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Photoshop Tips


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Photoshop Help, Support And Survival Tips
My Skies Are Blotchy And Uneven, How Do I Correct This Prior To Printing?
How To Cancel Acrobat Reader’s “Reading Untagged Document” Dialogue Box
How Do I Quickly Hide (Toggle) My Palettes - Thereby Increasing My Workspace?
Detailed Photoshop Workspace & Palettes - Adjustment Layers/Masks And Palettes Tutorial
Photoshop Is Not Behaving As It Should, How Can I Correct This? - (Deleting The Preferences File)
I Have Photoshop And Cannot Find The Extract Filter And Pattern Maker Filter, Where Can I find Them?
How Can I Produce Very Small Custom Shapes/Text And Retain Quality And Avoid Unsightly Jagged Edges?
Photoshop Is Running Slow, Is There Anything I Can Do To Speed It Up?, (Cache, Virtual Memory & RAM)

Why Are My Filters And Effects Greyed Out?  
If you open an image onto Photoshop’s workspace and find the filters, commands or
effects, are greyed out, it could be the image you are trying to edit has been saved in CMYK Mode, and filters are designed to work in RGB Mode
To convert your image from CMYK to RGB Mode, from the top menu, choose Image then choose Mode then click a tick before RGB Colour. You should now be able to apply filters and effects. In addition, filters will only work with 8 Bits images. If the image you are trying to edit has 16 Bits, you must change it to 8 Bits to be able to apply filters and effects. To do so, from the top menu, choose Image then choose Mode then click a tick before 8 Bits/Channel
Colour Models Explained Here!

How Do I Quickly Toggle My Workspace Palettes?
You can quickly toggle the palettes on and off by tapping your keyboard’s Tab key. Tap it again to return your palettes - demonstrated in my screen capture here.Tab key

Photoshop Is Not Behaving As It Should, How Can I Correct This?
Deleting Photoshop’s Preferences File can force Photoshop to behave as it should.
The Preferences File Explained - Delete The Preferences File Here 

Delete Photoshop’s Preferences File - Windows XP
Prior to deleting your Preferences, ensure any additional Presets - for example Brushes, or Custom Shapes have been saved - Edit then Preset Manager. Now, to delete Photoshop’s Preferences File; first open Photoshop, and (before Photoshop has time to load its settings): immediately press the Ctrl, Shift and Alt Keys - press all three keys together.

You will then see the following dialogue box.

Make your choice to either delete the Preference File or not by clicking Yes or No. Photoshop will then delete the file, and it (Photoshop) will open as usual. On opening, you then need to reset your Preference choices - as illustrated below.

Photoshop Preferences Explained
To access Photoshop’s Preferences dialogue box, from the top menu, choose Edit then choose Preferences then make your choice from the right-side sub-menu. (Ctrl then K).

Photoshop remembers environmental preferences, for example, Tool Settings and the last File Format you saved an image to, by storing the information in a File every time you exit Photoshop. When Photoshop behaves erratically, Deleting the Preference File can get it back on track. Because of the number of times the File is altered, (updated) the Preferences File has always been in danger of becoming corrupt; it is therefore preferable to Delete The Preferences File (as outlined above), and then spend couple of minutes updating your Preferences, than to suffer a misbehaving Photoshop. Fortunately, Photoshop saves Actions, Colour Settings, Customs Shapes, Contours and such like, separately; therefore, (as long as they have been saved) Deleting the Preferences File won’t delete their files.

How Can I Produce Very Small Custom Shapes And Text Whilst At The Same Time Retain Quality And Avoid Unsightly Jagged Edges?
I find the best approach is to open a fairly large New Image, much larger than is necessary, (600 pixels X 600 pixels or similar dimensions), then set the Resolution to a minimum of 300. Now, activate the Text or Custom Shape Tool, and apply your Text or Custom Shape as usual;- making it large enough to nearly fill the large canvas. After you have applied your Text or Shape, Rasterise it if necessary, (Layer then Rasterise); then from the top menu, choose Edit then choose Transform then choose Scale. Now, reduce your Text/Shape’s size by grabbing the top-right transformation handle (that is attached to the large Transformation Bounding Box), and move it in the opposite direction - towards the bottom-left. This in turn reduces your Type or Shape retaining its scale; and should produce a sharper edge.

My Skies Are Blotchy And Uneven, How Do I Correct This Prior To Printing?
To smooth blotchy uneven skies, sometimes known as Gradient Banding: first isolate the area of sky with a Selection Marquee using the Polygonal Lasso Tool; setting a Feather that matches your photograph’s Resolution: if you’re unsure of the Resolution, begin with a low Feather setting. Then from the top menu, choose Filter then choose Noise then choose Reduce Noise. From the subsequent Reduce Noise dialogue box, set a low Strength, (of around 4), and experiment with the settings to create a smoothness that is suitable for your photograph - then click OK. Alternatively, if the Reduce Noise Filter doesn’t produce the desired effect, return your image to its original state: then from the top menu, choose Filter then choose Noise then choose Dust and Scratches. From the subsequent Dust and Scratches dialogue box, set a Radius of 100 and a Threshold of 0 - then click OK.

Gradient Banding

Smoothed Banding Using Photoshop's Dust And Scratches Filter

When removing unwanted elements it is important to experiment with Photoshop’s numerous Blur and Noise Filters. In addition, applying the Blur Tool, (experimenting with its Strength setting), can further smooth photographs. A good third-party filter that smoothes and corrects images is Alien Skin’s Image Doctor.

Photoshop Is Running Slow, Is There Anything I Can Do To Speed It Up?
Mac OS
, and Windows offer dynamic memory allocation, which means that each application gets memory it needs as it needs it. However, Photoshop has a propensity to use every bit of RAM (Random Access Memory) it can get its hands on, which can cause problems in such an environment. Left to its devices, it might consume the entire RAM and bleed over into your operating system’s Virtual Memory space, which is less efficient than Photoshop’s own Scratch Disc scheme. The reason for this is Hard Drives have moving parts and RAM does not, which means disc-bound Virtual Memory is considerably slower than real memory. Therefore, should you run out of RAM, and Photoshop has to rely Virtual Memory - (because it needs to swap portions of the image on and off your Hard Drive), it will slow down your workflow. 

The Memory Usage option lets you place some limits on Photoshop’s ravenous appetite. The option lists the amount of RAM available to all applications after the operating system loads into memory. You can then decide how much of that memory should go to Photoshop. If you like to run lots of applications at the same time: for example, your Word Processor, Drawing Program, Web Browser; or Music and Videos: then set the Let Photoshop Use value to 50%, or lower.  However, if Photoshop is the only program running, and if you have less than 256 MB of RAM - then increase the value to 70% or

It is recommended that you do not increase the Let Photoshop Use value higher than
: - particularly when using a low capacity computer of 256 MB’s or less. Doing so permits Photoshop to fill up RAM that the operating system may need, and may result in a less stable working environment. If Photoshop is running slowly, and it is utilising the Scratch Disc too often, it may be time to purchase more RAM.

To access the Performance Panel: from the top menu of Photoshop, choose Edit then choose Preferences then choose Performance. I am utilising Photoshop CS4: (Photoshop CS3 and CS4/5 have identical Preferences Panels): however, earlier versions’, although operate in a similar way, look slightly different.

Increase Memory (RAM)
To increase the Available RAM value, (highlighted below), perform one of the following three steps.

CS3/4 Example

Purchase more RAM. Installing an adequate supply of memory is by far the best way to make Photoshop run more quickly.

Close other applications. 

Close Photoshop then remove any Filters that you don’t use from the
Plugins Folder. Don’t delete them; just move them to a location outside of the Plugins Folder, so they cannot load into the RAM when you launch Photoshop. Alternatively, don’t install your Plugins into Photoshop: instead, (whenever possible) link to another program’s Plugins Folder - for example Paint Shop Pro, as demonstrated Here.

Additional Operating Efficiency Notes

Scratch Discs
When your operating system does not have enough RAM to perform an operation Photoshop uses a proprietary virtual memory technology known as Scratch Discs.
A scratch disc is any drive or drive partition with free memory. By default, Photoshop uses the hard drive on which the operating system is installed as the primary scratch disc.

Photoshop detects and displays all available internal discs in the Preferences panel. Using the Preferences panel, you can enable other scratch discs to be used when the primary disc is full. Your primary scratch disc should be your fastest hard disc; make sure it has plenty of defragmented space available.

The following guidelines can help you assign scratch discs:

For best performance, scratch discs should be on a different drive than any large files you are editing.

Scratch discs should be on a different drive than the one used for virtual memory.

RAID discs/disc arrays are good choices for dedicated scratch disc volumes.

Drives with scratch discs should be defragmented regularly.

Change the scratch disc assignment

Do any of the following in the Scratch Discs area of Performance preferences:

To change the scratch disc order, click the arrow buttons

To enable or disable a scratch disc, select or deselect the Active tick box

Click OK.

For the changes to take effect, you will need to restart Photoshop.

History States & Cache Levels
Photoshop has been criticised for its lack of pyramid-style file format that is capable of storing an image several times over at progressively smaller and smaller image sizes; known as downsamplings. Photoshop’s alternative is known as Image Caching. Rather than saving the downsamplings to disc, Photoshop generates the reduced images in RAM
The Cache Level value determines the number of downsamplings, which permits the program to apply operations more quickly at reduced view sizes. For example, if you choose a Colour Correction Command at the 50 percent view size, it previews much faster than normal: this is because Photoshop modifies a quarter as many pixels on-screen. However, because Photoshop must cache downsamplings in RAM, this, in turn takes away memory that could be used to hold the image. If you have lots of RAM, for example 512 MB - or more; and you frequently work with large images, (20 MB or larger); you would probably need to raise the Cache Levels to the maximum of 8. The lost memory is worth the speed boost.  If you have a small mount of RAM, for example, 256 MB, or less, and you usually work with small images, or Web Graphics (4 MB or smaller); you may need to reduce the Cache Levels value to 1 or 2. When files are small, RAM is better allocated to storing images rather than caching them.

Reducing the History States value can help to increase RAM. However, bear in mind, doing so will compromise the History Palette’s Undo and Redo capabilities.

Cancel Acrobat Reader’s “Reading Untagged Document” Dialogue Box
If you notice the following Reading Untagged Document dialogue box when opening your PDFs, clicking Cancel will safely and quickly close the box. (Clicking Start reads the PDF, which depending on the number of pages, can take a moment or two).

However, to stop the Reading Untagged Document dialogue box from reappearing: (once a PDF has been opened); from the PDF’s top menu, choose Edit then choose Preferences then choose Reading then choose Screen Reader Options then choose Page V’s Document. Now, from the right-side panel, click open the following Pages V’s Document list, and from the subsequent drop-down list, change it to Only read the currently visible pages then click OK.

If changing the Page V’s Document setting to Only read the currently visible pages fails to keep the Untagged Document dialogue box away, you may also need to Unmark the following Confirm before tagging document box: (remember to click OK).

If the Reading Untagged Document dialogue still persists: then ensure the Reading Order is set to its recommended setting - Infer reading order from document, as illustrated

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