Getting the right workspace setup in Photoshop can make an enormous difference to your productivity and workflow so it’s a great idea to spend a few minutes thinking about what tools you use most and configuring your workspace accordingly.
How you layout your Photoshop workspace is a personal thing, what works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else so it’s important to find a setup that you feel gives you quick and easy access to the tools and panels you use the most.
Aside from working on Photographs I do a lot of work on web site layouts and product designs so I find the Layers and Adjustments panels to be very important. I also use a lot of Actions and play around with the History panel frequently and the Info panel has to be easily visible for changes between coordinate systems (pixels, mm’s & inches) and selection dimensions. I also keep the character and paragraph panels minimised but handy for all the textual work I do. Aside from these panels I have several others available on tab groups for quick selection such as Layer Comps, Channels & Paths and Masks.
I also have one other panel in the top left which I made myself using the Adobe Configurator V2. Although version 2 of the Configurator (which you need for CS5) is a little buggy I wouldn’t be without it, my panel gives me fast access to commands that I use regularly, including allowing me to run certain Actions without having to scroll through my Actions panel to find them.
This is a layout I have refined over many years and I find it works pretty well for me, though it is a work in progress and continuously evolving.
Create Your Own Workspace Layout
If you’re new to Photoshop or not sure where to start, take a look at the default workspaces provided by Adobe for a good starting point. Adobe TV has a basic tutorial on how to use workspaces here which may help.
Making your own Photoshop workspaces is a very simple process, just follow these steps and you’ll be an expert before you know it :
- Using the “Windows” menu select the panels you want visible.
- Next click on a panel name plate and drag it where you want it to sit. As you move the panel near a potential docking position a blue line or border will appear, let go of the panel and it will dock itself. Panels can be docked with other panels into a panel group or docked on their own. If no blue line or border appeared when you released the panel then it will simply float in it’s own re-sizable window wherever you dropped it. Wherever you place a panel it will sit on top of any images you have open.
- If you don’t want a panel (or group of panels) to be visible but you still want easy access to them then drag the panel slightly to the left or right of an existing group of panels and a blue docking line will appear the full height of the panel area. Release your panel here and a new column of panels will appear. Now simply click on the two small arrows on the panel header to expand and collapse the panel group. When in it’s collapsed state you can click on any individual panel and it will temporarily pop up on it’s own and disappear when you click elsewhere.
- Once you have all the panels you want in the positions you want them got to the “Window-> Workspace-> New Workspace…” menu, enter a name for your workspace, tick “Keyboard Shortcuts” and “Menus” and click Save.
- Your Workspace will now appear in the list of Workspaces as described in the above Adobe TV video.
That’s all there is too it, and remember you can create as many workspaces as you like so you can keep experimenting untill you find something you like.
Don’t Forget the Shortcuts
Of course getting your workspace right is not just about putting Photoshop’s panels in the right places, it’s equally important to get your keyboard shortcuts setup too.
Personally I find having to use my mouse to select menu items a real pain, anything in the menus that you access regularly is a good candidate for a keyboard shortcut.
Many of these menu items will already have shortcuts assigned to them so it could simply be a case of learning the existing shortcuts for the commands you use regularly or you may have to assign new shortcuts to some commands.
The other possible scenario is to change existing shortcuts to key combination’s that are easier to use. I really like to keep my right hand on my mouse / pen as much as possible and some of those shortcuts are just not easy to reach with just your left hand. For example try using Alt+Ctrl+I to resize an image with your left hand …
- Go to the Edit-> Keyboard Shortcuts menu item
- Select “Application Menus”, “Panel Menus” or “Tools” from the dropdown
- Find the command/tool you want to change the shortcut for and click on it
- Type in the new shortcut and press Enter or click Accept
- If the new shortcut you have selected already exists then you will be warned what command is already using that shortcut and you can choose to override it or select a new shortcut
- When you’re done you can save your new shorcuts as a shortcut set which you can reload any time (or even use to transfer your shortcuts to another Photoshop installation)
- If you want a reminder of what your new shortcuts are then click the Summarize button and Photoshop will create an html summary of all your shortcuts
- If at any time your not happy with your changes you can select the Photoshop Defaults shortcut set at the top of the dialog box
- And finally don’t forget that you can also save your shortcuts with your workspace by checking the Save Shortcuts box.
For even more flexibility I use a Logitech G13 Keyboard alongside my main keyboard and a Logitech G500 Mouse. Both products are marketed as gaming devices but you often find that these so called “Gaming Devices” offer leading edge technology and usability. The G13 is really just a mini keyboard with 25 customisable keys, a mini joystick and an lcd screen and the G500 has it’s own programmable keys and buttons to adjust it’s sensitivity.
Both devices are supported on Mac’s and PC’s and even have the ability to record macros and assign them to any key. For all you gadget collectors out there the both the G13 and G500 are pretty cool and a great aid to using applications like Photoshop. I have no connection with Logitech but they do create some great peripheral devices to aid productivity (they have also created a few flops in there time but we won’t go there :wink:).
Read my previous post “Photoshop Tip – Changing brush sizes (Updated for CS5)” to see how I have used macros with the Logitech G500 to assist with changing brush sizes.
Photoshop is a highly configurable application these days, with workspaces, keyboard shortcuts and Adobe’s Configurator there are a lot of options available to help personalise Photoshop and make it compliment the way you work.
It really is a small amount of effort for a very big reward in productivity, so what are you waiting for, go and make your version of Photoshop 😎