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Photoshop Q&A

by | 2 years ago

Q: I’d like to create several variations of my logo from which to choose when I add it to a document. What’s the simplest way to do that, without having to save separate files?

A: Layer comps are a great way to access multiple variations of a logo (using layers) within one document. The idea of a layer comp is to capture the current status of the Layers panel: what layers are visible, where they’re positioned, and what layer styles (if any) are applied. So in this example, you can save a layer comp for each different look of your logo, and then save the document as a PSD file. Then you can use File>Place Linked to import the PSD file into another document and, once you press Enter to lock in any resizing or repositioning, you can access the layer comps using the Properties panel. In the Properties panel, use the Layer Comp menu to choose the comp you want to use.

Q: In Photoshop CC 2019 I no longer see the reference point in the center when I use Free Transform. How do I get it back?

A: There’s now a preference to show or hide that reference point, which is off by default. It can be found under the Apple menu on a Mac or the Edit menu on a PC, in Preferences>Tools. You can also toggle the visibility of the reference point when in Free Transform by going to the Options Bar and using the Toggle Reference Point checkbox.

Q: What’s the difference between the new Frame tool versus using a clipping mask?

A: The Frame tool lets you create an empty frame into which you can drop a photo (from the Library, for example), and by default the photo is scaled to fill the frame. If you want to use the frame to mask portions of the photo, you can go to the Layers panel, click on the photo layer (not the frame) and use Free Transform to scale the photo. You can add either a rectangular or elliptical frame (using the Frame tool) or convert a layer into a Frame by Right-clicking on the layer in the Layers panel and choosing Convert to Frame from the context-sensitive menu. You can also drag a frame (with the Frame tool) over an active layer to add a frame and mask the layer. When you draw a frame on a pixel layer or drag a pixel layer into an empty frame in the Layers panel, the pixel layer is automatically converted to a smart object.

A clipping mask uses the transparency of a layer to mask the layer immediately above. For example, you could position a photo in a layer above a Type layer and the type would mask the photo so it shows only within the letters. You create a clipping mask in one of several ways: with the top layer active, press Command-Option-G (PC: Ctrl-Alt-G) or go to the Layer menu and choose Create Clipping Mask. You can also position your mouse on the border between the two layers, hold down the Option (PC: Alt) key, and click.

One of the major differences between the two methods is the editability of the masking shape: the clipping layer in a clipping mask always remains editable; whereas a frame can only be transformed with Free Transform. For example, a Shape or Type layer can be edited and the mask will update, whereas a frame that’s been created from a Shape or Type layer can only be transformed—the shape itself or text cannot be edited.

Q: I created a custom lookup table from several adjustment layers, but if I apply it to another photo, is there a way to change any of the settings of the original adjustment layers?

A: When you create a custom lookup table (LUT) from multiple adjustment layers, a single LUT is created that can then be applied using the Color Lookup adjustment layer. It can be advantageous to apply the same color toning to several images; but, unfortunately, you cannot edit the settings of the individual adjustments. Here’s an alternative method: in the Layers panel, select all the layers, and then Right-click and choose Convert to Smart Object (including the Background layer gives you a visual preview of the effect). Then, add it to your Library. To use this “look” on another photo, hold down the Option (PC: Alt) key when you drag from the Library onto the photo. Then you’ll see the original adjustment layers, and after you delete the extra Background layer, you’ll be able to edit the adjustment layers individually.

Q: In Photoshop CC 2019, you don’t have to hold down the Shift key to do proportional scaling. Is there a way to put this back to how it used to be?

A: Shortly after Adobe made this change, there was a method to put the behavior of the Shift key back to the way it was using a text editor. Fortunately, in the latest Photoshop update, Adobe has added that option to the Preferences, so it’s much easier now to revert transform back to its old behavior.

Go to Photoshop CC (PC: Edit)>Preferences and select General. At the bottom of the set of checkboxes on the left, you’ll see the option to Use Legacy Free Transform. Just turn that on, click OK, and you’re back to the old way of transforming.

ALL IMAGES BY DAVE CROSS