Photoshop has changed its default look slightly over the years, but for the most part it’s been quite consistent: Toolbar on the left, options on the top, and a given set of panels (which used to be known as palettes) on the right. Despite the consistency, Adobe has added new ways to control and customize Photoshop’s interface with almost every new version.
Why customize? Doing so can make the program faster and more efficient to use. It can render Photoshop more legible. And you can save variations on the interface for different tasks.
Here are some simple techniques for making Photoshop CS5 work better for you, along with some cool built-in secrets that you won’t want to live without. Some of these tips work for CS3 and CS4 as well, though under slightly different menu items.
The interface above has lots of image area and consolidated panels. Photo: Peter Kolonia
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FYI: Hidden Features
Besides customization, Photoshop’s interface has other secrets; scrubby sliders are one of the coolest. Mouse over the word that precedes a number box, such as the word Opacity in the Layers panel, and you’ll see a pointing finger with a left- and right-pointing arrow. Click and drag left or right to increase or decrease opacity without using the pulldown menu. Scrubby sliders are in almost every numerical option that appears in the Options Bar for a given tool, such as the amount of feathering for a selection or a font size.