I hope you joined me for my Top 10 Productivity Techniques for Photoshop CS5 Part One, where we took a look at some awesome Photoshop productivity tricks, like customizing keyboard shortcuts, using Photoshop's Quick Mask Mode, Smart Objects, and a few other cool techniques. If you missed it, be sure to go back and check it out.
But of course, Photoshop is loaded full of so many great functions and features that I wanted to put together a second set of Productivity Techniques. In this installation, we'll take a look at a personal favorite, Layer Comps, we'll also see some big time-saving tools, like Batch Sequencing and Actions, and we'll also see how to non-destructively adjust our images. There's a lot to get to, so let's get started!
If you know about dodging and burning, you know that you can get some great results, but that they're also destructive to your images -- meaning that there's no way to protect your original image. Well, I'd like to show you a very cool way to dodge and burn your images, but do so in a completely non-destructive way. Instead of using the traditional Dodge and Burn tools, we'll use the Brush tool.
To start off, open the Layers pane and create two new blank layers. Rename one of the new layers to "Highlights" and rename the second new layer to "Shadows." Next, set both new layer's Blending Mode to Overlay. Now for the fun part: Simply begin painting with white on the Highlights layer to begin dodging your image. In other words, painting with white on a layer whose blending mode is set to Overlay gives us the same result as the Dodge tool would.
Next, paint with black on the Shadows layer to acheive a burn effect. I say that all of this is "non-destructive" because your original image remains intact below the Shadows and Highlights layers. Cool!
As I mentioned earlier, Layer Comps is a personal favorite. Admittedly when they first arrived on the scene in Photoshop, I didn't quite understand where or why I'd use 'em. Now I use 'em all the time! Essentially what Layer Comps will do is save various states of your image. For example, you may have two or three different options that you'd like to try out. Rather than saving them as separate files, you can save them all in a single file and use Layer Comps to switch between them. What's more, you can make use of an image's Layer Comps after importing it into a layout in InDesign, which is what I'd like to show you.
First what I've done here is built an image that makes use of two cartoon robots and two word bubbles. I'm really not sure which cartoon or which word bubble I'll use in my final layout, but I'll save each version of my image as a Layer Comp by setting my layer visibility in the Layers panel, then going to the Layer Comps panel (Window > Layer Comps) and clicking the Create New Layer Comp icon along the bottom. I'll repeat this process for each version of my image.
Once that's complete, save your file. You can keep your Layer Comps soley in Photoshop, and flip between your versions by clicking in the left-hand column in the Layer Comps panel, but the real excitement happens over in InDesign. Go ahead and create a quick layout in InDesign and then import your Photoshop file that contains the Layer Comps. With your image selected, choose Object > Object Layer Options. In the center of the dialog box you'll find a Layer Comp menu, where you can flip between the versions of your image, right inside InDesign!
Alright, let's talk about some ways to automate our work in Photoshop. First up, let's take a look at Photoshop's Image Processor, which is a fast way to convert a batch of images to a different file format, or to resize them. To get started, head to File > Scripts > Image Processor. In the Image Processor dialog box that appears, you'll see that it's broken into four sections. Start at the top by selecting the group of images that you'd like to process. As you can see, you can process open images, or an entire folder of images, which you can specify by clicking on Select Folder. Next, you can set the destination for your saved images; in the same directory as the original, or into a specific folder.
Next, in the third section, choose the file format that you'd like to save your group of images as. As you can see, your options are JPG, PSD, and TIF. Optionally, you can check the Resize To Fit option to the right of each file format to resize your images too. Handy!
Finally, in the last area at the bottom of the dialog box you can set a few options, like running an Action on your images. We'll talk about Actions more below. When you're ready, go ahead and click Run to process your images.
Every Photoshop user loves their Actions. If you haven't really dug into them, essentially what they'll do is allow you to record and play back various steps in Photoshop, for example, applying a filter, resizing the image, and saving it. This makes tedious and repetitive tasks a cinch. Photoshop comes packed with a set of pre-created Actions to help you get started right away, and you can always create and reuse your own, too.
To get started, open the Actions panel (Window > Actions) and twist open the Default Actions folder. There you'll see all the pre-created Actions that come with Photoshop. To run an action, select it from the list and click Play Selection at the bottom of the panel. Cool! If you'd like to create your own, click Create New Action at the bottom, give it a name in the dialog box that appears, and then click Record. Now, begin choosing the commands that you'd like included in your Action. You can use as many commands as you'd like, and even though you're recording, there's no need to rush! When you're finished, click the Stop Playing/Recording icon at the bottom of the Actions panel. Your new action is saved and ready for playback.
If you liked Actions, then you're going to love Batch Sequencing. Batch Sequencing allows us to play back a saved Action on an entire group of images. This is truly amazing and saves a ton of time. To give it a try, choose File > Automate > Batch.
In the Batch dialog box that appears, choose the action that you'd like to play back from the Action menu at the top. Next, choose the group of images that you'd like to apply the batch to from the Souce menu. For example, you could run your batch sequence on files that are currently open, or on an entire folder of images. Depending on the choice you make, you'll be given different options in the Source area of the dialog box. Next, choose a Destination. You'll even be given options for the file naming convention you'd like to use. Finally, when you're ready to roll, click OK.
Photoshop goes to work running the sequence on your group of images. You can literally walk away... grab a snack or a coffee and when you come back, all your images will be processed. Amazing!
Wow did we ever cover a lot! I hope you'll be busy in Photoshop for the next little while exploring all these great productivity techniques and options, many of which most Photoshop users don't even know about! Have fun!