done, I save it. Perhaps it is 2 ½” by 3 5/8” Then, I create another new document that is the size of the paper I am using in my printer. Often that is 4” by 6”. I put my finished first file into the new second file, in the middle of the space, and I save the new file as a .jpg. Then I print out that 4” by 6” .jpg file. What I get is my art, the size that I want it to be, in the middle of a plain white background. All I have to do is trim away the plain white and I’ve got my 2 ½” by 3 5/8” image. Because the second, larger .jpg is the size of the paper I used, I don’t have any odd ‘adjust to fit’ nonsense going on. Many printers will try to up or down size an image, and will crop an image to make it fit the paper it is using. This process avoids that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Tip #61. Why do most digital scrapping kits use .psd files for elements and .jpg files for the papers? It is not possible to have a transparent background in a .jpg file. Instead of having the element by itself, you’d have the element and a square or rectangular shaped white area behind it. Ugh. Just uber-ugh. If you have purchased a ‘Quick Drop’ kit, where you have to add your own photos to an already created page, you want to get files that are not in .jpg format. It is easy to layer photos in behind a transparent hole in the layout.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Tip #60. Even if you are just using the new Mini Bridge inside Photoshop, the full Bridge is running in the background. It just isn’t visible. Mini Bridge doesn’t mean mini resource use. As far as your computer knows, it is the same amount of work. But it is convenient not to have to switch windows back and forth between Photoshop and Bridge.