Since Photoshop is the application I spend most of my time in, I figured that perhaps I should share a bunch of the things I’ve done to tweak my GUI experience, and that I now probably couldn’t live without:
- Home made grids…
Since I use Photoshop to mockup websites, I need to use a grid to line stuff up. The show/hide guides can only do so much, and until Adobe gives me the option to colour code the guides, I usually resort to designing my own ones and put them in their own folder.
- …and how to show and hide them
- Shape layers…
I love shape layers, but most people don’t agree with me on the grounds that they tend to attach themselves to fraction of pixels, and that usually leads to a lot of fixing afterwards. Luckily there’s a hidden option to make them snap to pixels. Unfortunately, this option only works well for rectangles and not (yet) for lines. You will want to enable this checkbox.
- …also work as masks…
One thing I find myself using more and more lately is using shape layers as masks. This is not, perhaps, as much a GUI thing as a personal workflow thing, but if you haven’t tried it yet, do! Not only do they work on individual layers, but also on groups. Easiest way to do it is to create a new shape layer, then drag and drop the vector mask to another layer or group, and delete the shape layer.
- …and their shapes can be grouped!
In a big, complex photoshop document for a webpage, 100 or more layers are not uncommon. Sure, you can always group together layers into smart objects (which I don’t find myself doing as often anymore). One sweet thing you might wanna try if you draw, for instance, a lot of lines as shape layers is to instead of duplicating the layer, just duplicate the actual shape with the Path Selection Tool (a). This way, you select the whole group of lines with the tool, and can change the width of them all at once.
- More keyboard shortcuts
There are also a bunch of shortcuts that I’ve created to make my life slightly easier: ctrl-apple-c and ctrl-apple-v to copy/paste layer styles from one layer to another, and ctrl-apple-z to delete a layer. I also always change the default settings so that apple-z is Step Backward (not undo/redo) whereas shift-apple-z is Step Forward, but that’s probably just me. Change these settings in the Keyboard Shortcuts in the Edit menu.
- Layers, groups and naming
My partner Patrick and I have a nomenclature system where we name folders with upper case letters and layers with lower case. The point of this is that when you right click with the Move Tool (v), you can browse the layers under the cursor. This way the folders show up more clearly in the tree structure.
- Curse you, Quick Mask!
And lastly, one of the things that used to annoy the hell out of me was enabling the Quick Mask by mistake by pressing the Q key (supposedly trying to press A or Tab). This makes a lot of things stop working, especially selecting layers with apple-click or using the path selection tool, and the only visual cue you get is that the Edit in Quick Mask icon in the bottom of the toolbar is highlighted. To fix it, go to the Keyboard Shortcuts and disable the darned thing.
Feel free to share your own tricks. I’m always looking for ways to make my life easier.