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7 Photoshop Setup Tips (for an Effective Workflow in 2023)

Photoshop setup tips for an effective workflow

Looking to optimize your Photoshop setup? You’re in luck!

Whether you’re a seasoned Photoshop pro or just starting out on your creative journey, getting your settings right is crucial. If you choose the right settings, you’ll be prepared for a fast, effective, and efficient PS workflow, and your editing will be easier than ever before. If you choose the wrong settings, on the other hand, you may find yourself consistently frustrated by Photoshop’s interface, options, and file-handling approach.

That’s why I’ve gathered some essential tips to help you navigate the labyrinth of PS preferences and customizations. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to adjust Photoshop to fit your own unique needs – so buckle up, because we’re about to unlock the true potential of this remarkable software!

1. Set your history states and memory usage

To kick things off, let’s dive into the realm of history states. Click Edit>Preferences>Performance to access this nifty feature. Here, you’ll find the option to adjust the number of history states, which determines how far back you can undo changes made to your precious images. By default, it’s set to a measly 50 – definitely not enough for any serious editing.

7 Photoshop Setup Tips (for an Effective Workflow in 2023)

I recommend cranking up the history states to the maximum value of 1,000. That way, you’ll have an ample safety net to undo any tweaks or alterations you make along the way. However, if that seems like overkill, even setting it to 250 would be a wise move.

While you’re at it, let’s ensure Photoshop can tap into the full power of your computer’s memory. Adjust the memory usage to a generous value, taking into account the amount of RAM you have installed. This will give Photoshop the boost it needs to perform at its best.

Photoshop setup tips

By fine-tuning your history states and maximizing your RAM usage, you’ll be setting the stage for a smooth and efficient Photoshop experience.

2. Customize your cursor size and shape

Don’t underestimate the impact of your cursor shape—it can actually make a difference when you’re painting, making precise selections, and more.

Once again, head over to the Preferences dialog (Edit>Preferences>General). Click on Cursors, and you’ll find a range of options to explore.

Photoshop setup tips

Personally, I like using a Normal Brush Tip for my Painting Cursors and going with Precise for my Other Cursors. But you might have a different preference! Take a moment to check out these options and decide how you want your cursors to appear as you work. It’s worth testing out various cursor shapes to see what feels right to you.

3. Adjust how Photoshop opens files

When you open files in Photoshop, they usually appear as tabs stuck to the toolbar. But guess what? You have more options!

Honestly, the default tab behavior really bothers me. I much prefer a little freedom and flexibility for each new file to float around. If you’re anything like me and you want your documents to float freely in the window, here’s how you can make it happen:

First, go to Edit>Preferences>Workspace. Then uncheck two options: Enable Floating Document Window Docking and Open Documents as Tabs.

Photoshop setup tips

By disabling these settings, you’ll experience the joy of new files floating gracefully in the window when they open.

4. Choose your background and panel colors

Photoshop’s default color scheme works fine for most folks, but did you know that you can change both the panel and background colors to suit your preferences?

Simply open the Preferences dialog (Edit>Preferences>General), then select Interface.

Under Appearance, you can choose a different Color Theme. This will change the color of the panels and toolbars around the edges of the Photoshop window.

Photoshop setup tips

For instance, the default theme looks like this:

Photoshop setup tips

But you can always choose to go dark gray instead:

Photoshop setup tips

You can also change the background color (that is, the color surrounding your open documents) by adjusting the Standard Screen Mode option. (Alternatively, you can right-click on the background and choose your preferred color.)

Photoshop setup tips

Go ahead and test out different options until you find a combination that you like. Of course, you can also change the background color and theme on a case-by-case basis. It’s up to you!

5. Set your file-saving preferences

When it comes to saving files in Photoshop, you have the power to choose where they end up. When you choose File>Save As, you can either have Photoshop save images back to their original folder, or you can have the program remember the last folder you used for saving files. To determine this default behavior, head over to the Preferences dialog (Edit>Preferences>General) and explore the File Handling area.

If you want your files to go back to their original folder, simply activate the Save As to Original Folder option. On the other hand, if you prefer Photoshop to remember and default to the last folder you saved to, uncheck this option instead.

Photoshop setup tips

By taking control of your file-saving process, you can streamline your workflow and ensure that your files end up exactly where you want them.

6. Create a history log

When working on a large project in Photoshop, it’s crucial to have a record of your steps. That way, you can easily retrace your path and make adjustments as needed.

To accomplish this, navigate to Edit>Preferences>History & Content Credentials, and check the History Log box. I recommend saving the log as a text file rather than within the project itself.

Photoshop setup tips

In the Edit Log Items dropdown, opt for Detailed as it captures the most comprehensive data. Choose a suitable filename and destination to save your log, and voila! Photoshop will diligently keep track of every action you take on each file, maintaining a detailed log for your reference.

7. Choose your preferred Workspace

By default, Photoshop sets you up with the Essentials workspace, which looks like this:

Photoshop setup tips

It’s fine for quick Photoshop work, but it doesn’t have all the common photo-editing tools and panels visible and easily accessible. That’s why I recommend exploring your other workspace options, which you can find under Window>Workspace.

Personally, I recommend the Photography workspace, which offers a visible Layers panel, easy application of adjustment layers, and access to handy photo-editing tools. But if you do a lot of graphic design, you may prefer to use the Graphic and Web workspace.

Pro tip: If you try all of Photoshop’s offered workspaces and don’t love any of them, you can actually save a workspace of your own! Simply adjust the layout to fit your preferred Photoshop setup, then choose Window>Workspace>New Workspace.

Photoshop setup tips

You can give your custom workspace a name, then easily find it in the Workspace menu the next time you need it. Cool, right?

Photoshop setup tips: final words

As you now know, setting up Photoshop can be a real game-changer for your photo-editing adventures. With just a few tweaks in the Preferences panel, you can customize this powerful program to fit your needs like a glove – and you can enjoy post-processing like never before.

So take some time to explore the Photoshop menu (especially that Preferences dialog!) and make Photoshop truly your own. Embrace the power of customization and unleash your creativity. Remember, every little tweak and adjustment can make a world of difference to your editing workflow!

Now over to you:

Do you have any Photoshop setup tips that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Helen Bradley
Helen Bradley

is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

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