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You wouldn’t start cooking dinner and go to the supermarket each time you need an ingredient, that wouldn’t be very efficient, right? For any activity you want to undergo in life it’s always best to have everything you’re going to need before you start, don’t you agree? With the Photoshop interface, it is the same.
You will be able to work more efficiently if you set up your workspace according to what you need right from the beginning.
In order to set up your workspace, you need to know what tools are available to you, how they behave, and what are the options. All of these things combined are called the interface, so let’s get to know it.
The big central area is called Canvas.
This is where your image will be displayed, therefore it’s quite an important component. All around the canvas area you’ll find tools and information to help you manage your image.
On the right-hand side, you have the panels. There are tabs here that provide you with information about what you have on the canvas. Which tabs are there is entirely up to you as it is completely customizable, but I’ll get to that later on.
On the left-hand side, you’ll find the Tool box which, as the name suggests, contains the various tools you can use to modify your image. I’ll show you later how it can be moved but as a default, you’ll find it here.
On top, there’s the Option bar which provides the setting options for each tool that you select from the Tool bar, therefore it is constantly changing.
And on top of that, you’ll find the menu bar with many options to control your canvas, file, and interface.
When you put together these sections you can transform your workspace. Now that you know what everything is and where to find it you can start personalizing it according to your needs. Let’s get to it.
The very first thing that catches your eye, and therefore is something you want to decide, is the color. If you go to Menu > Photoshop > Preferences > Interface you’ll find the options.
You’ll notice on the image below that I have used the lightest shade of grey. But the choice is completely personal, try all of them and see which suits you best.
No matter which one of those you choose, you can change the color of the canvas any time because each photo may need a different background.
For example, if you are working on a black canvas and you start working on a black photo you might not be able to see the edges of the image. Just right-click anywhere on the canvas area and choose any of the default colors or make a custom one.
I’ll make it a really evident green, not because it’s something I would recommend using, but because I want you to be clear on which area is changing with this option.
Now that you fixed the look of your Photoshop interface and workspace, it’s time to move to the practicality aspects.
As a starting point, you can use any of the default workspaces that Photoshop has built-in. To find them just go to the drop-down menu on the top right corner. Feel free to try them all out.
However, since you are reading this in a Digital Photography School article, I’ll suggest you start with the Photography Workspace and we’ll start building up from there.
To start personalizing, it’s worth knowing that most panels can be detached and dragged anywhere on your workspace. You can just click on the top of the panel where there is a dotted line and let go wherever you want the panel situated.
However, this can get very messy really quickly. So if you want to move the panels around, I suggest you still attach them into another available slot. To find them just hover over the workspace and look for the blue lines as they indicate snapping points.
Let’s now focus on the panel area as it’s the most flexible of all. In here, you have different information windows in tabs that can be grouped or stacked. You may think that it would be helpful to have all of them open but that would take away space on the canvas for your image.
So it is actually much more practical to have as little as possible opened at one time. Therefore, let’s start by closing the ones you don’t need from the default setup. To close a tab just go to the top right corner of the tab and click on the drop-down menu, from there choose “Close”.
You’ll notice that the panel area is divided into smaller boxes. This is because tabs can be grouped. To move tabs from one group to another just drag them. And to close an entire group just choose Close Tab Group instead of Close from the drop-down menu.
If you need a panel that didn’t come with the default preset, you can access it by going to Menu > Window and select the desired option. It will be dropped into the collapsible column on the left of the panels which is a collapsible extension of the panels.
If you need it open all the time, like the Layer panel for example, then you can have it on the right so it displays all the information all the time. But if it’s something you need just on occasion, you can keep it collapsed on the left and just click on it when you need it.
If you don’t need a panel at all you can always make it disappear from that column just by right-clicking it and then choosing “Close”.
This column can also be customized to show the icon and name of the panel or just the icon. Just click on the arrow at the top to choose.
While I’m on that, let me tell you that the Tool Bar has a similar feature by giving you the choice of one or two columns. Keep in mind that expanding it means losing Canvas space, so I like to keep it in the slimmer version.
Now you know how to customize your Photoshop interface and workspace.
But, if you work on different projects (i.e you’re a photographer but also do design) you may need different workspaces according to each specific needs. Or if you use a shared computer with another family member or a co-worker then you also might need different workspaces for each of you.
This is why you want to save your customized workspace so you can come back to it easily each time without the need for repeating this process.
To do this, go back to the drop-down menu of the top-right corner and choose New Workspace. Name it and go back to it any time you need.
Furthermore, if you are in your workspace but still find that are some changes from how it’s supposed to look, just click reset and everything will be back to normal. One last tip, from the bottom of the Tool box you can also choose the screen mode you want to use.
Okay, no more procrastination, get to work!