Adobe Photoshop CS5, or any version of Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements, or just about any Adobe application is a two handed program. Most people don’t think twice about Microsoft Word being two handed, even us two finger typists. (I’m not a hunt and pecker, just a two fingered typist.) Along with today’s image I’m showing a screen shot of what my screen looks like. The right hand screen is color corrected and the left one is close, but not electronically accurate down to the nubs. The reason for the double screen setup is that I like to check some things and be reminded of others. I find having things like the Info Panel visible is very handy. On something like today’s image I’ll refer to it often. I’ll grab the Move Tool (V) and roll over the brighter areas to make sure I’m not bumping up near 255, 255, 255 (pure white). There are a couple reasons for using the Move Tool (V) to do this type of survey. First, it’s a point source. Second, it’s probably the most non-destructive tool in the group. The only thing you can do is move something around. Having the Layers Panel and the History Panel handy is, well …. Handy. I’m always flipping back and forth in the Layers Panel and being able to go back to the start of a sequence (such as twenty brush strokes) in one click is a real time saver. Here’s an example: you just went through some dodging and burning that involved thirty strokes (my History Panel is set to fifty steps rather than the default of twenty). Rather than hitting Ctrl/Alt/Z thirty times, a simple move of the slider and a single click at the beginning of the string is much easier. The Swatches Panel was just a throw in and I thought I wouldn’t use it very much at all, but, having it instantly available has made it a go-to panel. To learn more about which panels are on my second screen and how they’re used in today’s image, hit the “read more”.
Another two panels that are “must haves” for me are the Channels Panel and the Mask Panel. They work hand in hand and any time there’s a tricky selection to be made they are extremely valuable. A quick flip through the channels gives me a starting point to make a selection/mask. Duplicate the channel with the maximum contrast, open the Calculations (Image/Calculations) dialog box and get 98% of a complex mask in about ten seconds. In the Calculations dialog box, right at the bottom, is a dropdown named “Results”. The options are New Document, New Channel and Selection. The one I always use is “New Channel”. I can always make a Selection from a Channel, so that’s kind of redundant. Unless I was a graphic artist I really wouldn’t have a good reason to make it a New Document either. A New Channel is saved as an Alpha Channel in the Channels Panel and you can have more Alpha Channels than the average bear would use in a lifetime.
The Adjustment Panel gets used at least eight times per image. It gives color correction, color saturation and toning to just about every image worked on. The other Panels on the tools screen aren’t used as much, but are there when the need arises. The Tools Panel is also there, but seldom gets touched. I use keyboard shortcuts so often that I’d have to go looking for a simple tool like the Healing Brush. Tapping the letter “J” rather than taking the mouse over to the Tool Panel is just much easier.
I have my tablet set up so it can’t access the left screen, so to use a mouse to get a tool means putting down the pen, grabbing the mouse and searching for the tool I want to use. Too much work, and way too slow to be productive.
Hope this gives you an idea of how I work.
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