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Beginner Photoshop Troubleshooting

Lesson 1 of 5

The Essentials of Troubleshooting in Photoshop

Ben Willmore

Beginner Photoshop Troubleshooting

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

1. The Essentials of Troubleshooting in Photoshop

Lesson Info

The Essentials of Troubleshooting in Photoshop

My name is Drew Konzelman, and this is Beginner Photoshop Troubleshooting with Ben Willmore. Would you help me welcome back to the CreativeLive stage, Ben Willmore? (audience applauding) All right, well we're here for troubleshooting. So for me, troubleshooting is whenever I'm trying to do something in Photoshop, and Photoshop's getting in my way. There is something, or there's a function you're used to using, or you used one day and suddenly it's not available, or there's just something not allowing you to fluidly get your work done. And we're gonna start off just with the mindset that I use whenever I'm teaching a hands-on class. If I ever have students, and they have a problem, I walk up behind them, and in a couple seconds I can usually figure out why whatever it is they're trying to do doesn't work. And so we'll start off with those things, because those are the absolute essentials. And then we'll move onto looking at Photoshop by category. We'll look at layers, selections, adju...

stments, filters, and just look for how is it that we can run into problems that we need to troubleshoot? And in the progress of doing that, now if you guys have any questions related to it, if you have anything that I haven't thought of, that you haven't figured out how to troubleshoot, you're welcome to bring it up and we'll discuss those as well. So, I'm gonna jump in and get started with what I consider to be just the essentials. The very first things that I do anytime I'm attempting to use Photoshop, and something is getting in my way, it's not working the way I expect it to. So let's take a look. So let's say that in this image I decided I wanted to make an adjustment or I wanted to apply a filter, or just do anything to the image. Well if I come in here and try something, like for instance I'll come in here and try to do a Black and White adjustment. That should pull all the color out of my image, and make it black and white. But if I try that, first you'll notice that I get an error message. And in this case, it's saying that the selected area is empty. And, if I try other things in Photoshop, like let's just say I want to paint on this image. I grab my paintbrush tool, and regardless of what brush size I have, I try to paint, and it seems to think I'm painting in that my brush is moving around, it's acting as if it should be putting out paint, but nothing is happening. And, when anything like that happens, the first thing that I do is I come up here to the Select menu. And under the Select menu is a choice called Deselect. If it's ever available as an option, it's not grayed out, then it means that somewhere on your screen is an area that's been isolated by a selection. And if you're a beginner and you're not used to selections, the general selection tools are found near the upper left here. These tools, and if I click on one of these and then click and drag, usually I can isolate an area of the photograph. So then if I were to grab the paintbrush tool or anything else, I can't change anything outside the selection. I can only change it where it's selected. And the problem can be that you've used one of those tools, and when you clicked somewhere else to kind of get rid of that selection, you just didn't notice that when you clicked you just dragged the tiniest bit. And you might have a tiny selection active. Oftentimes it messes you up because you'll end up being zoomed up on your document right after you've done something, and you won't notice that there's a little selection somewhere that's outside the viewable area of your image. And so, first thing I do is I go to the Select menu, and if that choice is available, then it means there is a selection active somewhere on my screen, and it's limiting where Photoshop can work. So that's the first thing I'm gonna look at. Then, the next thing I'm gonna look at if that doesn't fix my problem, is if I grab a paintbrush tool, or I come up here again and try to do Adjustments, you notice that right now, the entire menu to do adjustments is grayed out, not available. Or if I come in here to apply a filter, you see that the entire menu, nothing in it is available. So the next thing I would end up doing after first seeing if we have a selection active is I would next look on the right side of my screen at my Layers panel. And a lot of the times you work with documents that don't contain any layers, and therefore you would have one thing showing up in your Layers panel. It would be called the Background. But, you need to have one of these layers active, because that's where Photoshop is gonna make the change you're asking for. So if you paint or run a filter, it's only going to affect whichever layer is active. And you can get into a situation where no layer is active. And therefore Photoshop just has no clue whatsoever where you want the paint you're gonna paint with to go, or which part of your image you'd like to apply a filter to, or whatever it is you're attempting to do. So I'm gonna glance over here. And I'm going to pick whatever layer it is I wanted to work with, and then I'm gonna try whatever I was trying to do, again. And now I notice that all my filters seem to be available. If I go to my Image menu and choose Adjustments, they're also available. And so that is my second go-to thing. A third thing related to that is certain features in Photoshop can only work when one layer is active. And you can have more than one layer active. And so, let's look at an example. Well first, I'm gonna go to the move tool right here, which is what we use to move layers around. Right now we only have one layer active, so if I click within my image and drag, you'll see I'm moving one layer. That happens to be the layer I painted on a few minutes ago. And then, I can hold down the Command key on the Macintosh, Control on Windows, and click on additional layers here so that now I have more than one of these layers. And if I click and drag, you can see that I'm moving more than one piece of the image. Well that might have been the last thing you did was try to move more than one layer, but now if you try to go up and do certain features, like I try to apply an adjustment. Well when you do adjustments, usually they only apply to one layer at a time. And so if I have more than one layer active, that's one of the first things I'll do. First I check if there's a selection, and second I always gotta look over to my Layers panel. And, is what I was thinking of actually targeted within the Layers panel, or not? And if it's not, I just need to click on a single layer. Then all my filters will work, all my adjustments will work, and all of that. So just keep a look out if there is no layers selected, or there's more than one. Other very simple things that are gonna get in your way on a regular basis, is sometimes you'll attempt to use a keyboard shortcut, and it simply won't work. It won't do anything at all. And I want to show you the most common times when that will happen. And that is in Photoshop, there are many areas where you can type in text. And a few of them are found at the top of your Layers panel, like up here. Opacity and fill. If you were to click on these numbers, you would start being able to edit those settings, and you can use your keyboard, hit Delete and do that. Well right now, that area where I've clicked where we have the Opacity setting, it has what's known as focus. Meaning that's where Photoshop is thinking right now when I use my keyboard. And so if I'm used to using certain keys on my keyboard, like pressing the V key would usually give me the move tool. Or hitting the Spacebar would usually temporarily give me the hand. Well that particular one works, but the V key doesn't. And, if that ever happens, where whatever keyboard shortcut you're trying to use is just not responsive, what I'll end up doing is it'll be hard to figure out if a text field is active on your screen. Because oftentimes there's a bunch of them. And you'd have to look at every single one to see, is there one that's active? So what I'll end up doing whenever a keyboard shortcut is not working is the first thing I do is I hit the Return or Enter key, because Return or Enter is gonna take any text field that I'm actively typing in, and it's going to kind of get Photoshop to accept that I've made that change and finish it. And then what's known as focus will go away from that text field. And so I'll hit Return right now, and then I'll try my keyboard shortcut. I'll press the V key, and the V key does switch me to the move tool. That's what it's designed to do. Or I could hit the B key to go the brush key. Any kind of keyboard shortcut you might be used to. Now be careful with those keyboard shortcuts though if you happen to bump your keyboard by accident, you should know that the number keys on your keyboard have a special function. And that is, if I'm in the move tool, and you look here at the top of my Layers panel, you see where that opacity setting is? Watch what happens if I bump the number keys on my keyboard. Do you see how it just changed to 50%, then 70%, or 90? That's me just bumping the number keys. And so if you accidentally bump a number key, you're gonna find that the appearance of your image might change. And what happens is, if you're in the move tool, or a selection tool, hitting the number keys on your keyboard will change this number right up here. If on the other hand you're in a painting tool, or most retouching tools, hitting the number key won't change the setting at the top of your Layers panel. Instead it will change a setting at the top of your screen, right here. So, if I tap one of those keys. And the problem with that is I can accidentally bump one of those keys, and just not realize I did it. And then later on, it might be a day later that I come back and need to use whatever painting or retouching tool it is, and suddenly it doesn't act the way I expect it to. So, here's a tip anytime you try to use any of the tools that are found on the left side of your screen in what's known as the toolbar. If you find that that particular tool is acting in an unusual way, here's what I'd suggest you do. At the top of your screen going across the top is what's known as the options bar. And that's where all the settings are for whatever tool you happen to be using. And I'm gonna change some of those settings just so that you can see that they're different than the defaults. I'll just kind of randomly choose different settings that would mess up whatever tool it is I'm using. Now here's the trick. If you go to the far left of the options bar, you're gonna see a copy of the icon for the tool you're using. And there's a little arrow next to it you could click on and all that kind of stuff. But, there's a little trick, and that is if you press the right mouse button on top of that little icon on the far left of your options bar, you're gonna find a choice called Reset Tool. What that's going to do is it's gonna take all the options that are in the horizontal bar at the top of your screen, and it's gonna reset them back to their default settings. So anytime you get a tool that just seems to not be acting the way I expect it to, I might go over here to the options bar. It's way over on the far right. You press the right mouse button, and that's where you have Reset Tool. Now if you're on a Mac, and you only have one mouse button, you should know that holding down the Control key on your keyboard and clicking the mouse is the equivalent to having a right mouse button. If you had a two button mouse, it would do the same thing as a right mouse button. So in my case I only have one button. Here, I'm holding down Control and I'm clicking on that icon. I'll choose Reset Tool, and now watch these choices in here that I modified. When I choose Reset Tool you see that they're all reset back. If you found that somebody else has been working on your machine, sometimes that happens when you're working in a corporate environment where you have a computer that's used by more than one person. Every morning you might come in here, right-click on that and say Reset All Tools. Because whoever it is that works on your machine seems to use a bunch of weird settings, and this would reset the settings for every single tool that is in the tools panel. Then, let's say I was in here and I was attempting to paint. An issue that's very common is that when you're trying to paint on your document, you can do like this. It might look like you can paint, it might work just find when you do, but you can find that you don't see the circular brush cursor, the little indication of where your brush is. Instead you see a crosshair. There are two instances when you're gonna get a crosshair. The first one is the most common, and that is if you ever turn on the Caps Lock key on your keyboard. All that does, when you turn on Caps Lock is it turns what would usually look like a brush here, just looks like a circle, into that crosshair. And that is attempting to make it so it's very easy to click in the center of something. So if I needed to click on the absolute center of these eyes, right now it'd be difficult to get perfectly centered, but if I hit Caps Lock it's much easier for me to get centered right on that eye before I click the mouse. Choose Undo. But the other time that you're gonna get a crosshair is that if you ever make your brush larger than the view of your image that you're currently in. Because you can zoom up on your image, that kind of thing, so I'm only viewing like one eyeball in this image. And if my brush is larger than that, if my brush would literally be larger than my screen, which let me see if I can get that. In case you're not aware, one way to change your brush size is to use the square bracket keys on your keyboard. They look like kind of half squares. And in this case I'm at the maximum size I believe right now. And it's not quite big enough to go outside of my screen. If I look in the lower left corner of my screen, the absolute corner down there, and I move my mouse around you might be able to see it moving the tiniest bit. It's the edge of my brush. But if I zoom in on my picture, now I'm getting a crosshair. Even though my Caps Lock key is not pressed. So that can happen quite frequently when you zoom in on your picture and you're working on a detailed area. You get a crosshair like that and you look down at your Caps Lock key, and you think that's the usual cause for it, but it's not turned on. And so if that's the case it means your brush is just absolutely huge. And you need to get it smaller. A few conventions that I use that I'm probably gonna use without thinking here, is first off to change your brush size. One method is to use the square bracket keys on your keyboard. I know a lot of people are used to that, but just in case you're not. To zoom in and zoom out on your document, there are many different ways of doing it, but just what I'm most used to is holding down the Command key, which is Control in Windows, and pressing plus or minus on your keyboard. So if you ever see me do that without describing what I'm hitting, just so you know, those are the keyboard shortcuts. Then one other thing that's very easy to get to mess you up is when you end up painting, sometimes when you paint it might look like this. First, notice in the lower left of my screen, this is my foreground color. That's the color that Photoshop thinks I'm about to paint with. I'll move my mouse on top of my image, and I'll paint. But when I do it's not showing up in the color that I expect, and you'll find that many other features in Photoshop just won't be available. If I try to come up here and adjust this layer that I've been working on afterwards there's a lot of things grayed out, just not available. And if that ever happens where you paint on your image and it shows up in a semi-transparent color over your image, you most likely bumped your keyboard. It most commonly happens when you're trying to press the number keys on your keyboard. It's right up near the top, and if you're trying to press the number one or the number two, you can easily bump the letter right below it, which is the letter Q. Q turns on a special mode in Photoshop that's known as Quick Mask mode. And it's turned on right now. If I type the letter Q it will turn itself off. Quick mask mode is designed for making a selection by painting. So, if you're not familiar with it, usually you make selections by using a selection tool, like here I'm using the marquee tool. I click and drag and I have a selection. But if instead I type the letter Q, then I can use the paint brush. And what I would do is paint wherever I don't want things selected. And so I could come in here and paint over half of this image, and if I press the letter Q a second time to turn off that mode, suddenly those areas that are covered with red will not be selected. And so it's just a different way of making a selection, but it's very easy to accidentally get into that mode, because all you need to do is type the letter Q on your keyboard, and that's really close to other keys that you commonly use. And if you don't have a selection active and you haven't painted yet, there's no big visual indication that you're in that mode. So I'll deselect that. So those are some of the most common problems that I run into when if first walk up to somebody who has been using Photoshop and they're like, hey Ben wait a minute, this isn't working. Those are what I start with. Now, let's expand and think about Photoshop in different categories of features. And we'll explore each one looking at, how can Photoshop get in our way with whatever it is we're attempting to do?

Class Description

Discover solutions for your everyday Photoshop troubleshooting. You will learn how the misapplication of Photoshop's workhorse functions - selections, layers, masks, color mode and more - can create problems that cascade throughout the rest of your project. Develop a mental workflow that will help you quickly diagnose and fix these issues in the future.  

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1.2


Carol Haggerty

Thank you Ben! So much great information. How much time have I wasted trying to figure out why so many of these quirky things are happening?? I'm so happy to have the reasons now! I've been using ps for a few years now and would recommend this class to beginners or any self-taught individuals (like myself). Thank you again!

Judy Mitschelen

Another excellent course from Ben. As always, he is well-organized and explains clearly with mini summaries for each section that reinforce rather than feel redundant. Love his teaching style and even though this is in the Beginner track, I picked up some new tips and locked in some good triage ideas for when things don't seem to be working right.

Vu Phan

Fantastic. These lessons are very useful to me. I appreciate for what you have done. Thank you so much