5 Highly Applicable, Yet Easily Overlooked Features in Photoshop

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I remembered when I first started learning Photoshop many years ago, there are many features I never knew how to use, or just don’t bother use them at all. Well, I was wrong, and I have since realised everything has their uses and they’re there for a purpose :)

In this tutorial, I will show you 5 Highly Applicable, Yet Easily Ignored Features in Photoshop –  and How to Best Use Them. Hopefully they’re of use to you as a starter, thus make your life as a photoshopper a bit easier right from the beginning.


Meanwhile, I guess even if you’re an experienced Photoshopper already, it nevers hurt to have a read :) Perhaps you’d like to share some tips and tricks too? Just drop me a comment below :)

Ok enough talk, let’s get started!

Turn on the Alignment Options in Move Tool

Let’s face this: you create a new document, copy and paste a new image onto the canvas, and try to position it to the center. If you’re a beginner, you may try to judge the center point by your eyes (I did it once). But believe me, your eyes don’t always tell the truth!

That’s when the alignment options come in handy. Simply click on the Move Tool (V), then you will see the alignment options appears on the top:

1 move tool

And let’s say you want to position an object in the center of the canvas, simply Ctrl + A to select the whole canvas, and you will see some alignment option become clickable:

1 align

And then you simply click “Align vertical centers” and “Align horizontal centers”, you will see the object is now positioned in the center of the canvas:

1 effect

Also if you wish to align your object to a different spot, simply change the selection range instead of the whole canvas.

Image > Trim…

Ok, there will be time that you will face the following situation: you will have image sitting on top of a transparent or a single solid colour background, and you will want to get rid of all the background and leave just the image object.

Naturally you will want to use the Crop tool, however that can sometimes be tricky. So the Trim function can come in handy. (Image > Trim…)

2 trim

What trim function does is that it lets you instantly crop your document’s canvas to the outer border of your image and clear out the rest of the image, as along as you have a transparent background or a solid colour background. Here is a demo: (I have a solid white background)

Before Trim

2 before

After Trim

2 after

Isn’t this much easier than cropping?

Unlock the Background Layer

Trust me, there will be time comes that you will want to unlock the background layer, for whatever purpose. To do so, simply double-click the background layer on the layer pallette, as shown below:

3 bg dou

You will then be prompted with a new window, simply click “OK”:

3 name layer

And you will now see the lock on the background layer is gone, that means the background layer is now unlocked:

3 lock gone

You can now drag this background layer up and down, just like all other unlocked layers.

An even quicker to unlock the background layer: (Thanks to dietoself86)

Actually the quickest way to unlock the background layer is to alt-double click on the layer.

Convert to Smart Object

Since Photoshop CS2, there is a new feather called Smart Object being introduced. We may know it’s there, however many of us may never use it until now.

This feature is available when you right-click the image layer on the layer palette, as show below:

4 convert

I won’t go into great detail about the use of smart object here, however what I would like to talk about is that by converting your image into smart object, you can overcome the issue whan resize the image, it becomes blurred when enlarge back to the original size. Below is the screenshot of comparison:

Without converting to smart object, after resizing back to original size:

4 without

Converted to smart object, after resizing back to original size:

4 with

You can see by converting the image to smart object, it preserves the details and no matter how many times you resize it, it won’t go blurry.

More smart object options are available under Layer > Smart Object, as shown below:

4 layer smart

Further Readings about Smart Object:

Photoshop Smarter: Smart Objects

Photoshop How-To: Get Smart About Smart Objects

A Word of Caution for using Smart Object: (Thanks to B. Moore for commenting this)

Using smart objects will increase the file size by a large amount. It all depends on size of the original piece thats was turned into a smart object. Using lots of high rez smart objects will make a HUGE increase to file size.

The Info Window

As a photoshop beginner, every now and then you will need extra information about the image you’re working on. And you may ask: How do I work out the size, colour and see extra information about the tools I’m using?

That’s when the info window come in real handy. To bring it up, simply go to Window > Info or press F8:

5 info

Once you have the info window open, it display some real handy information about the tool you’re using, and the size of the selection you’re drawing, etc.

Here is a example info window I have when I draw a rectangular marquee selection on a white canvas:

5 info draw

As you can see, it displays information about the rectangluar marquee tool I’m using, the size of the selection (in pixel) I’m drawing, the X/Y position of the selection, and the colour mode stats.

Those information would be quite useful especially when you need precise measurement, such as web graphic, prints, etc.

Ok that’s all for this tutorial! Hope you enjoy it and find those information useful. Cheers and have a great day!

Tags:

  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

  • Show Comments

  • Dave Sparks

    Nice tips, a few basics that are easily forgotten, thanks.

  • Tia

    I found out an even quicker way to unlock the background layer. Simply click the lock and drag it to the trash can. Thanks for the post!

  • dietoself86

    Actually the quickest way to unlock the background layer is to alt-double click on the layer.

  • you need to add a warning note to the smart object feature….

    Using smart objects will increase the file size by a large amount. It all depends on size of the original piece thats was turned into a smart object. Using lots of high rez smart objects will make a HUGE increase to file size.

    Other than that it was a great post, thanks!

  • Mars

    good point we got here, sometimes we normally neglect them really

  • James

    @dietoself86 @ B.Moore: I’ve added your comment to the post so it’s more obvious for everyone to see. Thanks for the extra tips!

  • Cheri

    Thanks for the tips.
    I am new at photoshop and these helped.

  • You can also get rid of the lock in bg layer by double click while pressing alt (on PC, never tried on MAC)

  • Catalin

    :) … strange …. i actually use everything you are mentioning here a lot.

  • The smart object feature is such a valauable feature – thanks for refreshing that one in my mind

  • Ron

    I am using this also very often. In fact, the alignment options were one of the best innovations for my daily work in photoshop in the last versions! ;-)

  • ExplosiveGFX.com
  • syncmaster

    This post was a great idea. Been using photoshop for a while and still ignore “some tools”.

    I love the smart object feature. It will save me lots of time.
    Thanks.

  • Very good!

  • mii

    very very useful, this are the things I always forget when I’m working ¬¬

  • Phil Rennie

    Also to unlock the locked background layer, hold ctrl/command and simply double click the layer

  • Phil Rennie

    *Hold ALT

  • yosh

    Hahaha, have been using photoshop for 4 days now, and I knew every single one of these :D

  • Jp

    Great tips, thanks very much for this!
    Keep up the superb work.

  • Lucas

    I thank you. :) And the type of writing your text is funny. Haha :D (Example: Since Photoshop CS2, there is a new feather called Smart Object being introduced.” We may know it’s there, however many of us may never use it until now.”)