Organization is key to productivity and knowing where your tools are and how to get to them quickly will not only save you time, but make you more money. So, let's talk configuration...
My Palette Configuration
Here I give you a visual representation of all the palettes I use in Photoshop and how I have them set up during my normal workflow. Constantly having to go to the file menu to search for often used tools is a huge waste of time when you can simply keep all your most used palettes open and available. If you've got the computer power and a little extra cash I HIGHLY recommend picking up a second monitor(I actually use 3). This multi-monitor setup allows you to work in your main window and keep your palettes and other tools and "distractions" in a separate window. My setup might not work for you, but I'm sure that seeing how I work will definitely give you some perspective. Work better!
My Layers Palette
In a previous video I went back in time to share with you how different the world was back in 1996 when I first started in Photoshop. Single undo and no layers was the name of the game back then. However, this is now 2014 and my Photoshop skills have come a long way- as have the technical abilities of the application itself.
So often I get asked the same questions over and over again from aspiring retouchers and photographers who are trying to get better and work smarter. "How do you set up your layers?", they ask... Well, no mystery here boys and girls, just some good old fashion common sense. Now I'm not saying, nor will I ever say, that my way is the best way. However, I've been through the ringer in my nearly two decades on the job and have learned a great many lessons about organization and my workflow. Layer organization was probably the hardest lesson to learn. Why? Because everybody works differently and no two jobs are the same. This being the case we can shed the personal preferences and just concentrate on theory. In this video I break down my layers palette setup and go over- in detail- how I set up my jobs and how I organize my layers to work faster and smarter. Separation is key in retouching so pay close attention!
The Retouching Layers
Now Before I get knee deep into my palettes and how I use them, I'd like to expand the discussion a little and discuss the workflow principle I use in conjunction with my palette configuration. Case in point- "Retouching Layers". Here I explain the process I use in setting up my initial workflow. It's extremely important to keep things organized as you work because you may not be the only person working on your files, or very simply the client may request your layered file. If they can't parse it, you look bad. That's not the only reason though... For instance, your client may want several versions of the same image(i.e., a movie poster also used as a bus kiosk and then a billboard). This is especially true if you work in the entertainment industry. I share files with art directors constantly and if my layers are in disarray then I'm only making my clients' life more difficult. The other thesis touches on separation of color and retouching which is paramount in entertainment retouching. The key is clean, flexible layers that give you the power to make changes without a lot of headache.
My History Palette
The very first Photoshop project I embarked on was quite an event for me. After all, it brought me to where I am today and changed my life forever. I just didn't know how profoundly at the time. But before I go there, let me set the stage. It was April of 1996 and I had just purchased a brand new Epson scanner that came with Photoshop 1.0. It came on floppy disks and I was working on a Mac "clone" computer made by Power Computing - back when Apple licensed their brand to second and third party manufacturers(Pre Steve Jobs). This was my first computer, my very first experience with scanning and imaging and the Internet was only about a year old. Sounds like eons ago, but it's actually less than 20 years.
Anyway, my mission was to shoot some photographs of musical instruments, process the chromes and then scan them in for processing. My business partner at the time and I had started an internet company and we didn't have the cash to hire creatives. Funny, but HTML programmers back then were paid hundreds of dollars per hour! This being the case I was forced to do everything myself which meant many long nights reading large books on Photoshop and web programming. Good times! Why am I sharing this? Well, for starters it's always good to know where you come from and where you're going. But more importantly where we are today and how much easier life is due to the blistering speed of technology. So, there I was working on my first scan and everything was going along great. We didn't have layers back then and the only safety net we had was "command-z"... and ONLY ONE! Any further adjustments made after that first command-z was cemented in to the image. The work around was saving many, many versions of the same image and being VERY careful about what you were doing.
Today it's a different story. Since then Adobe has released about a dozen or so new updates to the software and millions of people have become more familiar with digital images. Oh, and HTML programmers are now extinct! One of my top 3 tools in Photoshop today? HISTORY! Yes, those three magic syllables bring so much happiness into my heart. Now I can not only go back 2 steps, but dozens, scores, hundreds even! That brings me to this tutorial; a brief discussion on how I use my History and the palette options I employ along the way. Enjoy!
My Info Palette
This, our third palette tutorial, finds us with yet another massively important topic to discuss- the Info Palette. They say that knowledge is power and even in Photoshop that saying holds true because this little guy is probably the most important palette on the block!
Print production, branding(logos), advertising, fashion, beauty, product and still life.. In each one of these situations you'll one day find yourself needing to match precise color values as per the clients request and at the end of the day the Info Palette is the only tool for the job. Personally, I find this little tool really handy for making sure I'm working in the correct color space. I also love the ability to change color space readings(CMYK, RGB, Lab) and use multiple color space readings simultaneously. The Lab color readings really help me to check neutrality and the CMYK values I often use for skin tones- I'm old school and learned how to correct skin in CMYK.
Whatever your mission, I'm sure you'll find something useful in this tool. Again, I won't be touching on too much of the technical side of things, but more so how I use the tool in my every day working life.
My Actions Palette
I can't tell you how different my professional life would be WITHOUT Actions in Photoshop. I also have to add that more often than not I find that people either don't understand how Actions work or simply don't bother diving into them head first. The bottom line is that if you're not using them, you're crazy!