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Dig up these 5 buried Photoshop treasures

Added on Friday 23rd of February 2007 03:24 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


You’re always looking for ways to save time and increase your productivity in Photoshop. There are of course those times when you just don’t know how to do something or maybe just think it’s not possible. There are numerous tasks in Photoshop that you can actually do but you just may not realize how. We’ll point out what we think are the top five.



When you’re rushing to finish your work, you don’t always have much time to figure out alternate ways to do things, or if there is a better way to get the job done. So you stick to the same time consuming and tedious way you’re used to. Sure, you get it done, but in your rush you fail to learn something new. Well, we’ve done the work for you—we’ll show you five different hidden tricks in Photoshop that are sure to help you get more done in less time.


Treasure 1: Crop an image … larger?

Every Photoshop user has used the Crop tool at one time or another. It comes in handy when you want to crop an image for a better composition or simply to rid your image of extraneous or distracting information. But a not-so-obvious way to use the Crop tool is to increase the canvas size of an image. So the next time you need a larger canvas size, try this before you visit the Canvas Size dialog box.


To make the canvas larger with the Crop tool:

1.       Open any image and zoom out so you can see the surrounding canvas, as shown in Figure A.



2.      Choose the Crop tool crop from the Toolbox.

3.      Click and drag the crop tool over the image so the bounding box handles are on the four sides of the image, as shown in Figure B.



4.      Click and drag each bounding box handle out as far as you’d like the canvas to extend, as shown in Figure C.

Tip: Choose View > Rulers to display the rulers so you can use these as a guide when aligning the bounding box handles for the crop.



5.      Double-click inside the bounding box to accept the crop, or click the Commit Current Crop Operation button commit_crop located on the tool options bar. The result is shown in Figure D.

Tip: The extended canvas size will set to whatever the background color is set at unless the image has a transparent background—then it will be transparent.



Treasure 2: Paint a dotted line


Adobe Illustrator and InDesign both offer easy ways to stroke a line with a dotted appearance. While this isn’t a standard feature in Photoshop, you can mimic the same appearance with a customized brush setting. First you’ll need to create the custom brush, and then you can paint a dotted line.


To create a custom dotted line brush:

1.       Choose the Brush tool brush from the Toolbox.

2.      Select Window > Brushes to display the Brushes palette.

3.      Click on the Brushes palette’s pop-up menu button pop_up button and select Square Brushes from the resulting pop-up menu.

4.      Click Append to load and add the Square Brushes to your current set.

5.      Select Brush Tip Shape in the left column of the Brushes palette and select the Hard Square 18 pixels preset, as shown in Figure E.



6.      Enter 50% in the Roundness text box, and move the Spacing slider to 150%, as shown in Figure F. For a thinner line, decrease the percentage in the Roundness text box.



7.      Press and hold [shift] then paint a straight dotted line like the one shown in Figure G.


Tip: Enter 90 in the Angle text box to rotate the brush tip 90 degrees. Then paint a vertical brush stroke with the same appearance as the horizontal line.


Treasure 3: Filter on adjustment layers?


Separate adjustment layers for filters would be a dream come true for most Photoshop users, but we don’t have that luxury yet. For the time being, you have two choices for non-destructive filtering. Your first option is to duplicate the layer you’re going to filter before you do so,  turn off the visibility for  the duplicate layer, and leave it alone to preserve it. That way you have an untouched layer to go back to in case you need to. Your other option is to fake an adjustment layer for filters.

We’ll warn you ahead of time, this technique won’t produce the same results as the filter would if it were applied directly to the image. Nonetheless, it’s worth experimenting with because you can get some really interesting results.


To fake a filter adjustment layer:

1.       Open a flattened RGB image.

2.      Click on the Create A New Layer button Create _New located at the base of the Layers palette to add a new layer.

3.      Rename this new layer Filter.


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