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Everyday Photoshop Tips

Better Performance

Put your Adobe Photoshop Scratch Disk on a different physical drive. The first time you run Photoshop, you'll see this info-warning pop up. It's a one-time warning, most people click OK and never do anything about it.

Scratch Disk Warning

Under Photoshop's Edit/Preferences choices, change the First Scratch Disk to a different physical drive with plenty of open disk space. There's no need for second, third, or fourth scratch disk unless your first disk is short on available space.

Faster Startup

Disable the Detect Watermark plug-in (Digimarc). Photoshop loads quicker and your pictures will open faster. This tip is straight from Adobe's official support knowledge database in their Support Knowledgebase Document 318243.

The Digimarc plug-in will no longer preload itself when you start Photoshop, and Photoshop will no longer scan each image for a digital watermark before it opens it. Remember, this a "factory authorized" tip. And it really does significantly speed things up.

Locate the Digimarc plug-in folder.

You'll find it inside the Program Files / Adobe Photoshop / Plug-Ins folder.

Disable Digimarc 1

Rename the Digmarc Folder by adding a tilde (~) in front of the name.

This will disable the Digmarc Plug-in.

Disable Digimarc 3

Reader comment:

John, I may have mentioned to you before I am a retired Navy Photographer's Mate and my path in film and digital was similar to yours (except the first digital camera I touched was the Kodak DCS100). The tip on speeding up Photoshop by skipping over Digimarc was great, and it works fine with CS2 as well. Keep up the good work!

Charles Hubbard

Video Card Tip

Use a video card with 128 Megabytes or more of Video Ram. (I personally use a 512 Megabyte video card.)

Read more about this in Adobe's Support Knowledgebase Document 331412.

Although the two Adobe tech articles listed above specifically refer to Photoshop CS (tip number one) & Photoshop CS 2 (tip number two) in Windows, both tips help in all versions of Photoshop & on all computer platforms.  

Reader comment:

"I used your latest tips from your web site. I put the ~ in front of the directory name in PS. I already had a video card with 128mb BUT I bought a ATI 256mb video card and WOW what a difference. It's like night and day speed wise. Please keep sharing your secrets ......

Thanks, Roy (www.mystudios.com)

Wheel Mouse Tip

Use the wheel (or the little joystick) on your mouse to change your Adobe Photoshop settings.

Click your mouse cursor anywhere in the number box you want to adjust, then simply roll the mouse wheel forward or backwards to change the values on the fly. Much (much!!) faster than dragging the sliders or entering the numbers by hand. Works on all open number fields in working boxes or on the menu bar, such as Unsharp Mask, Gaussian Blur, Levels, Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Saturation, Font Size, Opacity, Exposure, Pressure, Tolerance, Weight, Width, etc. For functions that have a preview box option, be sure to leave it "checked", and you'll be able to watch the effects of your changes full screen as you roll the wheel.

For speedier changes, hold the Shift Key down when rolling the mouse wheel and the values change 10 numbers at a time instead of one at a time. Thanks to reader / photographer / DLC photography webmaster Don Cohen for pointing this out to me.

Wheel Mouse

Wheel  Mouse Example 1

Wheel Mouse Example 2

 Toolbar Tips

Photoshop Tools


There's more to the Photoshop Toolbar than meets the eye at first glance.

Click & hold your left mouse button on nearly any icon in the toolbar and you'll find additional useful tools.

(Examples shown at left.)

Specialty Tips


  • Sharp is good, but don't overdo it. Oversharpened pictures have abrupt & unnaturally sharp edges that often draw comments like ''Those are digital, right? ... Uh-huh ... Well, they're nice, but I still prefer the way film looks.'' Refresh your point of view by looking at some quality film prints and aim for that same kind of smoothness in your digital pictures.
  • You can selectively sharpen without sharpening the whole picture ... Use the Sharpen Tool set at 50% strength with a soft edged brush to selectively sharpen eyes or other specific points of interest. Set the brush size accordingly & click those areas until you get the desired sharpness.
  • Use the Blur Tool set at 25% strength with a soft edged brush to smooth out the transition edges of objects that are too sharp and have that 'pasted-on' look. Click & drag the brush along the transition edges. The Blur Tool is also great for smoothing out digital jaggies along edges.

Lighten up dark areas

  • Use the Dodge Tool set at 25% exposure with a soft edged brush to brighten specific areas in an otherwise well-exposed picture. Move the brush around & click until you get the desired effect. (Great for shadowed faces.)

Tone down overexposed areas

  • Use the Burn Tool set at 25% exposure with a soft edged brush to selectively tone down overexposed facial features in flash pictures or pictures taken in bright sunlight. Move the brush around & click until you get the desired effect.

Quick & easy tool brush sizing

  • Use the [ and ] keys (next to the letter P) on your computer's keyboard to quickly make a tool brush size larger or smaller. Every keystroke on the [ keymakes the brush smaller, every keystroke on the ] key makes the brush larger.

Make your tools & palettes disappear

  • When you want to take an unobstructed look at the picture you're working on, hit the Tab Key on your computer's keyboard to make them disappear. Hit the Tab Key again and they reappear.

Easy Red-Eye Removal with the Sponge Tool

  • Enlarge the screen view of your picture to 400% or greater so the red pupils are easily distinguished.
  • Select "desaturate" in the sponge tool's option pallette.
  • Choose a fuzzy round brush at 75% opacity about the same size as the red pupil.
  • Click on the pupil until the red goes away.

Need to insert a genuine Copyright, Trademark, or Registered Trademark symbol using the Text Tool (the T button on the toolbar) into an image or into your text? Hold the Alt key down as you type in the following numbers:

  • For the Copyright symbol (Circled C) Hold the Alt key down as you type 0169
  • For the Trademark symbol (TM) Hold the Alt key down as you type 0153
  • For the Registered symbol (Circled R) Hold the Alt key down as you type 0174