Photoshop Q&A

by | 2 years ago

Q: Sometimes I have elements on layers that are so small that even with the layer thumbnails set to large in the Layers panel, I can’t tell which layer is which. Any suggestions?

A: If you use the flyout menu at the top of the Layers panel, there’s a menu option called Panel Options. In the resulting dialog you’ll see two options under Thumbnail Contains and, by default, it’s set to Entire Document, which means that each layer thumbnail displays the entire size of the document. The other option is Layer Bounds, which will change the display of all thumbnails to show only what appears on each layer.

It’s very likely that you’ll want to alternate between these two options. You can access these choices more quickly by Right-clicking in the “empty space” in the Layers panel, and from the pop-up menu, choosing between Clip Thumbnails to Layer Bounds or Clip Thumbnails to Document Bounds.

Q: I have a logo on a layer by itself and I want to change its color, but when I use the Fill command, the entire layer is filled with color rather than just the logo. How do I change the color of just the logo?

A: Unless you tell Photoshop otherwise, in effect the entire layer is active, and that’s why it’s filled. You need to tell Photoshop to fill only the existing pixels and not the transparent areas, which can be done in several different ways:

  1. Click on the Lock Transparent Pixels icon in the Layers panel and then use the Fill command. Tip: Be sure to turn off this lock command after filling, or it can cause other functions not to work the way you might want.
  2. Use Edit>Fill, and in the dialog, click the Preserve Transparency box. Color can then only be applied to the existing pixels, which gives the advantage of “locking” only the transparent pixels while the Fill command is used.
  3. If you like using keyboard shortcuts, you can fill with the existing Foreground or Background color while preserving transparency. To fill with the Foreground color (with preserve transparency), press Option-Shift-Delete (PC: Alt-Shift-Backspace); to fill with the Background color (with preserve transparency) press Command-Shift-Delete (PC: Ctrl-Shift-Backspace).

Q: I often want to add guides to the horizontal and vertical centers of my documents. Is there a way to do that automatically instead of dragging out guides every time?

A: There’s an option called New Guide Layout (found under the View menu) that can help with this. In this dialog, make sure the Preview box is checked, change the Number of Columns and Rows to 2, and leave everything else turned off. Once it looks the way you want, use the Preset drop-down menu to save a preset with these settings. From then on in any new document, just go to the New Guide Layout and load your preset.

Q: In a document with lots of layers, I want to make a selection and copy the contents of multiple layers at the same time. How do I do that without merging or flattening?

A: After making a selection, and with the visibility of layers only turned on for the layers you want to include, use Edit>Copy Merged or press Command-Shift-C (PC: Ctrl-Shift-C). This will copy everything as if you first merged the layers, but without actually merging. When you paste, it will be as if you’re pasting a merged copy of all the visible layers within your selection. This is a great way to preserve the separate layers while copying-and-pasting what you need.

Q: I’m just starting out in Photoshop and I’m confused as to when I should use the Canvas Size command versus the Image Size command. Help?

A: If you think of the photo you’re working on as paint on a canvas it might help you understand the role of Canvas Size. By default, the canvas is the same size as your photo, so if it’s a 5×7″ photo, the canvas is also 5×7″. If you wanted to add some additional paint outside the original photo, you can’t, because there’s no canvas on which to paint. So in order to add more paint (and by paint we really mean more pixels, whether it be paint, another photo, some text, etc.), you need to add more canvas, and you do this with the Canvas Size command.

When you go to the Image menu and choose Canvas Size, the resulting dialog asks how much canvas you’d like to add, and where. The original photo won’t change size, since you’re adding additional canvas around it (or beside, above, or below it, depending on the square you choose in the Anchor grid).

The Image Size command has a very different effect since it will, in effect, scale the entire photo (and its canvas) up or down. So the “simple” answer is if you need more canvas on which to work, use the Canvas Size command. If you need to scale the photo larger or smaller, use Image Size. (Important Note: Increasing the dimensions of a photo with Image Size will result in some loss of quality, so use with caution.)