As you learn the ins and outs of Photoshop, you’ll definitely make some mistakes, but from those mishaps we learn new and better ways to improve our workflow. For those who are still in the learning process, here are a few classic Photoshop mistakes that you can easily correct:
Ignoring Your Tools Palette – If you’re new to Photoshop, you may not get the chance to try out all the tools in your Tools Palette – or even better, you may not even know they exist. In order to save space, many tools of similar nature are hidden underneath another tool, such as the Patch tool, Paint Bucket, and so forth (Figure 1).
Any tool with a small black triangle in the corner has other tools hidden under it. Take an hour or two and try out all the tools in your Palette on a sample image. If you don’t know how to work them fully or see settings you don’t understand, search for the tool name with the word “Photoshop” on YouTube and you’ll most likely get several tutorial videos showing you exactly how to work it – for example, “Patch tool Photoshop”. If not, there are countless written articles and guides available on the internet.
Not Using Adjustment Layers – If you apply many adjustments to your photo but don’t use the adjustment layers to do so, you’re really missing out on streamlining your work. Most photo enhancements are available as separate adjustment layers (such as B/W, Levels, Curves, Exposure, and so forth) that basically hover over your original photo so that you can alter your changes and remove them easily if needed. If you apply it directly to your photo, you don’t have this capability. Even if you make adjustments to a separate photo layer (i.e. you duplicate your original photo layer), you still won’t be able to go back and tweak the adjustment later on. With an adjustment layer, you can double-click it at anytime and alter the changes you made previously. This works especially well when compiling edits as they tend to affect one another.
Locking Your Background Layer – If you want to do any kind of editing to your Background layer (the initial layer you have when you open your image), you need to unlock it. Many photographers simply duplicate the background layer in order to edit it – which is actually a good idea since you want your original to refer if necessary – but if you need to transform or alter the background layer itself for any reason, this lock can get annoying. To unlock it, simply double-click on the background layer as soon as you open it and Click OK. That’s it. You can rename the layer if you want, but it’s not necessary.
Working Without a Ruler – If you’re performing an intricate crop or need to find the exact center of your image, turn on your Ruler by clicking CTRL + R. This makes things much easier when you have to draw a white line every two inches, for example.
Viewing Your Final Image – Once you’ve performed all the editing you want to do – or if you simply want to see how you’re progressing without any colorful distractions – press Tab to hide your palettes and then F to toggle two different modes of full-screen: one with your menu and a grey background (or whatever color you chose as your default), and one with your entire screen black. Your palettes, menus, and other elements in your workspace can easily distract you from looking at your image, so it’s always best to have a nice, clean background when reviewing your work.
Disproportionate Selections – If you use the Transform tool or perform other Photoshop enhancements that are based on scale, hold down your shift button while you drag in order to keep proportions. For example, if you want a perfect circle with your elliptical marquee tool, shift+drag to make sure that your circle is drawn perfectly – the same goes for your rectangular marquee tool as well.
This also works great for your Polygonal Lasso selection tool – if you want a straight line drawn at 45 degree angles, shift+drag from any anchor point to get a perfectly proportional selection.
Don’t forget your Transform tool either – shift+drag any selection you’re transforming to keep it proportionate – this is very helpful when scaling photos that you don’t want to distort.
Photoshop has many tips, tricks, and shortcuts beyond what is normally taught in books. Let us know your own tips and observations below in the comments – what kind of essential PS knowledge have you learned that you wish you knew when you started?