For the last several years, Illustrator has been my default go-to on all things design. I love the interface, the intuitiveness, and consistency it offers. Needless to say, when my company asked me to shift gears and start using Photoshop, I almost panicked.
I was very familiar with Illustrator and InDesign and had extensively used both, but Photoshop is a different animal. I calmed myself by saying, “But I’ve used other Adobe Suite programs, so how difficult can it be? I’m sure it’s intuitive as well, right?”
If, like me, you've found yourself pulling your hair out at Photoshop and still have to commit to using it, here are the top 10 problems I experienced in trying to work with Photoshop and easy solutions to save you time, energy, and frustration.
Problems and their solutions (using Photoshop tricks)
You can’t click directly on something on the canvas to select it
SOLUTION (novice): A non-expert answer to this dilemma (and the one I was instructed to use by my trainer at the time) is to just click around all the available layers, toggling the visible/invisible icon, until you find the layer it’s on and then work with it. (Which gets the job done but is extremely time-consuming.)
SOLUTION (Expert): Engage the Move tool (see illustration), then click on the item you want to access on the canvas while simultaneously holding down the control button (i.e., Ctrl + Click). This will highlight the layer that whatever you want to work with is on in the Layers panel. (To get to Layers panel, click on the Window > Layers from the top navigation bar.)
When using the Type tool, Photoshop won't let you leave the Type function
SOLUTION 1: Look up at the top banner (the Type header controls that appear once you are in the Type function on a layer) and click the check mark (see illustration) to lock in the changes you’ve made. Why does Photoshop make this mandatory? Because once the Type tool is engaged, the keyboard acts like a typewriter – none of the other keyboard shortcuts will function. To reengage the shortcut function programming, you have to tell Photoshop to cease using the keyboard as a typewriter. Hence, click the check mark.
SOLUTION 2: If you re-select the layer by clicking on it in the Layers panel to confirm the changes, the heading controls for Type will disappear.
You're in a Text layer but can't get the type controls to show up on the header bar
SOLUTION: Click on the desired layer, click off the Type tool, and engage another tool like the Path Selection tool (see illustration). Make sure the layer you want is selected, and click on the Type tool again. You should see the Type header controls appear.
Path Selection tool
(Layer highlighted in the Layers Panel)
You can't pan around the page without constantly going to the sidebar to access the Hand Tool
SOLUTION: The space bar is the shortcut for accessing the Hand tool. When you push the spacebar down, the selector arrow will turn into a hand. Be aware that in order to move around, you keep holding the right mouse key down and drag. By the way, if you double-click on the Hand tool, the image size will reset to 100%!
Your hand is tired of mousing-over to the Move tool again and again. How do you gain quick access to the Move Tool?
The move tool can be engaged by pressing “v” (when not in Type mode).
SOLUTION: To access Move, push the letter “v.” (Unless the Type tool is engaged, wherein you'll end up with a typed letter “v.”) If this happens, get out of the Type tool by engaging another tool.
There are too many steps to zoom
How do you zoom without clicking on the magnifying tool, engaging the (+) at the header, travelling to what you want to enlarge, and clicking several times?
SOLUTION 1: Press Z to gain access to magnify.
SOLUTION 2: Press command ⌘ (-) for zooming away. (Press multiple times for increasingly far away views.)
SOLUTION 3: Press command ⌘ (+) to zoom in. (Press multiple times for increasingly closer views.)
It's hard to figure out an image's size
SOLUTION 1: Pull up rulers by using Ctrl+R. Push Ctrl+R again to make them disappear. Rulers shown above are in pixels.
SOLUTION 2: Go to the top menu and click Image/Image Size.
Once there, you can read the size in the window that opens. In the following case, the image size is 800x600. (The size can be edited in this window as well.)
You can't increase or decrease the opacity of the layer you're on without engaging Colors
SOLUTION 1: Engage the layer you want to alter, and push Ctrl+1 (for 10%), Ctrl+2 (for 20%), +3…+9 (90%) and +0 (100%).
SOLUTION 2: Engage the layer you want to alter and look at the interior of the Layer panel to see the Opacity slider. Slide away from 100% to increase the transparency of a layer.
There doesn't seem to be a quick way to access Colors
SOLUTION 1: fn+F6 (fn is the function key that appears to the left of the control key on Macs). This will bring the Color controls up.
SOLUTION 2: Double-click the color boxes in the side menu.
Note: Each of these brings up slightly different views of the colors function.
You've cropped the image but it’s smaller than the page you're on! How do you change the actual page size?
SOLUTION 1: Page size = Canvas Size = Ctrl+Alt+Z.
SOLUTION 2: Go to the Top Menu bar and click Image, then Canvas Size.
You don't know how to unselect things
SOLUTION: Unselect with Ctrl + D.
These were the things that froze my initial productivity with Photoshop to either a zero or a snail’s pace. Once I had these tricks in place, I was able to work fluidly enough to enjoy learning more about this great and powerful tool called Photoshop. Visit Adobe.com for more tips.