I remember looking through books, trying to find what settings I should set Photoshop to. Each time I went to the chapter about setting your preferences, it has some inane description—Checking ‘Beep when done’ enables Photoshop to beep when it has finished a function”—and absolutely no suggestions—“There is no real reason to have Photoshop beep at you unless you simply like annoying sounds;keep this unchecked.”
At that time I swore upon my dead hamster’s grave that I would give specific suggestions.I best place to start is to have you set your computer up like mine. Of course, there are no absolute right ways to configure your setup. You may not agree with my suggestions, but you have to admit it at least gets you started finding the right settings for you
To get to the preferences, go to Photoshop >Preferences > General(Win: Edit >Preferences > General). A window likethe one in Figure below opens, revealing theGeneral Preferences options. The otherpreference categories can be reached inthe drop-down menu located at the top.Since the General Preferences are the most applicable in your day-to-day use of Photoshop, it is important to understand and set these preferences first.
Getting to the preferences.
Leave the default setting of the Adobe color picker as is. The chance that you need to use any system specific color picker is highly unlikely, and it is better to stay with Adobe’s own.
When resizing an image, Photoshop has to determine how to create or combine pixels for the new image. For our purposes, stick with Bicubic(Better)interpolation;it has the best quality for resampling photographs. Bicubic Smoother or Bicubic Sharper applies varying amounts of softening that you probably won’t need on a regular basis.
This is one setting that I change every so often. This determines how many of your actions on a document Photoshop remembers, and therefore affects the number of undos you can do. I generally leave this setting at the default 20, but find that if I am working on a very large file, reducing it to 3 helps Photoshop run a bit smoother. On the other hand, when I am doing a lot of cloning or lots of tiny, brisk touch ups, I increase the number to 50 so I can go back further.
Keep this option deselected. If not, you get long pauses between switching programs with a Converting Clipboard to Pict Format dialog box or an Export Failed, Image Too Large warning. Even if you need to cut and paste a small image to another program, the quality is better when you save out and import a file. There really isn’t a real good reason for keeping this option on.
Some people prefer to have this off, claiming that it is only good for novices. I however, prefer to have it on. I know the functions of most buttons in Photoshop, but may not know their official names. If I get a call from someone asking me how to do something, I can give clear directions, rather than telling him to press “that button with the circle thingy on it.”
Zoom Resizes Windows
I prefer to have this on. I would rather have the windows resize to the image as I use Command++(Win: Ctrl++)or Command+- (Win: Ctrl+-)to zoom in or out. If I want to zoom without resizing, I can simply use one of these shortcuts:
Autoupdate Open Documents
I keep this off because I often go between Deep Paint 3D and Photoshop and don’t want the document to change in Photoshop just because I made a change in Deep Paint 3D. I manually update by using the Revert option in the File menu in Photoshop. This also allows me to undo whatever I did in another program by simply saving over the existing file.
Show Asian Text Options
There is a reason this is off by default. If you need this, you know who you are. All the rest can keep this off.
Beep When Done
This is what I used as the introductory example to this section. This option made sense when computers were slower and while computing a filter we wanted to go off and make better use of our time. Now, however, it is more annoying than useful and I suggest you keep it off or suffer your officemate’s wrath.
Dynamic Color Sliders
This option allows the sliders in the Color palette to match your settings in real time. Generally you want this on, but if you have a very slow computer, you might benefit by turning off this feature.
Save Palette Locations
This feature has Photoshop remember where you had all the palettes the last time you shut down; it restores them to the same location the next time you start up. This is completely a personal preference and does not really affect general performance either way, since the save only happens at shutdown. Most people keep this on.
Show Font Names in English
This is to show Chinese, Japanese, and Korean(CJK)fonts in English. As I would not like to see anything in my interface not in English, I keep this selected.
Use Shift Key for Tool Switch
Keep this option on. Turning it off means that the Shift key is not required to cycle through the tool variations when using the shortcut key. For example, if you want to use the oval marquee, you could press Shift+M when this option is on.With the option off, pressing M twice takes you to the oval marquee. More often than not, this causes more accidental, problematic, and annoying tool selections.
Use Smart Quotes
Another one of those options that just doesn’t really matter to a VFX artist. Smart quotes are the curly kind and straight (not smart)quotes are the straight kind. The only time anyone has ever mentioned a reasonable preference is when my editor pointed out the primes and double primes(mathematical annotations)would look like quotation marks if you chose curly over straight. Otherwise, this is purely an aesthetic choice. You choose.
Check this only if you really need a record of all the steps of getting to your finished image. That means leave it deselected unless you are being audited or are writing an article or book and need to have a record of each tiny little step. A sample of the resultant text from activating the History Log option.
A sample text history log.
File Handling Preferences
The file handling preferences determine how Photoshop handles files as they are opened and closed. While still in the General Preferences window, press Command+2(Win:Ctrl+2)to get to the File Handling Preferences dialog box .
These preferences affect your day-to-day use of Photoshop
Do you want Photoshop to save an image preview—a thumbnail for visual identification—when it saves a file? It can create a significant increase in file size and slow down the saving of files, but the convenience of having a visual cue may be worth it to you.
In Windows OS, you only have these options:
If you are using Mac OS, you have the same Windows options but the addition of selecting one or more of the following preview types:
Append File Extension
Generally, it is a good idea to have this set to always save with lowercase extensions. This maximizes compatibility with different operating systems.
Ignore EXIF Profile Tag
Do you care about camera data? You should, but ultimately it is up to you. If you have absolutely no use for the image’s camera settings, then you can select this and Photoshop ignores the data. If you either take your own images or receive images from others, it’s a good idea to keep this deselected;that way you can see the camera’s settings. This can help in obscure ways(such as in lining up a model to an image)as you can get the lens information and match it in your 3D program without distortion.
Ask Before SavingLayered TIFF Files
It is a good idea to have this on, as it is easy to accidentally save a layered TIFF that is too large and unusable to most other graphics packages. Programs that support layered TIFFs are far and few in between. Come to think of it, right now I only know of Adobe products that support it. In addition, my technical editor pointed out that TIFF images can be large to begin with, so keeping the layers creates an even huger file! If you are going to save layers, I would recommend saving them in PSD format.
Enable Large Document Format
This option enables limitless file sizes(save Photoshop’s 300,000×300,000 pixel size limit and whatever your computer hardware can handle). You must explicitly save to the PSB format, but if you have images above the 2G limit of most formats, then you might want to consider enabling the large document format.
Maximize PSD FileCompatibility
Although this seems like something you would want on, this is such an outdated compatibility point it’s better turned off. This option saves a composite version along with the layered file, and it may lose some features that are incompatible with older versions. In addition, each time you save, a dialog box alerts you that the file is being maximized. Furthermore, you pay in disk space and time.Unless you are working with an older program to open a PSD or with a program like Illustrator that requires a composite with the file, you might as well turn this option off by choosing Never from the dropdown menu. Of course, you could choose the Ask option to have Photoshop annoy you with yet another dialog box each time you save, but maybe you like telemarketers and Internet pop-up ads, too.
Unless you are being told you can work in a Version Cue workspace, leave this deselected. It is for Creative Suite users and their chosen ones only.
Recent File Lists
Another one of those personal choice things. This controls the number of files listed under File > Open Recent submenu. The default is 4, but I like to have 6. My dog likes 10. The max is 30. Do you really want to know and list the last 30 files you opened?
Display & Cursors/
To change the shape of painting and other tool cursors, go to the Display and Cursor Preferences. Press Command+3(Win:Ctrl+3) to switch the Preferences dialog box to the Display &Cursor Preferences dialog box.
The most common settings for this preference set are shown
Color Channels in Color
Although this may seem like a nice little visual option, it is better to have this off. The color overlay makes it difficult to see the details of the channel images, thereby affecting your channel manipulation. it reduces the resolution of the preview, but speeds the display. This does not affect the display of your actual image in Photoshop, nor does it affect the actual file.
Painting Cursors and Other Cursors
For the tool settings, keep the Painting cursor at the default(Brush Size)and the other cursors at Standard. The precise cursor can be a bit tough to see at times. Plus, if you need to use the precise cursor, you just need to press Caps Lock. Your cursor toggles to the precise cursor.
Use Diffusion Dither
Another holdover from the old days, this option allows displays limited to 256 colors to blend colors to emulate full 8-bit color(24-bit images, 8 bits per channel, with 3 channels, RGB). However, the system requirements to run the current version of Photoshop guarantee it can show full-color images.
Use Pixel Doubling
Anything that speeds me up is a good thing, so I turn this on. This option doubles the size of the pixels in dialog box previews;
Transparency &Gamut preferences are accessed by pressing Command+4[Win:Ctrl+4] while in the Preferences window. The dialog box in Figure below allows you to change the transparency grid and out-ofgamut colors.(Gamut is the continuous range of colors that a device can reproduce)Of course, you can choose any grid colors you wish—it is totally a personal preference. However, I recommend changing the gamut warning color to an extremely bright and generally unused color.
The Transparency & Gamut dialog box
To turn on the out-of-gamut option, you must go to View > Proof Setup and choose the proof profile you want to use. The VFX artist who uses this option generally has a profile provided by the company or client representing the film stock that is used.You may, however, use the Adobe-provided NTSC or PAL(the two formats used worldwide in television) profile if you are doing work for television and need to make sure none of your colors are illegal. See the Adobe options. Once you have chosen your warning color and gamut profile, you must go to View >Gamut Warningto highlight pixels outside the gamut range.
Adobe profile options.
The Units & Rulers guide
Units & Rulers
These preferences control not only the rulers on the top and side of a Photoshop canvas, but also how you determine a new document’s size and how the measuring tool displays.Intimidating? Not really.
Under here you see the subcategories: Rulers and Type. Rulers is pretty self explanatory. Your choice determines the units used for the rulers on the canvas and for the measuring tool. Type is not the type of units, but rather the units of choice for alphanumeric type(text you add into the image). I have left Type set to its default(points), but I prefer to set the Rulers to use either percent or pixels.
This is more useful for those doing page layouts, which you rarely have to do for film or television, so I have left it at the default values. This information is used for the New, Image Size, and Canvas Size commands that let you specify image width in terms of columns.
New DocumentPreset Resolutions
The default Print Resolution and Screen Resolution entries here are pretty standard. Leave this at its default settings until you have a real compelling reason to change it for example, your company has a different standard; your Mom tells you she’ll disown you unless you change it).
Again, another thing that rarely comes into play for VFX artists. I have left this dialog box intact in its entirety
Guides, Grid &Slices
You probably won’t deal with slices unless you work on the web, so you probably wouldn’t care what color Photoshop uses to indicate them. However, if you happen to be working on a cyan image, this is the place to go when you need the guides to be a different color. Or maybe you want the grid to be some color other than gray. It’s usually more of an aesthetic choice than anything else. my Guides, Grid & Slices settings.
This is my setting, but the default setting generally works just fine as it is.
Plug-Ins &Scratch Disk
Most of the preferences for Photoshop are fine for the average user right out of the box. The one exception is the scratch disk preferences. When you work on an image, Photoshop first uses RAM to store the working data and then it uses parts of your hard drives to store the overflow. Until you save the image to the hard disk, that is.) The hard-drive space used as a temporary RAM supplement is referred to as the scratch disk.
The scratch disk is Photoshop’s virtual memory technology and can be any drive or partition with free space. The act of going between RAM and the scratch disks is calledswapping. Ideally, you avoid any swapping to get the fastest performance. Realistically, this is not going to happen for most of your work.
The Plug-Ins & Scratch Disk preferences dialog box is where you assign the scratch disks. Obviously, the more memory Photoshop can access and the faster it’s accessed, the better your performance. This won’t overcome the standard factors of hardware and technology, but it definitely tends to enable Photoshop to work more smoothly and reduce much of its hang time in performing memory-intensive actions.
Press Command+K(Win:Ctrl+K) to access the general preferences if you do not still have them open. Press Command+7(Win: Ctrl+7) to get to the Plug-Ins & Scratch Disk dialog box. The first area of the dialog box enables you to access plugins that are, for some reason, not in the default plug-ins folder. Once you select the checkbox to activate the Additional Plug-ins folder, you can click the Choose button and navigate as you would any program that asks for a path.
Below the Plug-In area is the scratch disk allocation area. The first one is, by default, the hard disk on which the operation system is installed. You can change this first scratch disk and you can assign up to three more scratch disks. If you have others, use your largest, fastest drives for the second drive. Regularly defragmenting the scratch disks helps performance.
Your choices are limited if you have a laptop, as you won’t have four drives to access.
If you are still unsure how you should assign scratch disks, Adobe posts some guidelines in its help section:
Of course, finding your best setup may take some trial and error.
Memory &Image Cache
Mac’s pre-OS X operating systems dealt with memory quite differently, and pre-Photoshop CS requires specific and varying instructions. For CS, you just give a percentage of your total RAM to Photoshop. If you don’t have a lot of memory, you should actually be allocating less:Leave the Memory Usage’s Maximum Used by Photoshop allocation at the default 50 percent. If you have a lot of memory, you can allocate more to Photoshop(say, 80 percent).
Initially you may think that the opposite is true, but because you don’t want to interfere with the functioning of your computer, the lower your RAM, the greater the ratio of RAM necessary for basic functions. If you take a look at , you can see my settings for my laptop, which has a low amount of RAM.I hope this is encouraging, as my laptop is very functional, even with the minimum RAM. Of course, my desktop with 2G of RAM performs quite a bit better!
Alas, my poor little laptop has so little RAM…but these settings let me work quite well.
As for the Cache Levels setting, the larger the number(8 is the max), the more RAM and disk space are eaten when you open a file. Photoshop can hold up to eight levels of lower-resolution versions that are used for faster onscreen redrawing. A larger image cache gives you a faster update on larger files, since Photoshop makes file copies in different sizes and uses the smaller versions for updating when working with layers, navigating, and so on. Of course, having so much cached can cause its own slowdown, so experiment to find the level that works for you.
Also note that you have to restart Photoshop for these changes to go into effect.
If you want to know what size you should make the custom thumbnail, you probably skipped back, “File Browser.”
All right, I’m over it now. Take a look at my settings, shown in Figure below, for the file browser preferences.
My settings for the file browser
Do Not Process Files Larger Than
A safeguard, since large files can slow down the file browser.
Display (X) Most Recently Used Folders
I don’t need more than 6 and sometimes wonder if I should reduce the number to 4. The maximum is 30.
Custom Thumbnail Size
Specify the pixel width of the thumbnails for custom views
Allow Background Processing
When checked, this option enables Photoshop to use extra processing power to pregenerate cache information such as previews and metadata. Since I prefer to keep what processing power I have, I have deselected this.
Since I love the file browser and love the ability to have high-quality previews, I prefer to select this. If you don’t have the disk space, you can deselect it.
Render Vector Files
If you use Illustrator, then you should probably have this selected to see thumbnails of vector files.
Parse XMP Metadata from Non-image Files
Do you really want to be able to see the metadata on NON-IMAGE files in PHOTOSHOP? Exactly.
That’s why I don’t have it selected.
Keep Sidecar Files with Master Files
Sidecar files are the XMP and THM files that help other applications process the metadata associated with a file. Generally a good idea to select.
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