Setting the Background in Photoshop or InDesign
When you're working in various Creative Suite applications, you can change the color of the background in a document to suit your mood, reduce distractions from your work environment, or test to see how your project is going to look in the environment where it will eventually live.
In Photoshop, it's relatively simple. You have two options:
1) The first is to right-click. (Do I still need to say Control-click on the Mac? Is anyone out there foolish enough to not have a two-button mouse? Seriously, I need to know because Deke and I are bound to butt editorial opinions on this!) On the background, and choose from one of three options: Gray, Black, or Custom. The other item in the context menu, Select Custom Color, brings up the somewhat annoying but familiar Color Picker that lets you change that Custom color item to anything you want, including any number of choices from the Color Libraries.
2) The second way is to Shift-click with the Paint Bucket tool (which lives in the same slot as the Gradient tool), to fill your background with whatever you have your foreground color set to.
Option 2) lets you base the color on a swatch if you'd like: First set your foreground to your desired color (thus avoiding the dreaded Color Picker), then Shift-click anywhere on the background with the Paint Bucket tool. You'll probably want to stick to the neutrals, but you're welcome to go nuts. (Here I've chosen a nice rich gray like the ones you get in Lightroom or Bridge.) I also sometimes find a white background handy for judging something that is going on the web, since both of the blogs I post to use a white background. NOTE: Photoshop lets you set a different color for each of the four screen modes as well.
To see how to do the analagous treatment for InDesign . . .
Here's what you do: To set the color of the pasteboard to something other than that default light gray, simply choose InDesign > Preferences (Edit > Preferences on the PC), click Guides & Pasteboard from the list on the left-hand side, and set whatever color you'd like in the Preview Background field. (Okay, so granted, you're not really setting the Pasteboard color; you're setting the color that appears when you go to Preview mode and the pasteboard disappears.)
At the very bottom of that pop-up list of colors is a Custom option. Unlike Photoshop, if you click this you get the color chooser that's particular to your operating system. So on the Mac I get that happy circle of color love. Let's say I wanted to check how the interior design of my book will look if it were seen in the context of a predominantly blue cover. Works for me!