Make Your Move to Photoshop CS3 Easier

As many of you might know, Adobe recently came out with a new public beta version of Adobe Photoshop (If you haven’t, check it out here). Be sure to download a copy for yourself and give it a test run.

My CS3 Woes
I was so excited to hear about CS3 that I immediately went to get a copy. I installed it, launched it, and opened up one of my unfinished illustrations. I was ready to get to work and start playing with my new toy. But then I quickly realized some problems: all of the brushes, textures, and other tool presets that I spent hours getting just right were not available; all of the preferences that I had set in Photoshop CS were now set to “default” again in CS3; and I had to dig to find some of the palettes that I use frequently while I’m painting. I was now set with the arduous task or resetting all of my preferences, presets, and workspaces so I could get down to painting. In doing so, I have come up with this list that will hopefully make it easier for both me and you in the future.

Prepare for CS3 Now
These tips can be applied to any version you may be installing, not just CS3. Maybe your moving to a new computer, or your co-worker just messed around with your palettes while your weren’t looking. Whatever the case, by going through this small checklist, you can be sure that your transition will go as smoothly and easily as possible. And if you do upgrade when the official version of CS3 is released in 2007, you won’t have to worry about wasting precious painting time by configuring your program. For someone like me who uses this software every day as a means to make a living, this is key.

Five Steps to an Easier Photoshop Transition

  1. Arrange Your Workspace

    One of the biggest things that bug me when I open a new version of Photoshop is that all my palettes are in different places than I expect. Arranging your own workspace is one key way to make more efficient use of both your time and your screen space. Here’s some tips:

    • Close any palettes that you don’t use.
    • Group together palettes with similar uses (such as Swatches and Color).
    • If you want a palette readily available, but want to save more screen space, try collapsing it. (CS3 has a cool new feature that allows you to keep your palettes in “buttons”. You can also push a minimize button in the top right corner of the palette. If you have an earlier version of Photoshop, double-click on the name to collapse your palette.)
    • Arrange everything on your desktop in the exact position you want it.
    • Save your workspace by going to Window–>Workspace–>Save Workspace. You can even save multiple workspaces for different purposes. To switch to another workspace, just go to Window–>Workspace and find the file that you saved in the menu.

  2. Import Your Tools
    Whenever I create or find a new brush that I like, I’ll save it to my tool presets so I can use it over and over. I have a significant collection of brushes, and it would be a pain to try to configure them all again. I have similar presets for the eraser tool, the crop tool, and the type tool. Here’s a quick way to get them all over to your new version of Photoshop quickly and easily. *Note: This trick deals with Photoshop’s system files. While I don’t presently know of any problems (I have tried it out myself and it seems to work fine), they are a possibility. If you do experience difficulties, just delete the files that you copied and restart Photoshop. I will not be held responsible for any problems that might occur if you use this trick.

    For Mac OS X:

    • On your system, go to your user folder, then go to Library–>Preferences–>Adobe Photoshop (old version) Settings. You will also see a folder for your new version, which you will need later.
    • Find the preference that you are looking for. For tool presets, find the “ToolPresets.psp” file. Other useful files to note are “Actions Palette.psp”, “Keyboard Shortcuts.psp”, and “Swatches.psp”.
    • Copy the desired file(s) to the “Adobe Photoshop (new version) Settings” folder.
    • Launch your new version of Photoshop. If it is already open, you’ll have to close it and restart. Your tool presets should now be available.

  3. Set Photoshop’s Preferences

    On a Mac, go to Photoshop–>Preferences. There are several categories. I’ll go over a few key things that I change from the default configuration.

    • “General” – I uncheck the box that says “Zoom Resizes Windows”. If you aren’t working in full screen mode and you zoom in or out, this makes the window change size accordingly. If you often work with two windows side by side, I think it is more handy to have this turned off.
    • “File Handling” – When you first save a file in a new version of Photoshop, a “Maximize Compatibility” window always pops up. It’s a little annoying. To turn it off, set the drop-down menu next to “Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility” to either “Always” or “Never”. I set mine to “Always”.
    • “Performance” – On the right side, there is a place for “History States”. This changes how many times you can “Undo”. I raise this number from the default 25 to something more like 50 or more. You will probably end up thanking yourself later.

    This rest of the preferences are usually fine for me, but you can play around to get it just the way you like.

  4. Set Your Background Color
    By “Background Color”, I’m referring to the color that shows up in full screen mode behind your canvas. Most of the time, I work in the “Full Screen with Menus” mode, but I don’t like the light gray color that Photoshop puts down as a default. To change it, pick your preferred color (I like a darker gray, somewhere between 50-60%), then select the paint bucket tool. Hold down shift and click anywhere outside the canvas while you are in full screen mode. Ahhh, that’s better. :)

  5. Set Keyboard Shortcuts
    I use keyboard shortcuts often. Photoshop provides plenty of them right off the bat, but there are a few items I use frequently that don’t have a shortcut assigned to them by default. This irked me to no end for the longest time…until I figured out that I could set them myself. You can change them by going to Edit–>Keyboard Shortcuts. You may have to try a few times in order to find a shortcut that isn’t already used by something else. Some things I like to create shortcuts for are the Brightness/Contrast and Flatten Image commands.

There you have it. Whether you are upgrading or buying your first copy of Photoshop, I hope this helps you get off the ground more easily. Have other tips? Please leave a comment.