Year after year, update after update, I always think Photoshop is going to finally change its defaults but every time I set up a new version of photoshop, I’m still updating these settings.
Photoshop is difficult enough, there are a lot of tools and settings so let's make it a little easier by going over my top 10 photoshop tips, tricks, and preferences.
Shout out to art school for this first tip, as I never knew this was a problem until one of my professors told me about it. Now it's the first thing I update. It’s a panel you pretty much live in when using Photoshop. The layers panel. Let’s open a document and go to the Layers panel, layers panel menu, panel options, and for thumbnail size, make this the largest option. I have no idea why this isn’t the default.
The next tip piggybacks off of this and is also on this panel options box, directly below as Thumbnail Contents. I also don't know why “Entire Document” is selected by default here, when you have a complex project with multiple layers, seeing the entire document in a thumbnail makes it difficult to see what it is at a glance. This option should be “Layer Bounds”. This scale the layer thumbnail to show what is in the layer.
So now we have larger thumbnails in our layers panel, and the thumbnails actually show you what's on the layer. No idea why this isn’t the default behavior, but here we are.
My next tip for Photoshop is a benefit while working on your own, but essential for working with others. That is to properly name and group your layers. How many times have you opened a Photoshop document to see Layer 1, Layer 2, Layer 2_copy-final, Layer 3 final final.
These aren't helpful names and taking the time to name your layers will help you work faster, and it's just good practice. If you have multiple layers that are all related and you don’t have time to name each one, just group them and name the group. Having a tidy top level of properly named layers not only helps you work faster but allows anyone else that opens your files to immediately know what they are doing. It’s the ultimate nerd flex that people actually like to open your files and don’t dread sorting through tons of layer 1_2-final.
The fourth tip is about using auto select, and why you shouldn’t be using it at all. The default selection method in Photoshop is Auto-Select, and this makes sense for many beginners with basic files. But once you start adding multiple layers or very detailed things, auto-select is your worst enemy. So with the Selection tool selected, we’ll un-check “Auto-select”.
So if we're not using auto select, what's the better way to select things?
Hover over what you want to select, right-click on the document, and select your properly-named layer. This becomes more important the more layers you have. This is another reason why a tidy layers panel is important and lets you work faster.
Tip 5, and a giant productivity booster is to learn the hot keys. I’m not going to bore you with all of the hotkeys, since my first video was about them and it absolutely tanked, but I’ll leave a link in the description to them so you can look them up. It’s a huge time saver, and you should learn the basic ones like how to select different tools, change colors and create layers.
Tip number 6 is another option that I assume will be turned off with every release, but somehow slips through the cracks every time, and this is the hyphenation option. For some reason this is turned on by default and drives me nuts. Open a document, select the paragraph panel, and uncheck Hyphenate. This will allow our words to break without adding those annoying hyphens and speaking of text.
Tip number 7 has to do with how you write text in photoshop. Most people select the text tool, or t, then click and start typing. This is a really frustrating way to make text in photoshop because you have to manually add line breaks and your leading gets messed up easily with weird spacing. There is a better way and it’s really simple, we're going to click and drag a text box so that our text can naturally wrap, and updating the columns of text is really easy. Pretty basic, but this is a really common mistake.
Another common mistake is to never add, remove or arrange panels depending on what work you’re are doing. If you’re making a digital painting, there is no reason to have the Character panel open or if you’re making a corporate flyer, you probably don’t need the brush library panel open. If you need to quickly get rid of all your panels, pressing tab with hide and show them. Alright, that's the last hotkey.
My ninth tip will be familiar if you’re a pre-creative cloud user. To remove the application frame that contains your current project and panels into one window, go to Window, Application Frame. This allows you to move your panels all over your screen and also see applications behind your current project to quickly switch between programs while you're working. This is personal preference, but I find myself being more productive in this view and fighting less with the panels and window.
For tip 10, were going to quickly tear through the preference panel.
If you’re using a lot of actions or manipulating images, you’re probably no stranger to the History panel. Sometimes you need more history states than the panel allows, or on the other hand, if you want the best performance, to limit your history altogether. Let’s head over to Photoshop → Preferences → Performance → History States
The default is 50, if you need more history you can increase this number. If you want to get a little better performance, you can decrease this number. I wouldn’t go lower than 25. If you want to ruin someone's day set this to one. You didn't hear that from me.
When you first open Photoshop CC, you’ll get that box of recently used files. To clear these files, go to file, open, clear recent. To get rid of the file dialog box altogether, go to Photoshop → Preferences → “Use Legacy ‘New Document’ Interface, this is my preferred setting.
These are the tips and tricks that I do in Photoshop that save me time and allow me to work faster. A lot of these seem obvious after you’ve heard them and would make sense as the defaults but for some reason, they haven’t been updated.
Do you have any updates that you use in photoshop? Let me know in the comments on YouTube!
I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.
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