Photoshop File Menu

Before you can work on an image in Photoshop whether you’re creating a brandnew document or opening an image from disk you must first load the image into an image window. Here are the four basic ways to create an image window:

  • File>New: Create a new window by choosing File>New (Ctrl+N). After you fill out the desired size and resolution specifications in the New dialog box, Photoshop confronts you with a stark, white, empty canvas. You then face the ultimate test of your artistic abilities—painting from scratch. Feel free to go nuts and cut off your ear.
  • File>Open: Choose File>Open (Ctrl+O) to open images scanned in other applications, images purchased from stock photo agencies, slides and transparencies digitized to a Kodak Photo CD, or an image you previously edited in Photoshop.

A variation on the Open command, Open Recent, displays a list of the images that you recently opened. Click an image name to crack open the image file without taking that tedious trip to the Open dialog box.

  • Edit>Paste: Photoshop automatically adapts a new image window to the contents of the Clipboard (provided those contents are bitmapped). So if you copy an image inside a different application or in Photoshop and then choose File>New, Photoshop enters the dimensions and resolution of the image into the New dialog box.

You can just accept the settings and choose Edit>Paste (Ctrl+V) to introduce the image into a new window. Photoshop pastes the Clipboard contents as a new layer. This technique is useful for editing screen shots captured to the Clipboard or for testing effects on a sample of an image without harming the original.

  • File>Import: If you own a scanner or a digital camera, it may include a plug-in module that lets you transfer an image directly into Photoshop. Just copy the module into Photoshop’s Plug-Ins folder and then run or relaunch the Photoshop application.

To initiate a scan or to load an image into Photoshop, choose the plug-in module from the File>Import submenu. After you choose the command, Photoshop launches the device’s download software.

If you’re scanning, select the scanner settings and initiate the scan as usual; the scanned picture appears in a new image window inside Photoshop.

If you’re transferring images from a digital camera, the camera software typically creates thumbnail previews of images in the camera’s memory so that you can select the ones you want to transfer to Photoshop, as I’m doing in Figure below.

Most digital cameras ship with TWAIN plug-ins that enable you to view images stored in the camera’s memory and open them up directly inside Photoshop.

Save your images to disk immediately after you scan or download them; unlike some other programs, Photoshop doesn’t automatically take this step for you.

Also, if your digital camera stores images on removable memory cards (Compact Flash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, and the like), do yourself a favor and invest in a card reader or adapter that enables your computer to see the memory card as just another hard drive.

Then you can just drag and drop images from the memory card to your computer’s hard drive a much faster and more convenient option than transferring images via a cable connection.

You’ll spend between $10 and $75, depending on what type of reader or adapter you buy, but trust me, even if you wind up at the high end of that price range, you’ll never regret the purchase.

Creating A New Image

Whether you’re creating an image from scratch or transferring the contents of the Clipboard to a new image window, choose File>New or press Ctrl+N to bring up the New dialog box shown in Figure-2.

Use the New dialog box to specify the size, resolution, and color mode of your new image.

If the Clipboard contains an image, the Width, Height, and Resolution option boxes show the size and resolution of this image. Otherwise, you can enter your own values in one of five units of measurement: pixels, inches, centimeters, picas, or points.

If you’re uncertain exactly what size image you want to create, enter a rough approximation. You can always change your settings later. Although Photoshop matches the contents of the Clipboard by default, you can also match the size and resolution of other images:

  • Press Alt when choosing File>New, or press Ctrl+Alt+N to override the contents of the Clipboard. Photoshop displays the size and resolution of the last image you created, whether or not it came from the Clipboard. Use this technique when creating many same-sized images in a row.

  • You can also match the size and resolution of the new image to any other open image. While the New dialog box is open, choose the name of the image you want to match from the Window menu. It’s that simple.

Units Measure

The Width and Height pop-up menus contain the five common units of measure mentioned earlier: pixels, inches, centimeters, points, and picas. But the Width pop-up menu offers one more, called Columns.

If you want to create an image that fits exactly within a certain number of columns when it’s imported into a desktop publishing program, select this option.

You can specify the width of a column and the gutter between columns by pressing Ctrl+K and Ctrl+5 to display the Units & Rulers preferences. Then enter values into the Column Size option boxes.

The Gutter value affects multiple-column images. Suppose you accept the default setting of a 15-pica column width and a 1-pica gutter. If you specify a one-column image in the New dialog box, Photoshop makes it 15 picas wide.

If you ask for a two-column image, Photoshop adds the width of the gutter to the width of the two columns and creates an image 31 picas wide. The Height pop-up menu in the New dialog box lacks a Column option because vertical columns have nothing to do with an image’s height.

You can set the default unit of measurement for the Width and Height pop-up menus in the Units & Rulers panel of the Preferences dialog box. (Select the value from the Rulers pop-up menu; the Type menu sets the measurement unit for text-related controls.)

But if the dialog box isn’t already open, here are two quicker options:

  • Press Ctrl+R to display the rulers and then right-click anywhere in the rulers to display a pop-up menu of units. Click the unit you want to use.

  • Display the same pop-up menu by pressing F8 to display the Info palette and then clicking or dragging on the cross icon (next to the X and Y coordinate values) in the palette’s lower-left corner. Again, just click the unit you prefer.

New Image Size

In most cases, the on-screen dimensions of an image depend on your entries in the Width, Height, and Resolution option boxes. If you set both the Width and Height values to 10 inches and the Resolution to 72 ppi, the new image will measure 720 × 720 pixels.

The exception occurs if you choose pixels as your unit of measurement. In this case, the on-screen dimensions depend solely on the Width and Height options, and the Resolution value determines the size at which the image prints.

Color Mode

Use the Mode pop-up menu to specify the number of colors that can appear in your image. Choose Bitmap to create a black-and-white image and choose Grayscale to access only gray values. RGB Color, CMYK Color, and Lab Color all provide access to the full range of 16 million colors, although their methods of doing so differ.

RGB stands for red-green-blue, CMYK for cyan-magenta-yellow-black, and Lab for luminosity and two abstract color variables: a and b. To learn how each of these color modes works.

Background Color

The New dialog box also provides three Contents radio buttons that enable you to change the color of the background for the new image. You can fill the new image with white, with the current background color (assuming, of course, that the background color is something other than white), or with no color at all.

This last setting, Transparent, results in a floating layer with no background image whatsoever, which can be useful when editing one layer independently of the rest of an image or when preparing a layer to be composited with an image.

If you do select a transparent background, you must later flatten the layer by choosing Layer>Flatten Image if you want to save the image to a format that doesn’t support layers.

The advantage of the Transparent setting, however, is that Photoshop doesn’t create a new layer when you press Ctrl+V to paste the contents of the Clipboard. In the long run, you don’t gain much you still must flatten the image before you save it to some formats but at least you needn’t fuss with two layers, one of which is completely empty.

Incidentally, just because you create an image with a transparent background doesn’t mean that you can automatically import a free-form image with transparency intact into an object-oriented program such as Illustrator or QuarkXPress.

To carve a transparent area out of the naturally rectangular boundaries of an image, you have to use the pen tool to create a clipping path.

Naming New Image

The New dialog box provides a Name option. If you know what you want to call your new image, enter the name now. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter. Either way, when you choose File>Save, Photoshop asks you to specify the location of the file and confirm the file’s name. So don’t feel compelled to name your image anything.

The only reason for this option is to help you keep your images organized on screen. Lots of folks create temporary images they never save; Photoshop offers a way to assign temporary images more meaningful names than Untitled-4, Untitled-5, Untitled-6, and so on.

Unlike some traditionalists, I whole-heartedly endorse using long files names under Windows 95, NT 4, and later. But naturally you should be aware of the implications.

If you send a file to someone using Windows 3.1, DOS, or some other ancient operating system, the long file name gets truncated to eight characters with a tilde symbol (~) and number. (You can view the truncated DOS-style name at the desktop by right-clicking on the file and choosing Properties.)

This can also happen when exchanging files with Macintosh users, depending on how you do it. If you give a Mac artist a PC-formatted floppy disk, Zip disk, or the like, the file names get the ax when the disk is popped into the Mac.

But if you network your PC to a Mac using Miramar Systems’ PC MACLAN or the like, the long file names come through swimmingly. In fact, this is precisely how I exchange files over my own cross-platform Ethernet LAN.

Opening An Existing Image

Photoshop 6 provides a new File menu command, Open Recent, which displays a list of the images you worked on in recent Photoshop sessions. Click the name of the image you want to open.

You set the number of files that appear on the list by entering a value in the Recent File List Contains option box, found on the Saving Files panel of the Preferences dialog box (Ctrl+K and then Ctrl+2). The maximum value is 30.

Of course, you can always open images the old-fashioned way, by choosing File>Open or pressing its keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+O, to display the Open dialog box. You also can double-click an empty spot in the Photoshop program window to open the dialog box.

The Open dialog box behaves just like the ones in other Windows applications, with a folder bar at top, a scrolling list of files, and the usual file management and navigation options.

You can also open multiple files at one time. To select a range of files, click the first file name and Shift-click the last file in the range. Ctrl-click to add a single file to the group you want to open.

Ctrl-click again to deselect a file from the group. The Photoshop Open dialog box also includes a few controls that most other programs lack. You can read about these options later.

But first, two other brief notes about opening files in Version 6:

  • When you choose File>Open, Photoshop displays the folder that contained the last file you opened. Similarly, when you save a file, the folder to which you saved last is selected automatically.
  • When you open an image, Photoshop may display a dialog box telling you that the color profile of the image doesn’t match the default color profile you’ve established. You have the option of converting the image to the default profile or leaving well enough alone.

Viewing Thumbnail

To help you assess an image before you open it, Photoshop displays a thumbnail preview of the selected file at the bottom of the Open dialog box, as shown in Figure-3.

Figure-3: You can see a preview of an image if you previously saved it in Photoshop with the thumbnails option enabled.

In Version 6, Photoshop displays thumbnails for any files saved in the native format (PSD). If you’re running Windows 98 or Windows 2000, the operating system may generate thumbnails for files saved in other formats.

To generate thumbnails when saving images in Photoshop, press Ctrl+K, Ctrl+2 to display the Saving Files panel of the Preferences dialog box. Then set the Image Previews pop-up menu to Always Save or Ask When Saving. If you select Ask When Saving, Photoshop gives you the option of adding a thumbnail to the image inside the Save dialog box.

If you’ve received images from Macintosh users in the past, you’ve probably wondered why the heck they saved their files without previews. The truth is, they couldn’t. See, Photoshop for the Mac saves thumbnails in the so-called resource fork of the file, but Windows programs can’t even see the resource fork, much less translate it.

Fortunately for all, both versions of Photoshop can save Windows thumbnails. On the Mac, the Saving Files panel of the Preferences dialog box contains a check box called Windows Thumbnail. When turned on, a thumbnail is added to the data fork of the file, which translates to Windows fully intact.

Sadly, thumbnails don’t work in the other direction. Because Windows doesn’t recognize the resource fork, Photoshop for Windows can’t save a Macintosh-style thumbnail. And because Photoshop on the Mac relies on Apple’s QuickTime to interpret thumbnails, it can’t see data-fork thumbnails. Dang.

Previewing Outside Photoshop

Under Windows 95 and later, the Open dialog box isn’t the only place you can preview an image before you open it. In fact, provided you save the image in the native Photoshop (.psd) format, you can peek at an image without even opening the program.

Right-click a file with a .psd extension either at the desktop, in a folder window, or in Windows Explorer and choose Properties from the pop-up menu. When the Properties dialog box opens, click the Photoshop Image tab to look at your image, as shown in Figure below.

Figure-4: Under Windows 95 and later, you can preview files saved in the native .psd format from the Properties dialog box.

Again, you must have saved a thumbnail preview along with the image for this feature to work. You can also see a tiny thumbnail in the General panel of the Properties dialog box. This same thumbnail appears at the desktop level, assuming that the folder is set to View>Large Icons. Using the other tabs in the Properties dialog box, you can view the caption, keywords, credits, and other information created using Photoshop’s File>File Info command.

Unfortunately, this trick works only for images saved in the native Photoshop format. TIFF, JPEG, GIF, and other images can be previewed only from inside Photoshop’s Open dialog box. Even so, it’s a heck of a trick and if you need some ammunition it’s something your friends on the Mac can’t do.

Opening Elusive Files

The scrolling list in the Open dialog box contains the names of just those documents that Photoshop recognizes it can open. If you can’t find a desired document, it may be because the Files of Type pop-up menu is set to the wrong file format. To view all supported formats, either select All Formats from the Files of Type pop-up or enter *.* into the File Name option box and press Enter.

If a file lacks any form of extension whatsoever, the Open dialog box won’t be able to identify it. This unusual situation may arise in one of two ways. On rare occasions, a file transmitted electronically (via the Internet, for example) loses its extension en route.

But more likely, the file comes from a Macintosh computer. The Mac doesn’t need file extensions the file type identification resides in that resource fork I was telling you about therefore, many Mac users never give a thought to three-character extensions.

You can solve this problem either by renaming the file and adding the proper extension, or by choosing File>Open As (Ctrl+Alt+O). If you choose Open As, Photoshop shows you all documents in a directory, whether it supports them or not. Just click the extension-less file and select the correct file format from the Open As pop-up menu.

Provided that the image conforms to the selected format option, Photoshop opens the image when you press Enter. If Photoshop gives you an error message instead, you need to either select a different format or try to open the document in a different application.

Duplicating An Image

Have you ever wanted to try an effect without permanently damaging an image? Photoshop offers multiple undos, and you’ll get a kick out of using the History palette to see before and after views of your image.

But what if you want to apply a series of effects to an image independently and compare them side by side? And save the variations as separate files? Or perhaps even merge them? This is a job for image duplication.

To create a new window with an independent version of the foreground image, choose Image>Duplicate. A dialog box appears, requesting a name for the new image. Just like the Name option in the New dialog box, the option is purely an organizational tool you can use or ignore.

If your image contains multiple layers, Photoshop will, by default, retain all layers in the duplicate document. Or you can merge all visible layers into a single layer by selecting the Merged Layers Only check box. (Hidden layers remain independent.) Press Enter to create your new, independent image.

Bear in mind that this image is unsaved; you need to choose File>Save to save any changes to disk. If you’re happy to let Photoshop automatically name your image and you don’t care what it does with the layers, press and hold the Alt key and choose Image>Duplicate. This bypasses the Duplicate Image dialog box and immediately creates a new window.

Saving An Image To Disk

The first rule of image editing is to save the file to disk frequently. If your computer or Photoshop crashes while you’re working on an image, all edits made during the current editing session are lost.

To save an image for the first time, choose File>Save (Ctrl+S) to display the Save dialog box. Name the image, select the drive and folder where you want to store the image file, select a file format, and press Enter.

After you save the image once, choosing the Save command updates the file on disk without bringing up the Save dialog box. To save the image with a different name, location, or format, choose File>Save As. You also can issue the Save As command by pressing Ctrl+Shift+S.

As for the Save a Copy command found in earlier versions of Photoshop, that function is now provided through the As a Copy check box in the Save As dialog box.

By the way, if your only reason for using Save As is to change the file format, it’s perfectly acceptable to overwrite (save over) the original document, assuming you no longer need the previous copy of the image.

Granted, your computer could crash during the Save As operation, but because Photoshop actually creates a new file during any save operation, your original document should survive the accident. Besides, the chance of crashing during a Save As is extremely remote no more likely than crashing during any other save operation.

To speed the save process, I usually save an image in Photoshop’s native format until I’ve finished working on it. Then, when the file is all ready to go, I choose File>Save As and save the image in the compressed TIFF or JPEG format. This way, I compress each image only once during the time I work on it.

When you close an image after saving it, you may be startled by the appearance of a dialog box asking whether you want to save the image again.

Assuming that you haven’t made any changes to your image since the last save, the dialog box indicates that the image incorporates features that the format you saved in doesn’t support layers, alpha channels, and so forth.

If you want to save a copy of the image that retains all those features, click Yes. Photoshop displays a modified version of the Save dialog box and selects the Photoshop native format for you.

Give your image a name and proceed as usual. If you have multiple files open, you can close them in one step by choosing Window>Close All or pressing Ctrl+Shift+W. Photoshop prompts you to save any images that haven’t yet been saved and closes the others automatically.

Saving Previews

I've recommended that you set the Image Previews option in the Saving Files preferences panel (Ctrl+K, Ctrl+2) to Ask When Saving. If you followed this sage advice, the Save dialog box offers a Thumbnail check box. For print work, I generally select this option.

The preview consumes extra disk space, but it’s well worth it in exchange for being able to see the file before opening it. The only reason not to save a thumbnail with an image is if you plan to post the picture on the Web. In that case, the file has to be as streamlined as possible, and that means shaving away the preview.

Choosing Other Save Options

Certain save options that once were available only via the Save a Copy command now appear in the Save dialog box all the time. You also get access to these options when you choose Save As or press its keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+S. Figure below shows the dialog box.

Figure-5: A look at the Version 6 Save dialog box, which incorporates the former Save a Copy command as a save option.

Some of these options, outlined in the upcoming list, are old friends with new names. But a few controls make their first appearance in Version 6. Note that the options you can select vary depending on the image file and the selected file format.

If an option is grayed out, it either doesn’t apply to your image or isn’t supported by the file format you chose. And if your image includes features that won’t be saved if you go forward with the current dialog box settings, Photoshop gives you the heads up by displaying a warning message at the bottom of the dialog box.

  • As a Copy: Select this check box to save a copy of the image while leaving the original open and unchanged—in other words, to do what the Save a Copy command did in earlier versions of Photoshop. The result is the same as duplicating an image, saving it, and closing the duplicate all in one step.

The whole point of this option is to enable you to save a flattened version of a layered image or to dump other extraneous data, such as masks. Just select the file format you want to use and let Photoshop do the rest for you.

  • Annotations: Select this check box to include any annotations that you created using the Version 6 notes and audio annotation tools.

  • Alpha Channels: If your image contains an alpha channel—Photoshop’s techy name for an extra channel, such as a mask—select the Alpha check box to retain the channel. Only a few formats—notably Photoshop, PDF, PICT, PICT Resource, TIFF, and DCS 2.0—support extra channels.

  • Spot Colors: Did you create an image that incorporates spot colors? If so, select this option to retain the spot color channels in the saved image file. You must save the file in the native Photoshop, PDF, TIFF, or DCS 2.0 format to use this option.

  • Layers: In Version 6, TIFF and PDF can retain independent image layers, as can the native Photoshop format. Select the check box to retain layers; deselect it to flatten the image. If you’re working with a layered image and select a file format that doesn’t support layers, a cautionary message appears at the bottom of the dialog box.

However, Photoshop doesn’t prevent you from going through with the save as in past editions of the program, so be careful. All layers are automatically merged together when you save the file in a non-layer format.

However, when you close the file, Photoshop reminds you that you haven’t saved a version of the image that retains all data and gives you the opportunity to do so.

  • Use Proof Setup: This option relates to Photoshop’s color profile options. If the current view’s proof setup is a “convert to” proof, Photoshop converts the image to the selected proofing space when saving.

  • ICC Profile: If you’re saving your image in a file format that supports embedded ICC profiles, selecting this option embeds the profile. The current profile appears next to the option name.