Navigating In Photoshop

All graphics and desktop publishing programs provide a variety of navigational tools and functions that enable you to scoot around the screen, visit the heartlands and nether regions, examine the fine details, and take in the big picture. And Photoshop is no exception.

View Size

You can change the view size the size at which an image appears on screen so you can either see more of an image or concentrate on individual pixels. Each change in view size is expressed as a zoom ratio, which is the ratio between screen pixels and image pixels.

Photoshop displays the zoom ratio as a percentage value in the title bar as well as in the magnification box. The 100-percent zoom ratio shows one image pixel for each screen pixel. A 200 percent zoom ratio doubles the size of the image pixels on screen, and so on.

Actual pixels

Photoshop calls the 100-percent zoom ratio the actual-pixels view. This is the most accurate view size because you can see the image as it really is. Reduced view sizes drop pixels; magnified view sizes stretch pixels. Only the actual-pixels view displays each pixel without a trace of screen distortion.

You can switch to this most accurate of view sizes at any time using one of the following techniques:

  • Choose View>Actual Pixels.
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+0. (That’s a zero, not the letter O.)
  • Double-click the zoom tool icon in the toolbox.
  • Click the Actual Pixels button, which appears on the Options bar when the zoom tool is selected.

Fit on screen

When you first open an image, Photoshop displays it at the largest zoom ratio (up to 100 percent) that permits the entire image to fit on screen. Assuming you don’t change the size of the image, you can return to this “fit-on-screen” view size in one of the following ways:

  • Choose View>Fit on Screen.
  • Press Ctrl+0.
  • Double-click the hand tool icon in the toolbox.
  • Select the zoom tool and then click the Fit on Screen button on the Options bar.

Strangely, any of these techniques may magnify the image beyond the 100-percent view size. When working on a very small image, for example, Photoshop enlarges the image to fill the screen, even if this means maxing out the zoom to 1,600 percent.

Personally, I prefer to use the fit-on-screen view only when working on very large images. Well, actually, I almost never use the fit-on-screen view because it’s too arbitrary. Photoshop does the best job of previewing an image when you can see all pixels that is, at 100-percent view size.

Short of that, you want the screen pixels to divide evenly into the image pixels. This means view sizes like 50 percent or 25 percent, but not 75 percent or 66.7 percent. And you never know what it’s going to be with the fit-on-screen view.

Print size

You can switch to yet another predefined view size by choosing View>Print Size. This command displays the image on screen at the size it will print. (You set the print size using Image>Image Size.) When the zoom tool is active, you also can click the Print Size button on the Options bar to turn on the print-size view.

In practice, “print-size” view isn’t particularly reliable. Photoshop assumes that your monitor displays exactly 72 pixels per inch, even on the PC, where the accepted screen resolution is 96 pixels per inch. But it’s all complete nonsense, whatever the assumption.

Monitor resolutions vary all over the map. And high-end monitors let you change screen resolutions without Photoshop even noticing.

The long and the short is this: Don’t expect to hold up your printed image and have it exactly match the print-size view on screen. It’s a rough approximation, designed to show you how the image will look when imported into QuarkXPress, PageMaker, InDesign, or some other publishing program nothing more.

Zoom Tool

Obviously, the aforementioned zoom ratios aren’t the only ones available to you. You can zoom in as close as 1,600 percent and zoom out to 0.2 percent. The easiest way to zoom in and out of your image is to use the zoom tool:

  • Click in the image window with the zoom tool to magnify the image in preset increments—from 33.33 percent to 50 to 66.67 to 100 to 200 and so on. Photoshop tries to center the zoomed view at the point where you clicked (or come as close as possible).
  • Alt-click with the zoom tool to reduce the image incrementally—200 to 100 to 66.67 to 50 to 33.33 and so on. Again, Photoshop tries to center the new view on the click point.
  • Drag with the zoom tool to draw a rectangular marquee around the portion of the image you want to magnify. Photoshop magnifies the image so the marqueed area fits just inside the image window.
  • If you want Photoshop to resize the window when you click with the zoom tool, select the Resize Windows to Fit check box on the Options bar. The check box appears only when the zoom tool is the active tool.
  • Turn off the Ignore Palettes check box on the Options bar if you want Photoshop to stop resizing the window when the window bumps up against a palette that’s anchored against the side of the program window. Turn the option on to resize the window regardless of the palettes. The palettes then float over the resized window.

To access the zoom tool temporarily when some other tool is selected, press and hold the Ctrl and spacebar keys. Release both keys to return control of the cursor to the selected tool.

To access the zoom out cursor, press Alt with the spacebar. These keyboard equivalents work from inside many dialog boxes, enabling you to modify the view of an image while applying a filter or color correction.

Zoom Commands

You can also zoom in and out using the following commands and keyboard shortcuts:

  • Choose View>Zoom In or press Ctrl+plus (+) to zoom in. This command works exactly like clicking with the zoom tool except you can’t specify the center of the new view size. Photoshop merely centers the zoom in keeping with the previous view size.
  • Choose View>Zoom Out or press Ctrl+minus (–) to zoom out.

The General panel of the Photoshop 6 Preferences dialog box (Ctrl+K) includes an option called Keyboard Zoom Resizes Windows. If you select this option, Photoshop resizes the image window when you use the Zoom commands.(Despite the setting’s name, it applies when you choose the zoom commands from the menu as well as when you use the keyboard shortcuts.)

To override the setting temporarily, press Alt as you press the keyboard shortcut or select the menu command. Similarly, if you deselect the option in the Preferences dialog box, you can add the Alt to turn window zooming on temporarily.

If Photoshop is unresponsive to these or any other keyboard shortcuts, it’s probably because the image window has somehow become inactive. (It can happen if you so much as click the taskbar.) Just click the image-window title bar and try again.

Magnification Box

Another way to zoom in and out without changing the window size is to enter a value into the magnification box, located in the lower-left corner of the Photoshop window.

Select the magnification value, enter a new one, and press Enter. Photoshop zooms the view without zooming the window. (Neither the Resize Windows to Fit check box on the Options bar nor the Keyboard Zoom Resizes Windows option in the Preferences dialog box affect the magnification box.)

To zoom an image without changing the window size, enter a zoom ratio into the magnification box and press Enter. Alternatively, deselect the Resize Windows to Fit check box on the Options bar when working with the zoom tool.

You might like to know more about the magnification box:

  • You can enter values in the magnification box as percentages, ratios, or “times” values. To switch to a zoom value of 250 percent, for example, you can enter 250%, 5:2, or 2.5x.

  • You can specify a zoom value in increments as small as 0.01 percent. So if a zoom value of 250.01 doesn’t quite suit your fancy, you can try 250.02. I seriously doubt you’ll need this kind of precision, but isn’t it great to know it’s there?

When you press Enter after entering a magnification value, Photoshop changes the view size and returns focus to the image window. If you aren’t exactly certain what zoom ratio you want to use, press Shift+Enter instead. This changes the view size while keeping the magnification value active; this way you can enter a new value and try again.

Creating a Reference Window

In the ancient days, paint programs provided a cropped view of your image at the actual-pixels view size to serve as a reference when you worked in a magnified view. Because it’s so doggone modern, Photoshop does not, but you can easily create a second view of your image by choosing View>New View, as in Figure-below.

You can create multiple windows to track the changes made to a single image by choosing the New View command from the View menu

Use one window to maintain a 100-percent view of your image while you zoom and edit inside the other window. Both windows track the changes to the image.

Scrolling Inside Window

In the standard window mode, you have access to scroll bars, just as you do in just about every other major application. But as you become more proficient with Photoshop, you’ll use the scroll bars less and less. One way to bypass the scroll bars is to use the keyboard equivalents listed in Table below.

Scrolling Action Keystroke
Up one screen Page Up
Up slightly Shift+Page Up
Down one screen Page Down
Down slightly Shift+Page Down
Left one screen Ctrl+Page Up
Left slightly Ctrl+Shift+Page Up
Right one screen Ctrl+Page Down
Right slightly Ctrl+Shift+Page Down
To upper-left corner Home
To lower-right corner End

I’ve heard tales of artists who use the Page Up and Page Down shortcuts to comb through very large images at 100-percent view size. This way, they can make sure all their pixels are in order before going to print.

Personally, however, I don’t use the Page key tricks very often. I’m the kind of merry lad who prefers to scroll by hand. Armed with the grabber hand as old timers call it you can yank an image and pull it in any direction you choose. A good grabber hand is better than a scroll bar any day.

To access the hand tool temporarily when some other tool is selected, press and hold the spacebar. Releasing the spacebar returns the cursor to its original appearance. This keyboard equivalent even works from inside many dialog boxes.

Navigator Palette

I saved the best for last. Shown in Figure below, the Navigator palette is the best thing to happen to zooming and scrolling since Photoshop was first introduced. If you routinely work on large images that extend beyond the confines of your relatively tiny screen, you’ll want to get up and running with this palette as soon as possible.

Photoshop 6 Navigator palette is the best thing to happen to zooming and scrolling since Photoshop 1.0.

If the Navigator palette isn’t visible, choose Window>Show Navigator. You can then use the palette options as follows:

  • View box: Drag the view box inside the image thumbnail to reveal some hidden portion of the photograph. Photoshop dynamically tracks your adjustments in the image window. Isn’t it great? But wait, it gets better. Press Ctrl to get a zoom cursor in the Navigator palette. Then Ctrl-drag to resize the view box and zoom the photo in the image window. You can also Shift-drag to constrain dragging the view box to only horizontal or vertical movement.

  • Box color: You can change the color of the view box by choosing the Palette Options command from the palette menu. My favorite setting is yellow, but it ultimately depends on the colors in your image. Ideally, you want something that stands out. To lift a color from the image itself, move the cursor outside the dialog box and click in the image window with the eyedropper.

  • Magnification box: This value works like the one in the lower-left corner of the Photoshop window. Just enter a new zoom ratio and press Enter.

  • Zoom out: Click the zoom out button to reduce the view size in the same predefined increments as the zoom tool. This button doesn’t alter the size of the image window, regardless of any window resizing options you set for the other zoom controls.

  • Zoom slider: Give the slider triangle a yank and see where it takes you. Drag to the left to zoom out; drag right to zoom in. Again, Photoshop dynamically tracks your changes in the image window. Dang, it’s nice to zoom on the fly. Zoom in: Click the big mountains to incrementally magnify the view of the image without altering the window size.

  • Size box: If you have a large monitor, you don’t have to settle for that teeny thumbnail of the image. Drag the size box to enlarge both palette and thumbnail to a more reasonable size.