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Photoshop Q&A

by | 3 years ago

Q: How do you add an arrowhead to a line?

A: It’s possible, but only if you use the Line tool (nested under the Rectangle tool in the Toolbar). The arrowhead can’t be added once the line has been drawn, so you must turn on the arrowhead function before dragging with the Line tool. In the Options Bar for the Line tool, click on the gear icon, and you’ll see the Arrowheads settings. Turn on the appropriate checkboxes and experiment with the settings for Width, Length, and Concavity—remembering that the settings will only take affect on the next line you draw, so be prepared to draw a line, delete, change the settings, draw another line, etc.

And like most Photoshop tools, once you’ve turned on arrowheads, they’ll continue to appear until you turn them off.

Q: Someone suggested creating repeating objects in Photoshop using “Step and Repeat,” but I can’t find that command. How do I do this?

A: The reason you can’t find anything called “Step and Repeat” is although that functionality exists, it’s not called that. It’s actually a way of using Free Transform (in two steps) that helps you automatically create repeating objects.

Start with an object on its own layer and press Command-Option-T (PC: Ctrl-Alt-T): this brings up Free Transform, with the Option (PC: Alt) key telling Photoshop to make a copy as it transforms. Make a change, such as dragging the position of the shape, scaling, or rotating. This will create a second layer with a copy of the first object, spaced apart as far as you dragged it. To create more copies spaced out the same amount, press Shift-Command-Option-T (PC: Shift-Ctrl-Alt-T): Each time you press this shortcut, the transformation will be repeated (in this case making another copy of the object spaced the same distance apart).

Once you’re happy with the spacing of all the object layers, you could put them in a layer group, convert them to a smart object, or merge the layers together. (I recommend one of the first two methods, just in case you need to edit the spacing between the object layers.)

Q: I need to create a grid of guides to help lay out some images. Any suggestions (other than dragging out a bunch of guides)?

A: There’s a very useful command that’s perfect for these situations, especially because it has a Preview option so you can see “live” what the various settings will give you. Found under the View menu, it’s called New Guide Layout. In this dialog you can either choose from a series of Presets (8 Column, 12 Column, etc.) or create your own grid by entering values for Columns, Rows, and Margin. You also have the option to enter a value for Gutters if you want some space between the Guides. If you already have some existing guides in the document, you have the option to Clear Existing Guides when you click OK.

If you need to create the same style of grid of guides on an ongoing basis, before clicking OK, go to the Preset drop-down menu, and choose Save Preset to create your own customized preset.

Q: I have a complex black-and-white logo as a JPEG and need to change all the black to a different color. Making a selection is challenging—is there a simpler way?

A: If the logo is a true black-and-white (no shades of gray), then yes. First, if necessary, convert the image to RGB by going to Image>Mode>RGB Color. Then choose the Foreground color that you want to use (the color that will replace the black pixels). From the Edit menu, choose Fill, and in the dialog, change the Contents to Foreground Color and the Mode to Lighten, and click OK. Every black pixel should now be changed to your Foreground color, but none of the white areas will be affected. That’s because Lighten mode restricts the color to affect only pixels that it can lighten: Your chosen color can lighten black, but it can’t lighten white.

Q: Is there a simple way to apply an adjustment such as Curves to just one area of a photo?

A: There are a couple of choices when you apply an adjustment as an adjustment layer. If you first make a selection of the area you’d like to affect, when you add an adjustment layer, a layer mask is created so that only the selected area is affected. The advantage of using an adjustment layer (rather than going to the Image>Adjustments menu to choose your adjustment) is that you can continue to edit the layer mask of the adjustment layer should you need to.

The other option is to add the adjustment layer without first making a selection, which will result in a white layer mask, meaning the entire image is affected. Then you can either paint with black on the mask to hide the effect of the adjustment layer in certain areas, or press Command-I (PC: Ctrl-I) to Invert the layer mask to black to completely hide the effects of the adjustment layer, and then paint with white on the mask to reveal the effects of the adjustment layer.

Hint: If you use the second method, it can sometimes be helpful to make a temporary over-adjustment so it’s easier to see what you’re masking, and then reduce the adjustment to the desired affect.

Q: What’s the difference between Opacity and Fill in the Layers panel? They seem to do the same thing.

A: The difference is only apparent when you have a layer style applied to the layer—if you don’t, they’ll have the same effect. To see the difference, create a type layer and add a layer style such as a Drop Shadow. First, lower the Opacity setting and you’ll see that both the type and the drop shadow become more see-through. Put the Opacity back to 100%, and now lower the Fill setting: Only the fill is affected (in this case the color of the type) while the drop shadow is unaffected.