Learning Photoshop: Navigating The Workspace - Online Article

Navigating the Workspace

The lessons have been written for Photoshop versions 5.0, 5.5, 6.0. Users of Photoshop 7 and 8 may encounter minor differences in the locations of some commands.

Let's get started by exploring the basic elements of the Photoshop workspace. There are four main counter parts to the Photoshop workspace: the menu bar, the status bar, the toolbox, and the palettes


The Menu Bar

The menu bar

The menu bar consists of nine menus: File, Edit, Image, Layer, Select, Filter, View, Window, and Help. Take a few moments now to look at each of the menus. You may notice that some menu commands are followed by ellipses (...). This indicates a command that is followed by a dialog box where you can enter additional settings. Some menu commands are followed by a right pointing arrow. This indicates a submenu of related commands. As you explore each menu, be sure to take a look at the submenus as well. You'll also notice that many commands are followed by keyboard shortcuts. Gradually, you'll want to get to know these keyboard shortcuts as they can be incredible time savers. In addition to the menu bar, Photoshop often has context sensitive menus for accessing some of the most likely commands depending on which tool is selected and where you click. You access the context sensitive menu by right clicking in Windows.

One of the most convenient contextual menus can be accessed by right clicking/Control clickingon the title bar of a document for quick access to the duplicate command, image and canvas size dialogs, file information, and page setup.

Menu and submenu

The Status Bar

The Status bar

Now take a look at the status bar along the bottom edge of the Photoshop workspace. The status bar is often taken for granted or over looked entirely, but it can be a valuable tool.You'll need an open document before the status bar will display any information how to open an image, go ahead and try it now.

Go to the File menu and choose Open, locate an image file and open it now. If you don't have an image file handy, you can find several in the Stockart folder of the Photoshop application CD. Ctrl-O/Cmd-O is the keyboard shortcut to open a file.This is the same shortcut used by most applications, so it should be an easy one to remember. If you are a Windows user, you can quickly open a file by double clicking on the application background.

Magnification level

To the far left of the status bar you will see the magnification level ofthe active document. You can swipe your cursor in this area and type ina new number to change the magnification of your document.

Zoom Tool

To return your document to 100% magnification, locate the zoom tool in thetoolbox and double click the button. The keyboard equivalent to this shortcut is Ctrl-Alt-0/Cmd-Option-0.

Document Sizes display

To the left of the magnification display on the status bar, you will see a display of document sizes. The number on the left displays the uncompressed size of the image if it were to have all layers flattened. The number on the right displays the uncompressed size of the document including all layers and channels. It's important to know that both of these numbers will usually be larger than the final file size of the saved document.

Status Bar display options

Next to the Document sizes display there is a small black arrow that pops up a menu. You'll find this arrow other places in the Photoshop workspace, so when you see it, remember that there is a menu hiding there. In this case, the menu allows you to change what is displayed in this area of the status bar. In addition to Document Sizes, you can optionally choose to display Scratch Sizes, Efficiency, Timing, or the current tool. You can look up each of these items in Photoshop's online Help for more information.

Next in the status bar, you can see useful information about the tool you have selected. If you still have the zoom tool selected, your status bar should say "ZoomIn" if you are outside of the document area. Move the cursor into the document area and you will see the status bar display instructions for using that tool. Now hold down the Alt/Option key and the status bar will show "Zoom Out" and the cursor will change to a minus sign. Next try the Ctrl/Command key in conjunction with the zoom tool and observe the tips displayed in the status bar. Try the other key combinations such as Ctrl-Shift/Cmd-Shift, or Ctrl-Alt/Cmd-Option while observing the statusbar instructions.

The Toolbox

Toolbox for Photoshop 5.5

You got a jump start on learning about the zoom tool while we were studyingthe status bar in the last section. Now let's explore more of thePhotoshop toolbox.

Rectangle Marquee

When you look at the toolbox, notice how some of the buttons have a tiny arrow in the lower right corner. This arrow indicates that other toolsare hidden under that tool. To access the other tools, click and hold down on a button and the other tools will pop out. Try this now by clicking on the rectangle marquee tool and changing to the elliptical marquee tool. The hidden marquee tools are shown here.

The Marquee tools

Now hold your cursor over one of the buttons and you should see a tooltip appear that tells you the name of the tool and its keyboard shortcut. All the marquee tools have a shortcut of M. An easier way to switch between the different hidden tools is to use the keyboard shortcut along with the Shift key modifier. For the marquee tools, the Shift-M combination toggles between the rectangular and elliptical marquee tools.
Take a few moments now to familiarize yourself with the tool names using the tooltips. Use the shortcuts you've just learned to explore all the hidden tools. As you select each tool, note the hints provided in the status bar area for each tool.

Moving down in the toolbox, we come to the colors watches. This is where the foreground and background colors are displayed. The tiny arrow to the top right allows you to swap foreground and background colors. The tiny black and white swatch symbol to the lower left allows you to reset the colors to the default of black foreground and white background. Hold your cursor over those two areas to learn the keyboard shortcuts. To change a color, simply click on either the foreground or background colors watch and select a new color in the color picker. Experiment by changing the foreground and background colors and then resetting them back to defaults.

Quick Mask and Selection Mode buttons

The next two buttons on the toolbox allow you to toggle between quick mask and selection mode. We'll learn more about this later in future lessons.

Screen Mode buttons

Below that you have a set of three buttons that allow you to change the appearance of the workspace. Hold your cursor over each button to see what it does. Notice the keyboard shortcut for all three is F. Hitting F repeatedly toggles between all three modes. Try it now.

This is a convenient place to mention a few more shortcuts for modifying the workspace appearance. Feel free to try them out as you read. When in either of the full screen modes, you can toggle the menu bar on and off with the Shift-F key combination. In any screen mode you can toggle the toolbox, status bar, and palettes on and off with the Tabkey. To hide only palettes and leave the toolbox visible, use Shift-Tab.

The Palettes

The Navigator Palette grouped with the info and Options Palettes.

The Navigator Palette grouped with the info and Options Palettes.

When you first open Photoshop, the palette sare stacked along the right edge of your screen in palette groups. The firstgroup contains the Navigator, Info, and Options palettes. Next is the Color Swatches, and Brushes palettes. Below that are the History and Actions Palettes. Finally, you have the Layers, Channels, and Paths Palettes.

Palette groups can be moved around in the workspace by clicking on the title bar and dragging. Each palette group has a collapse and a close button in the title bar area. Try the collapse button for each of the palette groups now. You'll notice the button works as a toggle, clicking the button a second time after the palette is collapsed will expand the palette again. You may also notice that some palettes do not completely collapse. Try collapsing the color palettes and you'll see that the color ramp is still visible.

Color Palette Expanded

Color Palette Expanded

Color Palette Partially Collapsed

Color Palette Partially Collapsed

Color Palette Completely Collapsed

Color Palette Completely Collapsed

For palettes that partially collapse, you can completely collapse them by holding down the Alt/Option key as you press the collapse button. You can also collapse a group by double clicking on any of the palette tabs. To display a collapsed palette, just click once on the palette tab if it's in the back of the group, or double click if it's in the front of the group.

Palettes can be resized either by holding your cursor over an edge and dragging when the cursor changes to a double pointing arrow, or by clicking and dragging on the right corner. Only the Color, Options, and Info palettes are not resizable.

When you click the close button on a palette group it closes all the palettes in the group. To display a palette that is not shown, you can either choose the command from the Window Menu, or display the palette using its keyboard shortcut. They are:

  • Enter or Return = Show/Hide Options Palette (V5.x only)
  • Double click tool button = Show/Hide Options Palette (V5.x only)
  • F5 = Show/Hide Brushes Palette
  • F6 = Show/Hide Color Palette
  • F7 = Show/Hide Layers Palette
  • F8 = Show/Hide Info Palette
  • F9 = Show/Hide Actions Palette

And don't forget these which we learned in the last lesson:

  • Tab = Show/Hide Toolbar and all Palettes
  • Shift-Tab = Show/Hide all Palettes

To bring a grouped palette to the front of the group, click on the palette's tab. You can also ungroup and rearrange the palettes by clicking on a tab and dragging it outside of the group or to another group. Try it now by dragging the navigator palette out of it's default group. Then put it back by dragging it back onto the palette group.

Another common feature of all the palettes is the palette menu. Notice the small arrow in the upper right corner of each palette. If you recall from our lessons on the menu and status bar, this indicates a pop-out menu. Whenever you see me refer to a palette menu throughout these lessons, you'll know I mean this menu for which ever palette isbeing discussed. Take a look at the palette menu for each of the palettes now. Notice that each individual palette has a unique menu.

Practice showing, hiding and moving the various palettes, click on the palette tabs to familiarize yourself with each palette, and take a look at each of the palette menus while you're at it.

If you'd like to return the palettes to the default locations after you finish experimenting, go to File > Preferences> General and click the button to reset Palette Locations. If you always want to start Photoshop with you palettes this way, uncheck the box "SavePalette Locations" box while you are there. If you work with many large images you may prefer to keep your palettes collapsed along the bottom edge of the Photoshop workspace to give you the maximum space for documents.

In the next tutorial we'll learn to work with documents in Photoshop.

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