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The Photoshop page

I live in Photoshop

Almost every day I spend several hours with the program, and I have many 12-hour workdays spent entirely inside its confines. So yes, I know this beast — and I still learn new stuff every day.

Here are a few scattered tips, mostly for beginners.

Auto-Levels: Ctrl-Shift-L

The Auto-Levels function is often (if not always!) an easy and excellent way to give our images a bit more kick, by insuring that the tones range all the way from white to black, instead of from light-light-gray to dark-dark-gray. 90% of all photos will benefit from at least trying this quick command.

However, Photoshop's out-of-the-box default setting for the Auto-Levels is too harsh — it clips off highlights and shadows. To not lose detail, you must therefore change this default, which is done in the Levels's (Ctrl-L) Options window. Set the two "Clip" figures both to zero, then check "Save as default".

Auto-Color Correction: Ctrl-Shift-B

I bet a lot of Photoshop gurus will snicker at me for even mentioning this little amateur quickie, but the fact is it only takes half a second to at least try this function — and it can sometimes do wonders. So let's not be so condescending about the amateur quickies, for they also serve.


Speed-Up Tip:

Close all UI elements in Photoshop with "Tab" before you run Actions through "File/Automate/Batch" — that will double the execution speed, or even faster, by not making Photoshop have to use CPU to update various palettes for every image. The time savings can be significant if you want to treat many images with complex Actions. This principle holds also for running an Action on a single open image. Afterwards, press "Tab" again to show all tools.

The Impossible Action

Actions can automatize almost all aspects of Photoshop and are great time-savers. But there is is at least one thing they cannot be made to do, alas — namely to save our Actions to disk, for safety's sake. So we must now do this manually, if we have written some precious Actions and don't want to entrust this to PS's auto-saving, which will fail if Photoshop shuts down prematurely, for instance. (I'm sure that scripting with JavaScript could do this, but at present I know almost nothing about this aspect of Photoshop — it's too geeky for me.)

Photoshop's Tragic Flaw

Shakespeare said it best:“What a piece of work is Photoshop!”

Indeed. Still, there is a most tragic flaw in this beauty of the graphics world: it does not allow you to import vector paths from external AI/EPhotoshop files as vector paths (it can rasterize them into bitmaps, of course). Much-needed Vector data for Paths and Shapes can only be brought into the program by copy-paste through the Clipboard provided you have another program which supports AI/EPhotoshop via the Clipboard. I am only aware of two programs which can do this, namely Illustrator and Expression. Why does not Adobe allow Photshop users to import external AI/EPhotoshop as vector paths? Isn't this an obvious need we all have, which they should satisfy – to make Photoshop truly "infinite in faculties"? Maybe there is an Adobe programmer pacing the hallways right now, never being able to make up his mind about whether to include this feature or not? “To import vectors or not to import vectors, that is . . .”

CS2 addendum:

The new "Smart Objects" feature in CS2 does indeed let us import vector file formats, like PDF and AI. And, even though they too become rasterized, this may not always matter so much, since their rasterization isn't "locked down" once and for all on import, but is re-rasterized with every size change. This is a great, great feature — maybe the best new feature in Photoshop CS2 — which can save us oodles of time and effort. My only objection is that the Smart Object files are incorporated into the the main PSD file, instead of remaining "on the outside," like normal, law-abiding "placed files" in InDesign. THis can lead to very serious file-bloat, so caution must be excercised in using Smart Objects, alas.